What's one of the most memorable tasks sonographers do? They take the first pictures of babies--still in their mothers' wombs--to make sure they're okay. They also help cancer patients get better.
How do sonographers conduct exams? Sonographers use transducers or the hand-held portions of ultrasound imaging machines to examine areas of the patients' bodies. Viewing screens during exams, sonographers visually search for contrasts to identify healthy and unhealthy areas. Once they produce satisfactory images, they send them to physicians for diagnoses.
"Some feel that the good results are the most rewarding, such as sharing a moment with an expectant mom," a sonographer says in the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) Website. "However, when I find a large complication and can then help the patient and be there for them, beginning to end: that is the most rewarding for me."
Sonography Schools: What to Expect
In sonography schools, students should learn to use equipment and communicate with patients. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are required to outline technical processes to nervous patients. Hand-eye coordination is also needed to get quality images from stationary or mobile diagnostic imaging equipment. Sonographers use the latter to treat bedridden and rural patients.
Vocational schools, colleges and universities could offer one-, two- and four-year accredited sonography certificates and degrees. People already in the medical field seek one-year training at sonography schools to move into this career. Students may obtain associate's and bachelor's degrees in colleges and universities. Sonography schools generally offer the following courses:
- Basic Physics
- Patient Care
- Medical Ethics
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits sonography schools, while the ARDMS certifies each individual who passes an exam as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).
Career Options for Grads of Sonography Schools
Job prospects for sonographers are encouraging as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment in this area is expected to grow 18 percent between 2008 and 2018. Sonography schools prepare graduates to specialize in various areas:
- Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers examine women's reproductive systems and future moms' fetuses to track babies' growth and health.
- Abdominal sonographers help diagnose and treat conditions affecting livers, kidneys, gallbladders, spleens, and pancreases.
- Neurosonographers focus on the nervous system, including the brain.
- Breast sonographers assist in the detection of breast cancer.
Related occupations include cardiovascular technologists and technicians, who test pulmonary and cardiovascular systems; and radiologic technologists and technicians, who take X-rays and CAT scans.
Salary Outlook for Grads of Sonography Schools
In 2009, the median annual wage for sonographers was $63,640, according to the BLS. To increase their income, sonographers could accept managerial positions or relocate to the paying state, Massachusetts, where the median annual wage in 2009 stood at $78,460, or to the paying metropolitan area, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California, where the median annual wage in 2009 reached $97,530.