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Career Outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Medical Sonography

Medical analysts predict that the global ultrasound field will generate nearly $10.5 billion each year by 2022. [1] Three-D and 4D imaging innovation, consumer demand for less invasive procedures and rising chronic conditions coalesce to spur growth in the field as investors and research endowments fuel research and development of new ultrasound technology.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography Explained

Medical sonographers operate equipment that uses sound to generate diagnostic images. [2] The equipment allows sonographers to produce detailed images of patient’s internal tissue and organs. The resulting images allows physicians to make life saving medical assessments. Some sonographers work directly with specialists during treatments. Although some consumers associate ultrasound examinations with prenatal care, sonographers deliver diagnostic images across several disciplines: • Abdominal sonographers acquire images generated from patient’s abdomens and surrounding tissue. Breast sonographers capture ultrasound images of breast anatomy to evaluate suspicious lesions. • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers acquire images that physicians use to assess and evaluate female reproductive organs and pregnancy. • Musculoskeletal sonographers acquire images of joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons • Pediatric sonographers may image areas such as the abdomen or heart for diseases that affect the pediatric population. • Cardiac sonographers acquire images of the heart and can assess cardiac function and valve efficiency.

Training for a Career in Sonography

Most employers prefer sonographers who have obtained discipline-specific training and education from an institution approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). [3] Sonography students and graduates can obtain their credentials by taking one or more examinations in their specialty areas. For instance, sonographers who specialize in heart imaging or echocardiology complete training and education in anatomy, applied sciences, medical terminology, and invasive and noninvasive heart imaging procedures. These sonographers would become credentialed upon successful completion of the diagnostic cardiac sonographer exam. Depending on their specialty, sonographers may gain their credentials from differing certification organizations including the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). All of these bodies offer sonography specific examinations. Certification is important as many insurers will not reimburse care providers for services unless a certified ultrasound specialist completed the diagnostic procedure. Entry level sonographers may gain education and training through hospital based programs and degree granting programs. As sonographers seek career advancement, many will pursue higher education, including bachelor degrees, which may assist them moving into leadership roles. Physicians commonly order ultrasound examinations at the first sign of threatening illnesses. It is critical that certified sonographers possess a strong understanding of human anatomy and pathology so they know how to acquire the necessary images needed for the physicians to make an accurate diagnosis.

Sonographer Job Responsibilities and Skills

Sonographers possess various traits that enhance their work performance such as an attention to detail, computer literacy, empathy and stamina. [4] They must also possess excellent communication skills so they may relate clear information to physicians, patients, and co-workers. Sonographers review patient medical histories, prepare patients for diagnostic procedures, and explain and guide them in preparing for an examination. In addition to performing the examination, sonographers will often help the physician by setting up a room and assisting during a procedure. Because of the collaborative nature of the field, sonographers are an active part of a healthcare team. For example, sonographers must manage tasks and patient flow, effectively and without error.

Career Outlook for Sonographers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts 26 percent growth in the sonography field by the year 2022, which outpaces all other occupations. [5] As this already formidable technology improves, it will replace more costly, risky and invasive diagnostic procedures. In fact, the noninvasive characteristics of ultrasound procedures is what decreases costs, garnering it favorite among insurers. Most sonographers work full-time, with some working shifts during evenings, nights, or weekends at 24 hour clinics. [6] The three average highest paying work environments were diagnostic laboratories, private practices, and hospitals, where sonographers earned $66,830, $64,690, and $62,590 respectively. On average, sonographers earned nearly $55,000 annually in 2015. However, salaries varied by geographical region and place of employment with the top pay being reported by the BLS as $97,390 each year. As the United States population requires increased healthcare services, care providers will call on skilled and capable medical professionals to aid in acquiring diagnostic images. [5] This demand will only increase as more complex image equipment enters the marketplace and the aging population expands.

Learn More

The goal of the online Bachelor of Science degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (BSDMS) at Adventist University Health Sciences is to prepare sonographers who show a high level of competence and professionalism for future leadership roles, continuing and advanced education, and technology innovations. A sound decision to invest in your future today can lead to an even higher level of career satisfaction tomorrow.

Recommended Readings

7 Skills and Traits Every Sonographer Needs 5 Specialty Areas for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]