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Ultrasound Techs: Where the Jobs Are?

By Aimee Hosler,

Unemployment in health care is lower than in many other fields, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for August 2011. The BLS also expects openings for ultrasound techs to grow in the 2008-2018 decade at a rate faster than the average for all U.S. industries. These projections are for diagnostic medical sonographers who use ultrasonography for diagnostic imaging.

New ultrasound technologies and applications are also encouraging growth. Finally, the cost-effectiveness of ultrasound versus many other diagnostic imaging procedures is making it an attractive option for many health care providers, not to mention insurance careers.

How can current and future ultrasound techs make the most of these trends?

Location, location, location

Opportunities are available in diverse settings. Most ultrasound technicians have traditionally worked in hospitals, but the BLS notes that this may be changing. While some techs still work in hospitals or medical centers, a rising number of professionals are found in physicians' offices and diagnostic laboratories. Others are joining the ranks of specialty techs, such as those providing ultrasounds for obstetric patients or even performing procedures on pets.

It seems demand for all types of professionals varies based on geographical location, and ultrasound technicians are no exception, so a willingness to relocate when necessary may improve job options. The BLS shows that some regions provide more career opportunities than others, according to the following 2010 data.

The states with the highest concentration of ultrasound technicians include:

  1. Florida
  2. South Dakota
  3. New Mexico

The metropolitan regions employing the highest concentration of techs are:

  1. Rochester, Minn.
  2. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla.
  3. North Port-Brandenton-Sarasota, Fla.

It is important to note that a high concentration of jobs does not necessarily indicate availability of open positions. Current and future ultrasound technicians should research specific markets before committing to a major move.

Certification can improve marketability

Ultrasound technician certification may make some candidates more attractive to employers than other candidates. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or ARDMS, certifies Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, while the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or ARRT, offers credentials in vascular sonography and breast sonography. According to the BLS, career prospects tend to be better for ultrasound technicians who are not only certified, but who are certified in multiple areas. The following are a few of the common areas of specialization:

  • Abdominal sonography
  • Cardiology
  • Mammographic sonography
  • Neurosonography

Many ultrasound technician schools provide a pathway to certification by confirming that candidates meet minimum training requirements.

Career outlook for graduates of ultrasound tech schools

The BLS counted 53,010 diagnostic medical sonographers in the U.S. in 2010, earning a mean annual wage of $64,900. Ultrasound tech positions are included in the health care and social assistance sector, which had the highest employment of all industries in May 2010, according to the BLS. Employment in health care is significantly higher than in many other fields, as shown in the unemployment rates for August 2011:

  • Total for all U.S. industries: 9.1 percent
  • Health care and social assistance: 5.6 percent
  • Hospital occupations: 3.2 percent

The BLS reports that salaries tend to improve and unemployment rates decline with ongoing education, according to 2010 wages for persons age 25 and over. In other words, the right ultrasound technician schools and certifications could improve career opportunities.

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