Sonographers perform medical tests on patients using sound waves to create images called sonograms. These images are best known for giving expectant parents their first glimpse of their unborn child, but sonographers also make images for other diagnostic purposes. Although sonographers usually qualify by completing an associate or bachelor's degree, certificate programs are also available. A wealth of opportunities, relatively high salaries and personal fulfillment are some benefits of becoming a sonographer.
One benefit of being a sonographer is getting to help people and interact with patients. Sonographers usually perform sonogram testing on patients. They begin by telling the patient what is going to happen, and then use a piece of medical equipment called a "transducer" that channels sound waves and creates on on-screen image. Sonographers are able to interpret this image to diagnose health conditions or to ensure that everything "looks good" on the on-screen image.
A positive working environment is another benefit to becoming a sonographer. Because sonographers work in the health care industry, they usually work in clean and safe environments and work regular hours. They may work directly with patients in hospitals or doctors' offices or in dark rooms with diagnostic imaging machines. Although the work environment is generally positive, sonographers may have to stand for long periods of time. Performing repetitive motions may make them susceptible to carpal tunnel, and reading images may create eye strain.
The average annual salary for sonogaphers was $67,170 as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of sonographers earned $92,070 or more annually. Sonographers who worked for hospitals, the largest industry of employment, averaged $67,540 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that job prospects for sonographers will be very strong through 2022. The estimated rate of growth between 2012 and 2022 is 46 percent, much higher than the 11 percent average annual growth for all occupations. An aging population is expected to be a contributing factor in this increase.
Sonographers have the opportunity to specialize in a number of different fields. Specialization allows sonographers to direct their own careers, and most sonographers who specialize in a particular field are able to earn higher levels of compensation. Areas of specialization include obstetric sonographers, abdominal sonographers, breast sonographers and neurosonographers, who image the brain and nervous system.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography: So You Want to Be a Sonographer
- American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages -- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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