What Is a Vascular Sonographer?

A vascular sonographer is a medical imaging specialist who examines blood vessels using ultrasound equipment. Read on to learn more about the job duties and educational requirements of a vascular sonographer, as well as the job outlook and salary potential for this field. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

As a vascular sonographer, you'd work under the supervision of a physician and specialize in analyzing the vascular system for signs of disease or obstruction. You'd use ultrasound technology to generate images of blood vessels for diagnosis and treatment. This process can also be used to monitor how blood vessels heal after treatment or to monitor their status during surgery.

Doctors use vascular sonography to evaluate a person's circulatory system. You might assist a physician by performing a variety of procedures, including the following:

  • Monitoring blood flow
  • Identifying blockages
  • Finding blood clots, tumors, aneurysms and other blood vessel abnormalities
  • Determining if angioplasty is a viable treatment option
  • Assessing outcome of a bypass or graft of blood vessels

Education Requirements

In order to work as a vascular sonographer, most employers prefer that you complete a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Such training may be integrated by way of concentration into an associate's degree in general sonography, or it might be offered through a stand-alone certificate or diploma program.

Because vascular sonography is a sub-specialization within medical imaging, many certificate or diploma programs require that you complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in diagnostic medical sonography or cardiovascular technology as a prerequisite. Some such programs will allow you to enroll if you have previous experience working as a diagnostic medical sonographer. On-the-job training is another option for those who already have work experience in radiography.

Program Coursework

While enrolled in a certificate or diploma program, you may expect to cover anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system, medical ethics, and the techniques used for imaging various parts of the body. For example, you'll learn how to use specialized equipment for vascular imaging of the Doppler sonography, cerebrovascular imaging, how to test arteries in the extremities and other practical skills. Some of your coursework may involve a clinical practicum where you may practice skills you have learned on volunteers or patients.

Certification

Once you've completed a certificate or degree program accredited by CAAHEP, you'll be eligible to sit for a two-part professional certification exam to become a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Certification is not necessary to gain employment, but it may help to increase your opportunities, and some employers may be willing to pay you a higher salary.

Other Necessary Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that an attention to detail is an important skill that vascular sonographers need (www.bls.gov). Good hand-eye coordination is also critical, and these professionals need to have the physical stamina to assist patients. Strong technical and interpersonal skills are also necessary for this career.

Career Outlook and Salary

The BLS expects very fast employment growth for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, over the 2012-2022 decade. A growth rate of 39% is expected during that time, and the BLS expects the best job prospects for certified professionals.

The BLS reported an average wage of $53,990 for cardiovascular technologists and technicians in May 2013, with most making between $27,810 and $82,920. Most worked for general hospitals and earned $53,150 on average. Many also worked for physicians' offices and earned an average wage of $58,720. Medical and diagnostic laboratories paid these workers $49,180 on average, while offices of dentists offered the highest average wage overall of $70,790.

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