Ultrasound technicians--also known as ultrasound technologists or ultrasonographers--are medical professionals who rely on sound waves to produce images of patients' bodies for diagnosis and treatment of disease. In fact, they are named after the ultrasonograph, which is the apparatus for producing the images. Ultrasonography differs greatly from other methods of diagnostic imaging, which relies on radiation such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging.
Ultrasound technicians belong to the category of diagnostic medical sonographers. These are people who direct high-frequency sound waves into patients' bodies to produce images that can be stored in a computer system, videotaped or photographed for the attending physician to conduct further evaluation. There are several types of diagnostic medical sonographers, which include neurosonographers (specialization in the nervous system, which includes the brain), cardiovascular sonographers (specialization in the heart and blood vessels) and breast sonographers (specialization in problems associated with the breast).
Workforce and Workplace
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 51,000 ultrasound technicians in the United States in 2009. More than 50 percent of them worked in hospitals, although they could also be found in physicians' offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers and educational institutions.
The most popular educational track for ultrasound technicians is an associate's degree in ultrasound technology or diagnostic medical sonography, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP. Graduates take the national certification exam given by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to earn the title of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.
According to Salary.com, as of June 2010, ultrasound technicians make a median annual salary of around $65,000. The bottom 10 percent make around $54,000, while the top 10 percent make around $76,000.
According to the BLS, the number of jobs for ultrasound technicians is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2008 and 2018. This ranked as a faster growth rate than all the occupations in the U.S. The federal agency cited the continued aging of the Baby Boomer generation--main candidates for diagnostic imaging--as the main factor for such growth.
How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
An ultrasound technician plays an important health care role in using medical imaging technology to evaluate pregnancies and internal illnesses. An associate's...