Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, operate imaging equipment to create images of the internal organs and tissues or to perform medical tests. As a technician you may specialize in a certain area of ultrasound, such as gynecology, heart health, pregnancy, and musculoskeletal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to increase by 46% from 2012 through 2022. The BLS also reported that 34,580 sonographers worked at general medical and surgical hospitals, making that industry the highest level of employment for this type of career.
In order to become an ultrasound technician, you may complete an educational program from an accredited institution. Most technicians obtain either an associate or bachelor’s degree in sonography, but those who are already employed in the healthcare industry may only need to complete a one-year certificate program.
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What do Ultrasound Technicians Do?
Ultrasound technicians use a transducer that transmits a high-frequency sound wave into patients’ bodies. The sound waves bounce off the organ or tissue and create an echo that is converted into visual images called sonograms or ultrasounds. Doctors use these images to assess and diagnose specific medical conditions and then discuss the results with their patients. These technicians may work closely with surgeons or physicians before, during, and after particular procedures. Some technicians focus on certain specializations, including abdominal, pregnancy, heart, and gynecology. Each of these specializations have feature varying responsibilities, but they all help medical professionals gain answers on the body’s internal issues. The types of tasks ultrasound technicians may complete include:
- Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
- Operate equipment and obtain diagnostic images
- Analyze the diagnostic images
- Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal results
- Record the findings on patients’ records
What is the Career Outlook for Ultrasound Technicians?
The BLS predicts that employment of ultrasound technicians is expected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022, bringing the number of technicians employed from 58,800 to 85,900. This above-average increase is due to an ever-evolving imaging technology industry, which allows patients to have more procedures completed outside of hospitals. Although most sonographers find employment in hospital settings, employment at physicians’ offices as well as diagnostic and medical laboratories may increase exponentially. Employment for ultrasound technicians who specialize in certain areas of sonography and complete education in that specific area may find an increase in job opportunities, especially if they hold certification in at least one area. With the baby-boomer population aging and individuals remaining active later in life, these patients may need more of their medical conditions diagnosed, thus resulting in an increased need for sonographers.
What is the Work Environment of Ultrasound Technicians?
According to the BLS, most ultrasound technicians work in hospitals followed by physicians’ offices and diagnostic and medical laboratories. Technicians may often work on their feet for long periods of time and may be required to lift or move patients. Ultrasound technicians may work in healthcare facilities that are open all the time and therefore they may work weekends, evenings, or overnight.