The health care industry is going through a period of dramatic expansion, and training schools are doing their best to meet the demand. In fact, if you've been considering a career in ultrasound technology or other areas of health care, you might wonder whether there will be any jobs left when all the current students graduate. Don't worry about it. Demand for ultrasound technologists is expected to remain high for years to come.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks job figures for hundreds of occupations, including ultrasound technology, as part of its database. The 2011 version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook projected a 44 percent increase in jobs for ultrasound technologists -- or diagnostic medical sonographers, to use the formal term -- between 2010 and 2020. That's more than triple the average growth rate for all occupations combined, making sonography one of the hottest careers in health care. The bureau points out several reasons for this dramatic spike in employment.
Demand and Demographics
As diagnostic testing goes, ultrasound is one of the most patient-friendly procedures. It's quick, it's painless, it doesn't use any radiation and nobody needs to poke any holes in your body. It's also a budget-friendly option, because ultrasound equipment is relatively compact and inexpensive. That makes it a good option for physicians' offices and outpatient clinics, which frequently perform tests and procedures that used to be handled at hospitals. Ultrasound is used to diagnose an increasing number of conditions, because of these advantages. As the large baby boom generation ages and needs higher levels of medical attention, this should create ongoing demand for new sonographers.
Although jobs are expected to be plentiful, demand will be higher in some workplaces and geographic areas. Statistics from the BLS show hospitals as the major employer, with doctors' offices a distant second. Standalone diagnostic labs and outpatient clinics are also significant employers. States with large populations, such as California, Florida, New York and Texas, employ the largest numbers of sonographers. On a per capita basis things change significantly, with Rhode Island rising to the top of the list ahead of Florida, South Dakota and New Jersey.
Aside from the strong job prospects, ultrasound is appealing because it's one of the best-paid jobs you can have with a two-year associate degree. In May 2011 the BLS reported an average income of $65,800 per year for sonographers, with the bottom 10 percent earning up to $44,950 and the top 10 percent earning $90,640 or more. A 2010 salary survey by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists demonstrates the effect of seniority, showing an average income of $55,921 for sonographers at the beginning of their careers and $68,517 after 16 to 20 years.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.