How to Become a Medical Sonographer

Want to know how to become a medical sonographer? Check out this guide for answers to your questions about how to enter this growing field.
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Updated on March 21, 2024
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The employment outlook for medical sonographers has never been better. As the U.S. population ages, the country will need more skilled medical professionals to monitor and assess conditions associated with the elderly, such as musculoskeletal issues, heart disease, and cancer.

The healthcare industry increasingly views sonography as a safer and more cost-effective alternative to radiation imaging.

Continue reading to find out how to become a medical sonographer. Learn about degree options, opportunities for specialization, and salary prospects.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Medical Sonographer?

Becoming a medical sonographer requires about two years of postsecondary study. Many sonographers earn an associate of applied science degree from a community college, career college, or university.

Other educational paths include one-year associate degrees offered by hospital training programs or colleges, or four-year undergraduate degrees in sonography.

The path of how to become a medical sonographer involves a lot of technical skills — you'll need to be able to work and maintain the sonographic equipment.

Performing an ultrasound requires good hand-eye coordination and attention to detail, to ensure images capture what the physician needs to see. Interpersonal skills help put patients at ease in what can be uncomfortable circumstances.

Only four states require licensing for medical sonographers: New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon. However, many programs prepare graduates for professional certification by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

This credential requires documented education and clinical experience. Candidates must also pass an exam.

Popular Online Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Does Medical Sonography Training Look Like?

Your education to become a medical sonographer includes a combination of classroom study and hands-on learning. Coursework covers anatomy and physiology, physics, sonographic instruments, and procedures for various types of ultrasound imaging. You also study how to document findings and write medical reports.

Clinical rotations ensure you can apply the principles and theories covered in the classroom in a real-world setting and allow you to gain experience working with patients. Medical sonographers must

  • Position patients for exams
  • Monitor video displays
  • Adjust equipment settings
  • Create required images

You can choose from certificate programs or associate degree programs. Be sure the program you choose holds accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and prepares you for ARDMS examinations.

Some schools may offer elective courses in specialized ultrasound technology, like breast or musculoskeletal sonography. You can find programs offering on-campus, online, and hybrid learning opportunities.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Sonographer?

You can enter the field of medical sonography in as little as one year by enrolling in a certificate program, although the most common pathway is a two-year associate degree.

While most sonography programs require full-time attendance, some schools offer online options. Bachelor and graduate programs in sonography, radiology, and related specializations take four years or more to complete but may lead to career advancement and higher salaries.

Certificate Programs

If you already have an associate degree in a related healthcare field, you may need only 12-18 months to complete a certificate program in medical sonography.

A certificate program offers a career-focused curriculum that prepares you for medical sonography jobs and provides hands-on learning opportunities. This degree may also include courses in science, math, and English

Degree Programs

Prospective sonographers can choose from several educational pathways. A 12-month certificate program trains you to operate sonography technology required for generalist sonography positions. A two-year associate degree includes general education requirements, courses in math, anatomy, physics, and physiology, and specialized sonography technology classes. This degree provides more training than a certificate, qualifying you for greater employment options with higher pay.

A four-year bachelor’s degree takes longer and costs more than the other degree options, but it may broaden your employment prospects. A bachelor's degree often provides opportunities to acquire in-demand specializations in areas like vascular, cardiac, or pediatric sonography.

Schools may offer programs in online or hybrid formats to help students accommodate work schedules or other needs. Students can work with their schools to find clinical site locations near their homes. However, many programs require students to spend 20-30 hours on site each week during clinical rotations.

What Are the Types of Sonographer Specializations?

While many students may prefer to be a medical sonography generalist, the field offers opportunities to specialize.

Specialization allows you to focus on a specific type of ultrasound imaging, like the abdomen or breast. You can also prepare to work with a particular population, like pediatric patients.

Some specializations may require additional training or continuing education. ARDMS offers certification in the specialties. You must pass the Sonography, Principles, and Instrumentation exam and a specialty exam to earn the professional credential.

Specializations include:

  • Abdomen
  • Adult echocardiography
  • Breast
  • Fetal echocardiography
  • Musculoskeletal sonography
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Pediatric echocardiography
  • Pediatric sonography
  • Vascular technology

ARDMS previously offered a neurosonography credential, but discontinued the exam in 2017. According to the organization, components of the certification exam complement the content of the pediatric certification exam.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Medical Sonographer's Career

Do medical sonographers have good salaries?

The median medical sonographer salary in May 2022 exceeded the median wage for all workers in May 2022. Sonographers reported median earnings of $78,210 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. Wages ranged from less than $61,430, in the bottom 10th percentile to more than $107,730 in the 90th percentile.

Hospitals employ about 56% of medical sonographers. They paid sonographers an average salary of $84,410. Where you live also impacts your earning potential. Medical sonographers in California made the most in May 2022, with a median salary of $ 114,480.

Is medical sonography a good career?

Medical sonography jobs offer good pay and job security. The BLS projects 10% growth in the employment of diagnostic medical sonographers from 2022-2032. As medical imaging evolves, sonographers trained in cardiac, vascular, or muscular sonography may find increased career opportunities in hospitals, physicians' offices, and other healthcare settings.

Are ultrasound tech and sonography the same?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences. Ultrasound technicians provide monitoring information working with a team of doctors and healthcare professionals. Sonographers monitor, diagnose, and treat medical conditions for diverse patient populations with specific conditions. While medical sonographers perform some of the same procedures as ultrasound technicians, they often work in more specialized areas such as oncology or obstetrics.

Does sonography require a lot of math?

You need strong math skills to work in the field of sonography. You must complete prerequisites in high school science and math courses, including algebra, calculus, and geometry, for admission to a sonography program.

Is medical sonography harder than nursing?

Each of these professions requires a unique set of skills and different training. While nursing degrees provide students with comprehensive medical knowledge applied to patient care, sonographers must master a broad set of technological skills to monitor and assess a wide range of illnesses and injuries. Sonography programs require more clinical hours and final exams than a nursing degree. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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