Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
What They Do:
Sonograms are used to help diagnose various medical conditions by creating images of body organs and tissues. These professionals who use this technology include musculoskeletal sonographers, who specialize in creating images of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints; neurosonographers, who focus on the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord; abdominal sonographers, who capture images of the abdominal cavity as well as nearby organs like the kidney, liver and pancreas; and breast sonographers, who capture images of breast tissue that could confirm the presence of cysts and tumors. Skilled technicians play a vital role in ensuring a proper diagnosis. It’s a job with both social and technical elements, since sonographers must position a patient just right so that a properly calibrated machine can produce the best possible image. The job also requires good social skills, since the sonographer is the first person nervous patients turn to for information about their condition.
While there is no formal licensure process in most states (health care professionals can learn on the job in their hospital, for example, or pass a variety of one-year certificate programs), most employers prefer a candidate who has passed a certification exam by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. That usually requires clinical experience, a more likely component of an accredited program (the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education keeps a list of such programs). There are bachelor’s programs in sonography, but most students get two-year associate degrees, and many students already have undergraduate degrees in math or science. The curriculum includes anatomy, physiology, instrumentation and other medical courses.
What They Make:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,750 in 2019.
Where They Work:
Medical and diagnostic laboratories
Outpatient care centers
Colleges and Universities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 12% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As imaging technology evolves, medical facilities will continue to use ultrasound to replace more invasive, costly procedures.
Updated December 2020