What is an ultrasound technician?
This is a medical professional who operates imaging equipment to obtain, then record the internal imaging of the patient’s bodies to help the physician diagnosis various medical conditions. They are also known as an ultrasound technician, or diagnostic medical sonographer. The ultrasound technician will work under the supervision of the radiologist.
Job description of an ultrasound technician
When most people hear the words “ultrasound technician” the picture that comes to mind is the person who does the ultrasound on a pregnant woman’s growing fetus but there are many other situations in which the expertise of an ultrasound technician is needed. An ultrasound technician will also use the same imaging equipment to take pictures of the abdomen to look at the patient’s liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidneys. The imaging equipment that an ultrasound technician uses produces images of the patient’s body using sound waves.
Some of the things that an ultrasound technician will do can include:
- Operating sonographic machines and taking care of them so they will work correctly. Many ultrasounds require the use of a wand-type instrument which is glided over the area of the patient that the physician wants an image of. After using the ultrasound technician needs to make sure that the gel they use is wiped off the wand.
- Carrying out the diagnostic procedures that a physician has ordered
- Explaining the procedure and what you are doing to the patient. If it requires using the wand they will explain what it is for and why they need to put a gel-type substance on the areas where they are going to run the wand. If they will need to press a little hard on the patient’s body with the wand they need to let the patient know before it is done so they will be prepared for it and why they are doing it. If the patient asks why the gel the ultrasound technician can tell them that it helps the sound waves to produce a better image.
- Performing an analysis of highly technical information
- Keeping a record of the medical history of the patients that are getting the ultrasound and you will use the medical terminology that you learned to make notes about the diagnostic findings in the patients’ files.
- Making sure that the patient is positioned correctly for the diagnostic imaging that the physician has ordered.
- Making sure that they are choosing the correct sonographic techniques that are needed to be used in each case.
- After taking the images they look at them to make sure they are good enough to give the physician a diagnosis and that there are no errors and that they are of good quality. When you look at the images you will look for abnormalities versus the healthy organs and tissues, look at the veins to see if there is healthy blood flow
- Selecting the image(s) that you will give to the physician.
- Sending the image(s) and a report to the physician with the result of the ultrasound scan for analysis by the physician.
- After doing the ultrasound if gel was use the ultrasound technician will wipe it off the patient.
- After the patient leaves the ultrasound technician will need to make sure that the bed or table has clean sheets or a paper covering on it for the next patient.
- You will be working with patients of all ages and some may be frightened so you will have to know how to calm them down and be prepared to work with any emotion and any age patient.
- They will adjust the ultrasound machine’s settings so they are set to effectively ass the condition of the patient’s body and get the correct image that the physician wants.
How to become an ultrasound technician?
The first step to becoming an ultrasound technician is to have your high school diploma or GED with classes taken in science, biology, and math. The next step to become an ultrasound technician you will typically have to have at least an associate degree and complete a program in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. There may even be some states that require an ultrasound technician to have a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree will take 2 years to complete and a bachelor’s degree will take 4 years. The type of program that you need to enroll in to become an ultrasound technician can be taken at universities, community colleges, or health science schools. You want to enroll in either the diagnostic medical sonography or ultrasound technology program. Before enrolling make sure that the program is accredited, that it meets the certification and licensure requirements.
In regards to accreditation the program should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This accreditation helps to ensure that the school offering the program meets minimum standards, has up-to-date sonography equipment for the students to use, and covers all the course materials that are required to become an ultrasound technician. According to the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) as of 2006 there were almost 150 programs to become an ultrasound technician that were accredited.
There are also different specialties that an ultrasound technician can specialize in so if they know which specialty they might want to work in they should look for programs that are not only accredited but also offer clinical rotations and coursework in that specialty. Some of the specialties that an ultrasound technician could specialize in can include:
- Neurosongraphy—images of the parts of the brain and nervous system
- Gynecologic—images of the female reproductive organs
- Vascular and cardiac—images of the veins and arteries will help to create images of the heart and circulatory system
- Abdominal—images of the spleen, kidneys, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder
Some of the coursework that a student will cover in the ultrasound technician program is anatomy, medical terminology, physiology, patient care, instrumentation, medical ethics, how to interpret the sonographic images, and basic physics. The coursework should also include training in communication and public relations because an ultrasound technician works directly with the patient and other medical coworkers. During clinical rotations, or internship, you will have to log in a specific number of hours performing ultrasounds on real patients. How many hours will depend on the state’s requirement where you will be working. Also during this time you will be practicing performing ultrasounds on the abdomen, pelvis, and heart under supervision.
As of 2015 many states are not requiring that ultrasound technicians be licensed but the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) expect that in the future more states will start to require ultrasound technicians to become licensed. The ARDMS does offer a certification exam which preparing for and passing will help students to comply with future licensure requirements and could also help with employment. The reason is that most employers prefer to hire an ultrasound technician that is certified. You should also be registered with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) but first you must pass a written exam.
One important thing to note is that in order to take the examination for certification the ARDMS does require the student to have done clinical rotations. Also, in order to keep your certification current you have to participate in continuing education courses. If you attend a program to become an ultrasound technician that is a non-accredited program before you can take the exam to become certified you will be required to have 1 year work experience in that field but it is hard to find employment without the professional certification.
If you are a nurse and want to become an ultrasound technician there are some 1 year certification programs in sonography that they can take to become a certified ultrasound technician.
Work environment and schedule
Typically an ultrasound technician will work in an independent medical facility, imaging lab, or hospital. They can also work in outpatient clinics. Depending on their working environment an ultrasound technician may work a 40 hour week Monday through Friday with weekends off as most ultrasounds are schedule by the physician so you will know each day that you go into work how many ultrasounds you will be doing and what you will be looking for. If you work for a hospital your shifts can vary. You may work days, evenings, or nights. You may also work weekends and holidays, 8 or 12 hour shifts, or be on-call. The reason that an ultrasound technician’s hours in a hospital can be so sporadic is that there may be times that the emergency room will need the services of an ultrasound technician so one or more must always be available. Many hospitals will employ more than one ultrasound technician in order to always have at least one on duty at all hours.
The environment that an ultrasound technician works in is always clean and sterile and kept at a comfortable temperature. In order to see the images on the diagnostic screen while doing the ultrasound the room will have low or dim lighting. The bed or table that the patient lays on to have the ultrasound will always be kept clean and either a clean sheet or paper covering will be on the bed or table.
Pros and cons of being an Ultrasound Technician
The ultrasound technician job involves many times, handling machines that use a system of sound waves that will create images that allows you to see inside of the human body. The so-called sonograms have their role to help physicians set an accurate and clear diagnostic regarding certain diseases. They will also allow you to track any changes that can occur inside of a patient’s body and are used a lot in the surgical procedures.
The educational requirement that is usually asked for an ultrasound technician involves an associate’s degree in sonography. You can take everything on a higher level and follow an accredited training program that can offer you a bachelor’s degree. The chances for an increased salary are obtained with a higher education and a full-time experience.
You can gain a good job and great advancement opportunities if your resume fills up the type of employer requirements. Many of them will want to hire an ultrasound technician, who already passed all the certifications exams.
Before you take it all to the next level, make sure that you’re truly informed and that this career is the best alternative career-wise for your life. Here are a few pros and cons that will help you form an opinion about this job. Being aware of the expectations that need to be fulfilled will make your work a lot easier as well as the process of adjusting to every task and duty.
A huge pro starts with your job and the tasks that you fulfill as an ultrasound technician. Helping to give a correct diagnostic in serious health issues is a very rewarding path especially since you contribute a lot to the society and in the health system. As an Ultrasound Technician, you’ll help a lot to locate tumors that could be installed in kidneys or livers, or even you’ll provide an inside progress of healing from injuries. If you like working with people, rests assure that there will be plenty of experiences and contact one on one with the patients.
The earning in this job is very higher compared to other people that possess an associates or a bachelor’s degree. The cons that accompany this job are linked with the type of employers, especially the hours in which one is working. Since the settings vary, many of them will be opened for long hours, so working like this is not an exception. You’ll have to work as well on weekends and evenings, to lift a lot of patients that can do that, and you’ll have to stay many hours on your feet.
As an ultrasound technician many times you’ll be exposed to patients with serious health problems and injuries, this involving some high risks and a high exposure. You have to wear some special equipment including gloves and take precaution measures to avoid transmitted diseases such as AIDS and other.
Ultrasound Technician Job Growth
The projection growth for ultrasound technicians has a great rate of increase for the next five years of so that reaches at around 39.5% or even higher, having a faster than the average growth. The number of demanding is constantly rising since many of the medical fields are relying more and more on the ultrasound as a diagnostic imaging tool. There are plenty of positions and job opportunities in this field nationwide.
The majority of these job openings are seen in metropolitan areas in facilities such as hospitals and ambulatory care centers, but not only. Plenty of the outpatient facilities have job openings for these professionals since the ultrasound equipment is becoming less expensive and more mobile.
The states that provide these professionals with plenty of job openings and with great job outlooks are California, Florida, New York, Texas and a few other. With the large baby boom population growing in age, this non-invasive method used in the treatment and the diagnostic of many conditions continues to grow among the medical care that is attributed. With other words, the job growth level has satisfactory results on the job market.
Ultrasound technician salary
The average annual salary of an ultrasound technician will vary according to the type of work environment you are working in, the years of experience, your education level as to whether you have a bachelor’s or associate degree, your specialty if any, and your geographical location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five paying states as of 2009 were Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Washington. The average annual salary for an ultrasound technician is $65,499 but just starting your job your average annual salary would be $45,000 but it is possible to move up the pay ladder quickly with continued education and specializing in a particular area of ultrasound technology.
In addition to the ultrasound tech salary you also need to take into consideration the great benefit package, or perks, that an ultrasound technician can have. The package could include paid vacation and sick days, paid holidays, shift differential pay, health and life insurance, 401K, pension, social security, dental and vision coverage, cell phone stipend if they are on-call, uniform coverage, and more.
Salary of an Ultrasound Technician in 2015
For an ultrasound technician in 2015 the salary is estimated to increase or decrease based on a couple of factors. The type of employer, the location and the education in this field as well as the experience influence a lot someone’s income.
The highest in this field will receive an annual salary that reaches about $92,074 per year while the average professionals earn a salary that is about $67,174 per year. Working in an environment as a hospital will get you to a salary of about $67,543 per year. At the same time, those who fulfill their job in a doctor’s office will earn a salary of about $66,976 per year.
Ultrasound Technician Salary in 2016
For the year 2016, the income of an ultrasound technician in the United States is estimated to be among the highest salaries of all the medical technician fields. According to the lowest-highest points in the salaries of these professionals, the estimated incomes start on the lower side from $46,210 per year and climb up to on the highest side at $93,075 per year or even more. The estimated median income for these professionals gets around $67,512 per year.
The most encountered factors that affect the salary of an ultrasound technician are the educational level, geographical location, type of employment and other. According to the geographical location, the earnings that are encountered in each state vary. The top paying states for these professionals are California, where the income has an estimated average of around $89,872 per year while in Oregon the income is estimated to be for these professionals at around $84,973 per year. The main factors that affect the differences in the salaries are based on the living expenses in those particular areas and the costs of living.
Higher incomes are also available for ultrasound technicians with more years of experience in the field, or with advanced specializations and let not to forget the educational level that is definitely making a difference when it comes to the earnings.
On the other side, the lowest salaries found in various areas bring forth also lowest costs of living than in other regions. For instance, the facilities that are to be found in rural areas will always pay less than the facilities found in the metropolitan areas. One of the lowest paid salaries for an ultrasound technician can be found in Alabama, with an estimated average income that usually reaches around $50,710 per year. Other states that offer lower incomes for these professionals can be found in West Virginia, Arkansas and South Dakota.
Ultrasound technician salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- UK—the average annual salary is £20,000-£60,000 but there are many factors that go into what their salary will be. If they are self-employed it can be £20,000-£48,000 on average annually and if they work for a hospital their average annual salary can be £28,000-£40,000. Working in a private practice their average annual salary can be £31,000-£47,000.
- Canada—the average annual salary is C$36,212-C$80,056 with an average yearly bonus of C$3.750
- Australia—the average annual salary is AU$64,900 along with an average yearly bonus of AU$19,574.
Conclusion on ultrasound technician salary
An ultrasound technician just starting out may only make $40,000 more or less annually but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ultrasound technician jobs are expected to increase by as much as 44% from 2010-2020. One of the reasons that they are predicting such an increase is that people are now realizing that having ultrasound imaging is a much safer alternative to radiology so they now prefer having an ultrasound. It is a field that offers you a chance to advance in your career by specializing and getting your bachelor’s degree. Yes, you could probably make more money working in the business field but if you enjoy working with patients of all ages, love to talk with people, and want to be one of those that help with people’s health then this is the job for you.
Look for employment in a hospital as there you can earn more money, become certified, and take as many continuing education classes as you can. Look at the benefit package being offered and when you combine the two you will see that you are now making a sizable income each year. You also need to figure in the benefit package when looking at the salary of an ultrasound technician.
- First Published Date: 22 August, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 22 August, 2016