As more medical practices utilize ultrasound technology rather than the traditional x-rays (and with salaries averaging $64,380 according to BLS data of 2010) there may be growing opportunity for those with sonographer training, graduates of sonographer schools, and anyone seeking a sonographer career.
Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and our Frequently Provided Answers about Sonographer Training and Sonographer Schools.
Q. What exactly is ultrasound and where do sonographer careers lead?
A. Ultrasound is a form of non-invasive medical imaging, which uses transducers and high-frequency sound to image a patient's internal organs, tissues, and hemodynamics (blood flow) for medical diagnosis. Diagnostic ultrasound taught at sonographer schools is also referred to as sonography or ultrasonography.
Q. What does medical sonographer do?
A. A diagnostic medical sonographer uses sound waves to create images of a patient's internal tissue and structures. The ultrasound technician then assists a physician in interpreting the imaging to provide the patient an accurate diagnosis. Sonographers also interact directly with patients, record their information, prepare their histories, as well as manage and maintain ultrasound facilities and equipment.
Q. What specialties can sonographers have?
A. Individuals who complete diagnostic sonographer training may specialize in a variety of different areas. Sonographers may work in:
- abdominal sonography
- vascular sonography
- neurologic sonography
- obstetrical/gynecologic ultrasound
- ophthalmic (eye) ultrasound
Q. Is attending sonographer school safe?
A. Yes, it is. In fact, certain organizations, such as the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) and Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), are lobbying to prohibit the non-medical, entertainment use of ultrasound. To date, its controlled application for medical purposes has not been found to have harmful effects.
Q. What are the medical uses of ultrasound?
A. People seeking sonographer careers work in different areas of medicine, relating to different organ systems and health conditions. For example, ultrasound performed with proper sonographer training is used:
- To evaluate soft tissues, blood vessels, and organs in the upper and lower abdominal cavities (bile ducts, gallbladder, liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen, and urinary tract).
- To identify specific abdominal conditions, from gallstones, kidney stones, and hernias.
- To determine pancreatitis and appendicitis due to inflammation of the small and large intestines or to find enlargements of the spleen or liver to the cause of kidney failure.
- To examine breast abnormalities, found during mammography, which might indicate breast cancer.
- In Obstetrics and Gynecology to monitor fetus development and evaluate the health of the female reproductive system.
- In Echocardiography, Neurosonology, and Ophthalmology to examine the heart (including its valves, related blood vessels, and blood flow), the brain and spinal cord, and the eye.
Q. Who performs ultrasound exams?
A. Ultrasound examinations are performed by a trained and qualified sonographer (diagnostic sonographer), vascular technologist, or other allied, certified health professional.
Q. How do I train for a sonographer career?
A. Ultrasound technicians may get trained at vocational schools, four-year colleges and universities. Sonographer training programs are available via traditional and online schooling and offer basic certificates, two-year associate's degrees (such as an associate's in Specialized Technology Degree), and/or four-year bachelor's degrees.
Upon completion of an sonographer careers training program, some technicians pursue additional credentials, such as registration with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Many of them may also pursue continuing education sonographer schools credit though trade organizations, such as the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) or American Society of Neuroimaging.
To find out more about U.S. sonographer training programs, visit our schools page.
Q. What is the curriculum at sonographer schools?
A. During ultrasound technician training, students seeking sonographer careers receive hands-on instruction in:
- sonographic physics and instrumentation
- gray scale and color-flow Doppler sonography
- human anatomy and physiology
- medical terminology and ethics
- and other subjects.
Many sonographer training programs may also require to complete the unpaid clinical externship in a professional ultrasound facility.
Q. How should I pursue a sonographer certification?
A. Pursuing a registered ultrasound technician or sonographer through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) may help you with the jobs at hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.
- Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography-Concentration in General and Vascular Sonography
- Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology
- Associate of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology