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What Does a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Do?

A diagnostic medical sonographer — also called a medical sonographer, sonographer or ultrasound tech — uses specialized equipment to direct high-frequency sound waves towards a particular part of the body. The echoes from those sounds are used to create images, or sonograms, of structures inside the patient’s body.

The most common sonogram is the one expectant parents see of their baby inside the womb. Ultrasound technology is also used by cardiovascular and vascular technologists. It’s gives medical professionals a closer look at soft tissues of the body, including the abdomen, chest, heart and blood vessels. It can be used to see inflammation, tumors and many other issues.

Sonography offers many opportunities to specialize, so there’s room to grow in this career.

This is a job to consider for anyone who wants to utilize medical technology to help people. A sonographer’s images and how they interpret them play an important role in diagnosing disease.

Keep on reading to learn more about this in-demand medical career.

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$ 50,000 - $ 105,000
$ 76,000
7,130+
A diagnostic medical sonographer shows a pregnant woman an ultrasound of her baby
The most common sonogram a diagnostic medical sonographer produces is the one for expectant parents. (Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Day in the Life of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

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Rebecca Burton, medical sonographer

Day in the Life of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Rebecca Burton spent many years testing different careers when she decided it was time to reskill and get her medical sonographer license. Now she works at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, California.

She says making people feel at ease is the secret to being a good diagnostic medical sonographer

Job Responsibilities

  • Explain the process to the patient and answer questions
  • Prepare the patient for the scan
  • Operate the equipment to create high-quality images for diagnosis
  • Recognize the difference between abnormal and normal images
  • Maintain and update medical records 
  • Adjust and maintain equipment

How To Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: FAQs

Diagnostic medical sonographer requirements: What steps do I need to take?

To become a sonographer, you need a post-secondary certificate or a diploma. Training and education requirements depend on your career goals.

An entry-level ultrasound technician will need to complete a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography. Vocational schools, community colleges and teaching hospitals offer such programs, which combine instruction with hands-on, clinical experience.

Most students earn an associate degree. Degree programs combine instruction with hands-on, clinical experience but are more in-depth and well-rounded than a certificate program. Some students choose to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, instrumentation, physics, patient care, physiology and medical terminology. Many diagnostic medical sonography programs offer a window into the different areas of specialization.

For any pathway, look for medical sonography programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Sonographers typically earn professional certification before or shortly after they take their first job. That requires passing a certification exam from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). 

In addition, most sonographers earn basic life support or BLS certification, which means they are trained in CPR.

Diagnostic medical sonographers usually specialize in abdominal sonography, cardiac sonography (focused on the heart), neurosonography (focused on the nervous system, including the brain), obstetric and gynecologic sonography, ophthalmologic sonography (eyes) or vascular technology (blood vessels). Sonographers who specialize in one area often train and earn certifications in other areas to increase their level of expertise. 

To go into a more specific area of interest – such as bone densitometry, mammography or another branch of the field – requires extra classes as well as clinical experience. 

Most states do not require sonographers to be licensed, but some do. (Check your state medical board for details.)

There are many roles related to sonography that may provide a different path to or from this career, including cardiovascular technicians, radiology techs and MRI techs.

How long does it take to become a medical sonographer?

A certificate program takes one to two years. An associate degree takes two years. A bachelor’s degree takes four years. Continuing education is ongoing.

Sonography vs. radiology: What’s the difference? 

Sonography and radiology are both used to create diagnostic images, but they differ in the technology used to get those images. Radiology uses radiation, such as CT scans and MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging. Sonography uses ultrasound, as described above.

What’s the diagnostic medical sonographer job outlook?

It looks promising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031.

There’s ample opportunity in this career, which is why it’s one of SkillPointe’s highest-paying skilled trade careers

Where do sonographers work? 

Medical sonographers work at hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices and imaging laboratories.

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful medical sonographers tend to possess these traits:

  • Good people skills
  • Physically fit and able to assist and move ill or disabled patients 
  • Detail-oriented
  • Understand complex machinery
  • Curious

The bottom line on becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer: This career offers plenty of opportunity for growth, and provides a solid salary even for entry-level techs. If you have that magical combination of love of technology and working with people, this could be a good fit. Check out the training options offered on SkillPointe and take the next step.

Medical Sonographer Training in Your Area

Coordinates
Amarillo College logo

Sonography, A.A.S.

Amarillo College
Amarillo (366.5 Miles)
Lincoln Land Community College

Vascular Sonography

Lincoln Land Community College
Springfield (376.9 Miles)
Lincoln Land Community College

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, A.A.S.

Lincoln Land Community College
Springfield (376.9 Miles)
West Kentucky Community and Technical College logo

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, A.A.S.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Paducah (388.9 Miles)
Eastern Iowa Community College District logo

Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography, A.A.S

Eastern Iowa Community College District
Davenport (411.2 Miles)
Hinds Community College logo

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, A.A.S.

Hinds Community College
Raymond (449.7 Miles)
Southeast Technical Institute logo

Cardio Sonography,A.A.S

Southeast Technical Institute
Sioux Falls (451.3 Miles)
Southeast Technical Institute logo

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, A.A.S

Southeast Technical Institute
Sioux Falls (451.3 Miles)
Southeast Technical Institute logo

Vascular Sonography, A.A.S

Southeast Technical Institute
Sioux Falls (451.3 Miles)
Lone Star College System logo

Diagnostic Sonography in Adult Echocardiography, A.A.S.

Lone Star College System
The Woodlands (477.1 Miles)
Lone Star College System logo

Sonography Non-Invasive Vascular Technology Advanced Technical Certificate

Lone Star College System
The Woodlands (477.1 Miles)
Lone Star College System logo

Diagnostic Medical Sonography, A.A.S.

Lone Star College System
The Woodlands (477.1 Miles)