How to Become a Sonogram Technician in 5 Steps
Sonogram technicians work with sound waves to produce images of fetuses, soft tissues and organs. They also help doctors diagnose abnormalities in the body, including the brain, chest, abdomen and heart. Read on about required training and certification, and learn about the career prospects in this field. Schools offering Biomedical Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Sonogram Technician?
As a sonogram technician, you'll operate the equipment used to create an ultrasound image. You'll discuss a patient's medical history and explain the procedures you'll perform. You'll need to position the patient to provide the best view of the area in need of diagnosis and use a transducer to look for problems. You'll select the images that work best for diagnostic purposes and analyze them for the physician. You'll also keep patient records and maintain the sonogram equipment.
Step 1: Consider a Specialty
Sonogram technicians use a number of diagnostic tests to find problems within a patient's body. Most sonographers specialize in one or multiple sections of the body. You may want to first consider the area you want to work with and focus your studies in that area. Some possible specialties available include obstetric, neurological, abdominal and breast imaging.
Step 2: Get the Proper Training
If you already work in the healthcare field or you're in the Armed Forces, you might be able to get training through your job or a school's certificate program in ultrasound technology. If you have no previous medical experience, you'll generally need formal training found in an associate or bachelor's degree program. These programs introduce you to patient care, equipment use, anatomy and terminology. After earning an associate degree, some schools allow you to transfer your credits to an online bachelor's degree completion program. Many of these programs include courses in the various specializations, such as gynecology, cardiology and neurology.
Step 3: Become Certified
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers optional certification in all sonography specialties (www.ardms.org.). You'll need to pass a Sonography Principles and Instrumentation test in addition to an exam within your chosen specialty. Specialty areas include abdomen, obstetrics and gynecology, echocardiography (adult, pediatric or fetal), vascular technology, neurosonology and breast. Completion of the exams allows you to use the titles Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) or Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT).
Step 4: Find Employment
Like many professions in the medical industry, you might be on call during evenings and weekends. You could work in one or more sonography laboratories for multiple physicians. You can usually find work in various industries such as hospitals, physicians' offices and outpatient centers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that hospitals employed about 60% of the 53,010 sonogram technicians in the U.S. as of May 2010 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the BLS reported that an increasing demand for sonography and ultrasound as a non-invasive alternative to surgery was expected to contribute to an 18% increase in employment for sonogram technicians between 2008 and 2018.
Step 5: Advance in Your Career
Having multiple specialty certifications can lead to improved job opportunities. The ARDMS listed non-technical career options you could consider, such as sales, management, teaching and consulting. After a few years of experience, you might also seek advancement as a director of the ultrasound department.
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