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What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?
Ultrasound technicians, also known as medical sonographers, use sound waves and machines to produce image of internal tissue and use said images to diagnose healthy and unhealthy areas. Individuals working in the field typically work in hospitals, providing non-invasive imaging that provides physicians and other healthcare professionals the ability to identify internal growths, tissue damage, and other ailments within the human body. Ultrasound technology has improved significantly over the last decade, allowing for the technique to become more prominent and of higher value, and in turn creating a high demand for technicians.
Sonography training is typically offered at hospitals, vocational schools, as well as two and four year institutions. Though bachelor's degrees are available, the most common education level received is the associate's degree. Short programs are also offered but are typically taken by medical professionals looking to increase their skill set rather than work in the specific field of medical sonography.Courses will be divided between practical and classroom settings, allowing for the familiarization of with equipment, standard practice and methodology,
Some classes may include:
- Basic Physics
- Patient Care
- Medical Ethics
Ultrasound technicians primarily work in hospitals, but are finding increasing work in private practices and medical facilities such as nursing homes. The role of a medical sonographer is to provide imaging and diagnosis for patients, assisting in the development of a proper treatment for a patient's ailment. Medical sonographers will use ultrasound or sonography machines to produce the images, then use their experience reading such images to confer with physicians about the results. Medical sonographers must have an understanding of human physiology and the various ailments one may be suffering, as well as how to identify such ailments accurately.
Ultrasound technicians have a variety of specialization they may choose to pursue, and certification is available for each specialization. Specializations allow sonographers to expand upon their practice, or focus on a given area of expertise in order to assist physicians. An individual who has pursued a specialization will be able to more accurately assist in the diagnosis of an ailment, particularly in areas considered difficult or complex to image and identify. Specialization is normally pursued after a certain number of years of experience have been accrued, demonstrating that the individual is qualified and capable as a medical sonographer prior to developing more complex skills.
These specializations are:
- Obstetric and gynecologic
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields
Diagnostic medical sonography is a growing field and as such job opportunities are expected to increase over the next decade rapidly. This is primarily due to the low cost and less invasive nature of sonography versus similar tools which may put a patient at risk or expose them to dangerous levels of radiation. Additionally, as the population in the United States grows older, the need for qualified individuals to perform testing will increase. Technology in this field is also developing rapidly, producing better and more accurate results which will make the option for medical sonography in diagnosis all the more appealing. These factors combined are responsible for a near 50% growth rate in the field.
The average wage for an ultrasound technician is approximately $62,000 per year. The lowest ten percent earned less than $43,600 and the highest more than $84,000. Experienced and certified individuals will earn salaries in the upper end, with individuals having several certifications being able to performs several sonographic functions and thus be in higher demand.