Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized equipment to generate images used for assessing and diagnosing various medical conditions.
Many people associate sonography, which utilizes sound waves, with pregnancy. It’s how a fetus can be seen in the womb. But this technology has many other applications in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in the abdomen, breast, heart, and blood vessels and, more recently, in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems.
A diagnostic medical sonographer’s responsibilities may include:
- Taking a patient history
- Preparing and maintaining the diagnostic equipment
- Generating images through the use of sonographic equipment
- Determining if the ultrasound procedure has captured all the necessary images and if the quality is adequate for diagnosis
- Analyzing technical information
- Communicating with and providing a report to the interpreting physician who makes a diagnosis based on the images
Most full-time sonographers work about 40 hours a week; they may have evening and weekend hours and times when they are on call and must be ready to report to work on short notice.
They often work in low-lit examination rooms to better visualize the images they need to obtain. They may also perform ultrasound imaging at a patient’s bedside. At many institutions, sonographers will also aid the radiologist in performing procedures such as biopsies, drain placements, or draining fluids.
Salary Range and Outlook
Diagnostic medical sonographers earn a median (half earn more and half earn less) salary of $63,330 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The outlook for employment as a diagnostic medical sonographer is very good, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It predicts that employment will grow 26% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.
High school students who are interested in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiovascular technology, or vascular technology should take courses in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math.
Colleges and universities offer certificate and two- and four-year programs. Two-year programs are most prevalent. Look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Sonography programs will likely include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences.
Diagnostic medical sonographers can earn certification by passing an exam. Certification specialties include abdominal, obstetrics/gynecology, vascular, and adult or pediatric cardiac. Additional specialties in which sonographers can be credentialed are breast, pediatric, fetal/congenital echocardiography, and phlebology. Most diagnostic medical sonographers have at least one certification, and many earn more than one certification.
Learn More About a Career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- Take a look at the resources offered on the “So You Want to be a Sonographer” page on the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography page.
- Read testimonials from sonographers about their work.