What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
An ultrasound technician helps doctors and other health professionals diagnose patients' ailments. He or she operates special equipment that uses high-frequency sound waves to record images of internal organs. Other job titles for this occupation include ultrasound tech, diagnostic medical sonographer, or sonographer.
Ultrasound technicians work directly with patients and physicians. They may specialize in obstetric and gynecologic, abdominal, breast, vascular, or cardiac sonography.
Ultrasound Technician Duties & Responsibilities
The ultrasound technician job requires candidates to be able to perform duties that include the following:
- Prepare the exam room and ultrasound equipment to conduct examinations Assist radiologists as needed with ultrasound-guided biopsies and vascular ultrasound procedures
- Recognize and record the appropriate anatomy and pathology using sonographic equipment
- Care properly for sonography equipment and report equipment failure
- Write reports based upon the scan results and completion
- Alert appropriate medical staff of any abnormalities that need immediate attention
- Use the ability to solve problems and make decisions
- Work independently or with minimal supervision and as part of a team
- Manage multiple priorities and projects, and display flexibility in a fast-paced work environment
- Display good work ethic and friendly and cheerful disposition
- Maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality
- Pursue professional development for the continual improvement of patient care
Ultrasound Technician Salary
An ultrasound technician's salary varies based on the area of expertise, level of experience, education, certifications, and other factors.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,270 ($26.57/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $90,760 ($43.63/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $28,680 ($13.79/hour)
Education, Training & Certification
If you want to become an ultrasound technician, you can take one of four routes to get there.
- Certificate: You can complete a one-year certificate program, which is available only to those who have experience working in other healthcare occupations.
- College degree: Earn an associate or bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography from an accredited program. It will take about two years to get an associate degree and about four to get a bachelor's degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits diagnostic medical sonography educational programs in the United States.
- Credential: After graduating you can take a national credentialing exam to become a certified diagnostic medical sonographer. Certification isn't mandatory, but most employers will not hire you without it. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) all offer certification.
- Licensing: Some states require ultrasound technicians to be licensed. Use the License Finder Tool from CareerOneStop to find out if your state is one of them.
Ultrasound Technician Skills & Competencies
Aside from education and training requirements, there are certain characteristics that can help you excel once you land an ultrasound technician position. Some of the soft skills you need to succeed in this career include the following:
- Active listening: Your patients may have questions about the procedure. To answer their questions, you must have a complete understanding of what they are asking.
- Verbal communication: Getting accurate images requires you to properly instruct your patients on how to position themselves.
- Interpersonal skills: In addition to listening and speaking skills, it is also essential to have excellent social skills and the ability to sympathize and empathize with your patients.
- Reading comprehension: Doctors will send written instructions to let you know what images they need. You must be able to understand them.
- Critical thinking: This skill will let you evaluate alternative solutions to problems.
The job outlook for ultrasound technicians is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies it as a "Bright Outlook" occupation because employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for ultrasound technicians over the next decade will grow 23 percent, driven by an aging population and a larger need for medical diagnostics.
Employment for other health technologists and technicians is expected to grow by about 14 percent over the next ten years.
These growth rates compare to the projected 7 percent growth for all occupations.
Most work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and diagnostic imaging centers. Expect to work nights, weekends, and even holidays, especially if you work in a hospital. This job requires you to be on your feet for a large part of your day.
Jobs are typically full-time. Some individuals may work overnight, on weekends or evenings if they work for a facility that stays open overnight.
How to Get the Job
Look for ultrasound technician jobs through online job-search websites such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com. You can also visit job websites specific to the job, such as Nursefinders.com or visit the websites of specific hospitals. You can also apply directly at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
FIND AN INTERNSHIP
Most ultrasound technician programs provide internship opportunities to students, but you can also find these on your own through online job-search sites.