Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Overview
The outlook for job opportunities in the field of medical sonography is good for the future and employment will grow as medical sonography will serve as a replacement or alternative to radiology procedures. Education in diagnostic medical sonography can be obtained in colleges and universities, vocational schools, as well as the Armed Forces. Medical sonographers may receive their training in hospitals or in the Armed Forces.
Nature of the Work for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers use several procedures including x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging to diagnose ailments, although some imaging sources may not use radiation, ionizing or radio waves. Sonography is also known as ultrasonography which uses sound waves to detect medical conditions and is often associated with pregnancy but is also used to detect other medical conditions. Special equipment is used by diagnostic medical sonographers which produces a high frequency sound when passing over areas of the body. The diagnostic medical sonographer collects this information which may be transmitted or videotaped or even photographed to be interpreted by a physician for a diagnosis.
The diagnostic medical sonographer explains the procedure to the patient while collecting information about the patient’s medical history. Moving the equipment over the body using different appropriate settings to obtain the best view is the goal of the diagnostic medical sonographer. The equipment used by the diagnostic medical sonographer is called a transducer which produces a beam in the shape of rectangle or cone. A gel is applied to the skin which helps produce the sound waves transmission.
The diagnostic medical sonographer will take measurements, perform calculations, and analyze results to be submitted to the physicians. They will also watch for visual cues that will contrast healthy and unhealthy areas and decide which images are important and stored for the doctor’s assessment.
Diagnostic medical sonographers also maintain patient’s records while maintaining and adjusting equipment, if necessary. Preparing work schedules, monitoring or evaluating equipment and managing a diagnostic imaging or sonography department are also possible duties of the diagnostic medical sonographer.
Specializing in certain areas including obstetrics and gynecology, neurosonography, abdominal sonography, breast sonography, and vascular and cardiac sonography are possible for diagnostic medical sonographers. Specializing in obstetrics and gynecologic imaging involves using sonography to monitor a baby’s growth in a pregnant woman.
Abdominal sonographers diagnose conditions in the abdomen which may involve gall bladder, liver, kidney, reproductive system, and pancreas. Neurosonographers monitor the brain, which in infants may include diagnosing neurological and disorders of the nervous system in premature babies. A breast sonographer studies diseases of the breast including the detection of breast cancer, tumors, and blood supply conditions. A high-frequency transducer is used by the diagnostic medical sonographer to study breast tissue.
The diagnostic medical sonographer has good working conditions which include clean healthcare facilities. They often will work in darkened rooms, but can also work with patients at their bedside. Lifting or turning a patient as well as standing on your feet for long periods may also be part of the job.
Most diagnostic medical sonographers work 40 hour weeks and are considered full-time, although some may work as contract employees and travel to different health care facilities as needed. Evening, weekend and overtime hours are also possible for the diagnostic medical sonographer.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers can enter this career with formal education, training or even a combination of the two, although employers prefer those who have completed their education from an accredited program or practice and are registered.
Diagnostic medical sonographers may receive their training in hospitals, universities or colleges, vocational and technical institutions, or the Armed Forces. Some training programs have a preference for applicants who have some experience in other healthcare areas or have taken courses in math, science and health.
A two-year program with an associate’s degree is the most common form of training for a diagnostic medical sonographer. Common courses include physiology, anatomy, as well as classes in patient care, and medical ethics. There are more than 150 accredited training programs available which are offered by colleges and universities, as well as some available hospital programs.
There are a few 1-year programs available which will only result in certification and are commonly taken by workers who are already employed in a healthcare occupation who wish to become more marketable by expanding their training.
A diagnostic medical sonographer does not require a State license, although employers prefer to hire sonographers who are registered which will indicate their professional standing. To obtain registration, the eligibility to take the exam is required by completion of the proper education and training along with work experience. The exam taken by the diagnostic medical sonographer includes a specialty along with a physics and instrumentation exam. Continuing education classes are also required to maintain their registration.
A diagnostic medical sonographer is certified by The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and is known as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or RDMS. This registry offers credentials in specialty areas like the breast, abdomen and nervous system.
Good communication and interpersonal skills are necessary for diagnostic medical sonographers who need to explain results to patients who may be nervous. They also need good hand-eye coordination to obtain the best results and enjoy learning, as continuing education classes are necessary for the future. Diagnostic medical sonographers can achieve advancement in their field by training in more than one specialty and by getting multiple credentials. Advancement can be achieved by taking on supervisory, management and administrative positions.
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Employment and Job Outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
About 59 percent of sonography jobs are in public and private hospitals. Remaining jobs are in doctor’s offices, diagnostic or medical laboratories and outpatient centers.
Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to increase in the future. The demand for sonographers will increase as the population increases. The use of ultrasound imaging as an alternative to radiology will also increase job growth. New sonography practices will increase as technology improves and grows, allowing sonographers to scan and image areas that were not traditionally used before.
Although hospitals will remain as the main source of employment for diagnostic medical sonographers, growth will occur in physician’s offices and medical and diagnostic laboratories. The shift towards out-patient care will lead to more employment within health care facilities.
Job opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers are good with growth in the industry and also from sonographers retiring or leaving the field entirely. Opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers will also vary by geographic area. Those sonographers who have multiple specialties or credentials will also have the best prospects for future jobs.
Earnings and Salary for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
The median annual wages of diagnostic medical sonographers are $63,010. The middle 50 percent of sonographers earn wages between $53,110 and $74,400 a year. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $43,990, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $85,950.
Annual Salary for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
On average, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers earn $63,010 per year.
Hourly Wage for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
On average, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers earn $30.30 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook