What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows an ultrasound tech performing a sonogram on a patient, and on the screen is a moving image of the fetus. Text reads:

Image by Lara Antal © The Balance 2019

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.

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.

Job Outlook 

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.

Work Environment 

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.

Work Schedule 

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

APPLY

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.

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