Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Career Profile

Ultrasound during pregnancy
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What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer? Job Overview:

Many people are familiar with ultrasounds, or sonography, because ultrasound, or sonograms, are commonly utilized to view a fetus during pregnancy. As a sonographer, you could be part of one of the most special times in a patient's life, revealing the gender of the baby and helping the patient to "see" her new baby for the very first time! While this is a most common use of ultrasound technology, sonography is also used to view other internal organs to diagnose a variety of problems of the abdominal organs, heart, brain, and blood flow.

The ultrasound equipment includes a handheld transmitter which is moved over the abdomen and emits sound waves. The sound waves create an image of the internal organs or fetus within the patient’s body. Because sonography uses sound waves instead of radiation, it is a very safe way to view internal organs. Additionally, since there are no needles or injection of dyes used in most sonography, it is non-invasive and cost-effective for the patient as well. Therefore, sonography will continue to grow in use and demand, making it a solid career choice.

How to Become a Sonographer - Education and Training:

A sonographer usually has at least a two-year associate’s degree. Training is offered at community colleges or at vocational or technical schools. Additional registration or certification may be earned through one of the professional societies. According to the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, (SDMS), the training programs vary in length from one to four years.

To locate an accredited program, refer to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Also, a certification exam is required on a national level.

Average Work Week for Sonographers:

The average workweek is about 40 hours. If working in a hospital environment, overtime hours are always available if one would like to earn more money.

Where Sonographers Work:

Sonographers may work in a doctor’s office, such as an OB/GYN practice, or in a hospital setting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most sonographers work in hospitals, while the number of sonographers working in doctors' offices continues to grow. Additionally, sonographers may work in an imaging center or clinic.

Required Skills for Successful Sonographers:

Sonographers should be comfortable working with highly sophisticated technological equipment. Additionally, strong communication skills are paramount for speaking with patients and putting them at ease about what to expect. Sonographers should be able to work well as part of a team, as they are coordinating with nurses and doctors to provide an accurate diagnosis of the patient. As with all medical professions, attention to detail is important, as sonographers must be able to tell the difference between a normal image, and an abnormal one.

What Sonographers Earn:

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the average annual compensation for sonographers is $61,984, with an upside of up to $67,253.

Career Paths for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers:

Sonographers may specialize in one type of sonography such as abdominal, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiac (heart), vascular (images of blood flow), or images of the brain (neurosonology).

Additionally, sonographers may go into management, sales, research, teaching, or administration.

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