Everything You Need To Know About Becoming Ultrasound Technician

Are you wondering what to do in the medical field? You don’t want to become a doctor and yet you want to earn like one? Well, then you have landed in the right place! Being an ultrasound technician is what would suit you the best. You might have stumbled upon this word somewhere along the medical field and to a huge denomination of people; this is a great way to work in the health care sector! This is not only interesting but also challenging and yet easy to become one.  

WHAT DO ULTRASOUND TECHNICIANS DO?

Ultrasound (or ultra Sonography) is a technique that is used for visualizing internal body structures like joints, muscles and other organs.  They work in clinics, hospitals, maternity centers and a few fields they specialize in are breast, abdominal, obstetrics and vascular. An ultrasound technician, often called sonographer, is a healthcare professional whose job consists of use of ultrasonic imaging devices. They use sonography to produce diagnostic scans, images, ultrasounds and 3D volumes of human anatomy. The complete knowledge of human cross section anatomy, physiology and pathology is mandatory for an ultrasound technician to have. Every ultrasound technician must know how to produce real-time images of internal organs and blood vessels. Using high frequency sound waves through a transducer, a technician transmits live images on a display screen. Depending on the area under the ultrasound, a technician uses his vast knowledge of anatomy and physiology to determine the most detailed images he/she then records for a physician to review.

PROCEDURE OVERVIEW

There is a great variety of ultrasounds that a technician can do ; from apprehending the flow of blood through blood vessels, discerning the condition of soft tissue and organs such as liver, spleen, bladder, kidneys, uterus, thyroid or pancreas to determining due dates,possible birth defects and sex of a child in pregnancy. A sonographer doesn’t just use the ultrasound tools – he/she is a professional who is specialized in making clearest scans and diagnostic data from the imaging of internal organs, recognizes the changes in soft tissue and develops perfect ultrasound images of wanted body area for a doctor or a radiologist to interpret.

Ultrasound technician is expected to know and perform an array of various assessments and procedures. When a patient is being prepared for an ultrasound, it is technicians duty to provide all the necessary information prior to the procedure. Their job is to inform the patient of a possible required preparation, such as having a full or emptied bladder or taking an injection. After the preparation, technician often analyzes results in real-time. For the patient’s comfort, they often speak to the patient about what they do and see on an ultrasound. Since majority of ultrasounds are harmless and patients don’t need to be anesthetized, they often talk to the sonographer while he/she performs diagnostics which means that great communication skills are appreciated in this field of medical diagnostics.

WHAT ELSE?

In addition to producing ultrasound images and scans, a technician is required to handle medical records and paperwork, deliver detailed reports and provide recommendations about procedures when they are expected to. Also, the ability of proper handling of sonographic machines and other medical equipment required for ultrasounds, is of great importance as well.

So, what ultrasound technicians do? Aside from the required abilities of good verbal and communication skills , multitasking while performing an ultrasound, standing for long hours and providing paperwork about the produced images, their job extends from just making an ultrasound.

They’re demanded to know how to: administer, perform, diagnose, observe and perceive the collected data from the imaging results.

They’re expected to implement their knowledge through the observation, detect and provide satisfactory information and always give the most perfect ultrasound scans which sometimes patients lives are depending on. Not everyone can be an ultrasound technician, but anyone with some of these qualities can qualify to be one.

WORK ENVIRONMENT OF ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN

Usually, ultrasound technicians work in clinics and hospitals. They do their work in public, local or private hospital environments. Some of the technicians also work at physician’s offices such as those of obstetricians and gynecologists and some work for mobile ultrasound companies as well. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68% were employed in hospitals, 20% in various offices of physicians and only 7% in other medical and diagnostics laboratories. They also stated that by the 2020 astonishing 23.400 ultrasound technician jobs will be made available.

A workplace of a typical ultrasound technicians is often comfortable, climate-controlled imaging room with dim lights. Low-light room is needed for better viewing of on-screen ultrasound images. Average working week of a technician is around 40 working hours which may vary because of being-on-call or being called to work due to any type of emergencies. Most of their working time, sonographers spend majority of time on their feet. Constantly walking, standing or moving medical equipment by themselves takes a toll on their physiology, which means that a good and stable physical health is much needed in this type of work. Sometimes they are required to help disabled patients to settle on beds and adjust their position.

Aside with the physical demands of their work, technicians often engage in making diagnostics of patients ultrasound images, they fulfill medical paperwork and arrange medical data and administer patients records. Some may even work on weekends, during nights and holidays because they work in places that are always open. While most of them work in health facilities and operate the imaging machines, there are those who use modern mobile diagnostics devices and are often required to travel and provide service in areas without imaging machines.

The abilities like bending, long standing, walking, pushing and pulling medical machinery and ability to work long, lasting and irregular hours are of great importance. With all the work an ultrasound technician needs to perform during their working hours, sometimes they still have to work overtime when in need of submitting various medical reports to their employers. So, even though the facility they work in is a comfortable and sanitary environment, the workload of ultrasound technicians vary greatly. But, flexible working hours and different types of duties make this job exciting and attractive. Ultrasound technician is not restricted to only one place and one task all the time, so their job never becomes a boring routine.

 BECOMING AN ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN

So, now you have decided to become an Ultrasound Technician. Great choice! There are a few ways that can get you to becoming a successful Ultrasound Technician. Let’s start from the basic step of getting a degree. There are three different degrees that you can choose from:

–       By getting a certificate: the basic requirement for this would be a high school diploma. The duration of the course can be anywhere from a year to 2 years. Getting a job with a certificate is not difficult but your pay scale can vary upon your scholastics.

–       By getting an Associate’s degree: This course will cost you more and also consume your time. It can take up to 3 years to finish.

–       By getting a Bachelor’s degree: This is the longest, most time consuming way to become an ultrasound technician. It will take you a total of 4 years to complete the course, but since the wages you earn are also dependent on the degree of education, the extra time spent might as well be worth it.

You will have to make sure that you study in schools that are accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAHEEP) as this can fetch you a job and a better wage as well. Before joining any school, always be sure to research about it by asking the existent students or by browsing about them. This will also help you understand the schools’ rules and regulations better.

AFTER THE EDUCATION- THE LAST STAGE:

Once you have completed your training or course in ultrasound technician education degree, you will need certification. You will be giving your certification exam which is governed by The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). You will be given certification only once you have passed this test, and then you are ready to step into your new career!

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN ONLINE ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN PROGRAMS

Even though becoming an ultrasound technician demands hand-on training and courses, some of the work can be done my completing online programs. There is a vast number of available online programs that are accredited by CAAHEP and which offer complete Associate and Bachelor degrees and official certificates as well. With such a large variety of online courses available, it is a hard choice choosing the one which suites you best. Mostly , programs last between 1 and 5 years of online studying depending on which ones you choose to finish. For anyone with limited free time, such programs may be of great help in getting a degree or certificate. So, what to look for in online ultrasound technician programs?

  •      Large number of offered classes : For a future ultrasound technician, a good understanding of this job is mandatory. When searching for a perfect online program, look for the complete list of offered courses. Some programs may offer only preparation for one field in sonography while others provide general teaching about sonography. Search for the ones with video lectures and live webinars as well as the ones with interesting learning approaches with multiple quizes and demos offered. Pick education programs which include courses of introduction to medical sonography, detailed sectional anatomy classes, courses about procedures and principles in all of the fields in sonography : vascular, abdominal, obstetrical, gynecological and breast sonography. The best programs offer online assignments and exams, interaction between students and lecturers and a great number of presentations. Depending on the level of degree you’re pursuing, you may be required to take a year of some basic courses like psychology, mathematics, communication, biology and logic.
  •      Accreditation :   Take your time in choosing the best online program which is accredited by CAAHEP. Not all programs and schools have accreditation for online / distance education, so get to know and inform yourself of those programs which are accredited for this type of education.
  •     Campus training and in-person courses: While most of the programs have high quality online courses and good amount of lessons provided, some of the schools and training programs also offer campus training. This means that aside with your online training, you are also able to perform and engage in clinical training as well. Being able to actually participate in procedures and perform in real-time work is a good way to completely understand and comprehend all of the theory you’re learning through an online training program. The best way to become an ultrasound technician through programs is to be allowed to involve in both online lectures and hands-on training. The best experience is earned in combination of virtual and on-campus instruction. In some cases, students may pay their own transport to such campuses, clinics or physician offices.
  •     Certification: Make sure to check out the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) for all the necessary certification requirements according to your state. There are different licensing and credentialing requirements so be careful before picking a training program to ensure yourself of possible setbacks regarding the needed certification. Earn your certification and start pursuing your sonography career with the best online training program you choose for yourself. Even though professional certification is not required to work as an ultrasound technician, in most cases it is preferred by employers. Getting a certification typically requires a taking an exam at an approved testing center. Numerous schools offer accredited online or hybrid training programs that are created to prepare students for the profession and certification requirements.

So, when exploring for the training school that suites your best interests, be aware of these things when applying for a training. Some things mentioned are mandatory for applying students while some of them are just good to know or have. Between so many ultrasound technician training programs, collecting information about each one is a good way of choosing the one you will want to succeed in. Find the best online schools and list their offers and possibilities. Research thoroughly every program you want to consider taking, inform yourself of pros and cons and pick the best option. Regarding your goals, consider online programs that offer a complete courses of sonography fields you wish to get a degree in.

Plan your training requirements, exam preparations and available free time and pick the best one for yourself. After completing your training, you will get your degree and you will be able to start your career as a professional ultrasound technician. The next thing to do is just to find a perfect working place whether it’s a public or private hospital, physician office or a medical laboratory. After finishing online training program, your career as a sonographer soon begins.

THE COMPENSATION:

The compensation is always the most valued part of a job and it is also the first thing we look at before choosing a career path. So, what should you expect in this line of career? On an average, the annual salary for a freshly graduated technician is around $67,000(according to a survey in 2009). Following the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an ultrasound technician in May, 2015 was $68,530. But this will depend upon work experience, level of education, type of degree, school in which you studied, place you are working in and other such factors. But, with time, given the right place of work and job, your compensation will gradually start increasing as you slowly become experienced and better at your work. Ultrasound technician salary ranks among the highest ones in medical field.

The average hourly income for this job in the US ranges between approximately $13.49 and $33.58. You can start earning more once you acquire more working experience. Another method of increasing your salary is by completion of any accredited degree like Bachelor, Master’s or Associate one. Some of the other factors influencing on the salary are career length and the particular city a technician works in.

Let’s look into the main factors which salaries are depending on:

  • The first one is geographical location. There are some states in the US that are among the first ones on the list that provide highest payments. States like California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Colorado are the top paying states. However, the lowest ranking states are Alabama, Arkansas, South Dakota, West Virginia and Mississippi. Bear in mind that Metropolitan areas tend to offer higher salaries than the rural ones.
  • Second factor is based on your education, credentials and work experience. Ultrasound technicians who are beginners start with the lowest percentage of salary income. Even though the degree you hold is important factor, more important factor is acquiring professional credentials. The ASRT survey states that sonographers with up to two years of experience have income of $55,921, while the ones with 20 to 30 years of experience have average wage of $72,447 per year.
  • The third factor is the area of sonography you’re specialized in. Have in mind that salaries vary depending on ultrasound specialties. So, while a pediatric cardiac sonographer earn approximately $67,000, cardiac sonographer earns roughly $81,000. In addition, vascular sonographer’s salary reaches up to $88,000 per year. While staff-level sonographers earn $66,000 on an average, senior ultrasound techs reported roughly $72,000 and the supervisors in this medical department average around $79,000 per year. In the sonography profession, a job title and work experience are considered to be more important than educational level when determining salary. So, expect to start with the lowest payment rate once you begin your sonography career and as the years pass, your income will surely increase. Depending on your persistence, choosing this profession takes time to start paying out with a great salary wage. Nonetheless, the beginners payment is not bad – according to US News, this job is ranked #5 in the best healthcare support jobs. When you collect years of experience in this medical field, you can even expect the number of up to $90,000 per year. The potential of high earnings, fantastic job outlook and the future job openings in general put this profession ahead of other ones, which makes it a very popular choice. If and when you decide to start your career as an ultrasound technician, be assured that the wage, job requirements and experience gained will fulfill your curriculum.

Don’t forget about the possible benefits and bonuses you get for your work. Some facilities even have completely payed health insurance. Whether you decide to work in laboratory, medical office or a hospital, your payment will increase gradually as your experience. Start your career as soon as possible, and enjoy your work as much as you will enjoy the increase of salary!

JOB OUTLOOK

As published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May, 2011, the official job outlook for ultrasound technician is very bright. According to statistics as of 2010, the number of opened jobs in this medical field reaches 53,700. Between the years 2010 and 2020, the number of sonography jobs is expected to increase 44% nationally across the US. As the popularity of this profession increases and the number of sonographers raise, it surpasses other related healthcare fields by 18% anticipated job growth. Even though the majority of ultrasound technicians work in hospitals, the expand of modern ultrasound technology offers this professionals opportunities to work in outpatient facilities or in mobile services as well.

For example: there are approximately 20,000 vascular sonographers working in the US. Two thirds of this number work in either hospital facilities, while the other work in clinics, physician offices and in some independent and private laboratories. With an increasing demand of graduated sonographers, the number of employees increases rapidly and every year there are more and more job openings concerning this medical field. So, the future is bright for sonographers. Every field of sonography has raising numbers of job outlook. Abdominal, vascular, cardiac, neurological, breast and gynecological sonography are some major types of this profession and every field listed is in search of new workers. Searching through job outlooks depending on your state, can give you a great insight in search and demand of this job.

POPULARITY OF SONOGRAPHY

Thanks to its benign technology, ultrasound is becoming more popular than other technologies. Due to the radiation of x-rays and CT scans and needles used in biopsies and blood testing, ultrasound technology prevails as the most secure, non invasive and inexpensive type of technology. With the big number of more and more elderly citizens and their medical conditions such as heart diseases, arthritis and neurological problems, the requirement of usage of diagnostics technology increases as well. By the year of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the total number of 77,100 new open jobs for ultrasound technicians.

CONCLUSION

Start browsing for open jobs. Just enter search query for your state and choose between vast number of open jobs that various hospitals and clinics offer. Pick between numerous listings and choose the one of your liking. With so many options of open job listings, choosing a sonographer career is the right way of choosing bright future. With the steady salary, job demand and flexibility of working hours, it is not a hard choice to pick. By finishing your training or school, gaining some experience and finding a perfect job offer, you can begin your long lasting career as an ultrasound technician and in your late years enjoy the products of your work. There are no cons in choosing this profession, and the pros are increasing every year. Everything you need to know about becoming an ultrasound technician is written in this article. Take the first step and start becoming one.

 

 

References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers : Work Environment

Oregon Institute of Technology : Diagnostic Medical Sonography

explorehealthcareers.org : Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

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