There’s absolutely no difference between ultrasound technologists or technicians, or so says ONET OnLine, which also uses the term “sonographer” for the same profession. These health care professionals make pictures of your body’s insides using high-frequency sound waves, which can’t hurt you like X-ray radiation can. The technology is safe enough that expectant mothers use it to get the first peek at their unborn kids.
Ultrasound technologists use portable or stationary ultrasound machines under doctors’ orders to find medical conditions. They answer the patient's questions about the procedure, prepare the area to be imaged with gel to make sound waves travel better, and move the diagnostic wand, called a transducer, over the body area. To get the best-quality images, technologists adjust equipment settings. A quick look-see of the resulting picture may reveal any medical problems, which sonographers note in the patient file. They then send all the information to the doctor who asked for it for her diagnosis.
Almost anything soft inside the body can show up in a sonogram, which is the picture that the ultrasound machine makes. So, many ultrasound technologists specialize in one or more body parts. For example, abdominal specialists look at the stomach and nearby organs, such as the liver, pancreas and spleen. Breast sonographers spot signs of cancer and other diseases of the breast. Neurosonographers focus on the nervous system, brain and blood vessels. Finally, obstetric and gynecologic sonographers concentrate on the female reproductive system and the developing fetus.
You can become an ultrasound tech in three ways. If you’re already a nurse or health care worker, you can get by with a one-year training certificate. Otherwise, you need an associate degree in the field, which includes classroom study and clinical exercises. If you’re in to in-depth study, bachelor’s degrees are also available. Most employers want certification, which you can get with an accredited education and passing a test. You need separate credentials for each of your specialties, such as neurosonography or gynecology. Some states also dmand a license, which can involve certification or passing an exam.
As America’s baby boom population grows older, they get more injuries and diseases that need sonography to detect. In addition, ultrasound technology is becoming cheaper and more portable, allowing its use outside of hospitals and in clinics and doctors’ offices. These facts will increase ultrasound jobs by 44 percent, which is a lot more than the 26 percent predicted for all health-treating practitioners, and greater than the 14 percent expected for all other jobs. The best opportunities will go to those who have certification in more than one specialty.
- ONET OnLine; Summary Report for Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- California Employment Development Department: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers in California
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.