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Ultrasound Tech Career Trends to Watch for in 2011

By Aimee Hosler,

Whether you're a practicing ultrasound technician or are considering enrolling in ultrasound tech schools, it's important to take note of key developments in your field that could impact your employment potential. Here are some major trends that could impact your job outlook in 2011 and beyond.

Overall demand for ultrasound techs booms

While the national recession is impacting job growth for most industries, demand for health care professionals, including ultrasound techs, is still growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ultrasound technician jobs are expected to grow by an impressive 18 percent in the decade preceding 2018. Two trends contributing to the growth include:

  • An aging population. The baby boomers are getting older, which means they tend to require more medical care. According to the BLS, this contributes an increased demand for sonographic procedures (and ultrasound techs).
  • Ultrasound replacing other technologies. As ultrasound technology improves, its uses expand. As a result, ultrasound is now replacing other more costly procedures. According to Laurence Parker, Ph.D., an imaging economics researcher at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, using ultrasound over CT for diagnosing appendicitis could save $22 million annually.

While demand for ultrasound techs is increasing overall, the BLS notes that opportunities will be best for those who earn ultrasound tech certifications in a number of specialties.

Demand for ultrasound technicians in physicians' offices, outpatient centers grows

While the bulk of ultrasound technicians are still employed by hospitals, the push for outpatient care should boost demand for ultrasound technicians in physicians' offices and outpatient care centers. Note, however, that the American College of Radiology (ACR) is calling for an end to Medicare reimbursements for self-referring physicians, which could reduce demand for ultrasound technicians slightly in private practice settings.

Portable ultrasounds technology shifts responsibility to first responders

As GE's newest handheld ultrasound debuted at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, research conducted by iData projected that the market for these devices will exceed $1.2 billion by 2016. Meanwhile, Mobisante announced in December 2010 it has developed a portable ultrasound probe that works with your smartphone. These advances have made it possible for first-responders to use sonography for on-the-scene diagnostic purposes, just as they did following recent natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. On one hand, this reduces the demand for emergent ultrasound in hospitals and medical centers. On the other hand, it provides new opportunities for ultrasound technicians who want to move away from traditional settings; groups like the Haiti Volunteer Network often have listings for ultrasound technicians.

Ongoing push for certification

The BLS notes that most employers prefer to hire certified ultrasound technicians, making certification an important investment in your career. While certification was once a voluntary process, the push for ultrasound technician licensure could make it mandatory, as it has in Oregon and New Mexico. The CARE Bill, for instance, would mandate ultrasound techs either be licensed or meet federal ultrasound technician requirements. Your best bet: invest in ultrasound technician certification now to boost your employment and salary potential while safeguarding your job should your state implement mandatory licensure.

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