How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
- Ultrasound technicians create images of organs and tissues to examine medical conditions.
- Typical job requirements include earning an associate degree and certification, although some states also require a license.
- Ultrasound technicians are paid well compared to other careers with similar education requirements.
- Ultrasound technicians may earn more depending on specializations and work settings.
If you see a bruise or a gash, it's easy to assess the problem and find a solution. But what about the things we can't see?
Ultrasound technicians are healthcare specialists who can look beneath the surface. Using special equipment, they create noninvasive images of the insides of bodies to detect medical conditions. These conditions include blood clots, pregnancies, and enlarged spleens.
BestColleges.com 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.
Ready to Start Your Journey?
Ultrasound technicians, sometimes called sonographers, are paid well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they're among the highest-paid healthcare jobs that don't require med school, earning a median annual salary of $77,740 as of May 2021.
4 Steps to Becoming an Ultrasound Technician: Education Requirements
- Earn a high school or GED diploma.
- Earn an associate in sonography degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
- Get licensed if it is state mandated.
- Take an ultrasound technician certification exam through a professional organization.
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Is an Ultrasound Technician?
An ultrasound technician performs noninvasive imaging tests (sonograms or ultrasounds) to create pictures of a patient's organs and tissues. Physicians, surgeons, radiologists, and others view these images to assess and diagnose medical conditions.
What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?
- Prepare patients for exams
- Operate diagnostic imaging machines and analyze images
- Communicate directly with doctors and surgeons to capture images of organs and body tissues.
Ultrasound Technician Responsibilities
- Perform diagnostic sonography exams
- Maintain equipment, rooms, and patient logs
- Document patient records, note results, and complete billing forms
- Inform patients about procedures and communicate findings to physicians
- Report and document equipment issues
Ultrasound Technician Certification Process
Most states only require an associate degree and professional certification to work as an ultrasound technician, sometimes called a medical sonographer. Ultrasound technicians can register for the following certifications:
- The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
You can get the registered diagnostic medical sonographer certification by passing the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation Exam. The exam offers specializations in neurosonography, breast sonography, or abdominal sonography.
Depending on the specialty area, you may need to complete an additional exam. Employers often prefer ultrasound technicians who hold various professional credentials.
How do certifications differ from licensure? Professional organizations and agencies such as ARDMS administer certification for ultrasound technicians, while states administer licensing exams. Ultrasound technicians only need to be licensed if they work in New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, or Oregon.
Ultrasound Technician Salary
How good is the pay for ultrasound technicians? Let's put it this way: Almost all ultrasound technicians earn more than a typical worker in the U.S.
According to the BLS, 90% of ultrasound technicians earned a median annual salary above $59,640 in 2021. The median salary for all workers in the U.S. is $45,760.
Ultrasound technicians tend to earn higher salaries as they gain seniority and advanced credentials. Geography and work settings also influence pay.
For example, outpatient care centers pay diagnostic medical sonographers an annual mean wage of $109,670 in 2021. Salaries for ultrasound technicians also vary based on where they live.
Top 5 Paid States:
- District of Columbia
Types of Ultrasound Technicians
Patients need internal imaging for different reasons. Each type of ultrasound technician specializes in helping doctors detect conditions in various body parts.
|Job Title||Job Description|
|Diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers||Diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers use ultrasound to take images of the heart and help doctors find abnormalities in heart valves and heart chambers.y|
|Abdominal sonographers||Abdominal sonographers take images of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and spleen and diagnose pain or detect problems.|
|Musculoskeletal sonographers||Musculoskeletal sonographers use ultrasounds to examine muscles, bones, and nerves and detect broken bones, hernias, and tears.|
|Neurosonology sonographers||Neurosonology sonographers perform ultrasounds on the brain and nervous system and use these images to diagnose conditions such as strokes or aneurysms.|
|Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers||Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers use ultrasounds to detect the presence of a fetus and examine the fetus's condition, anatomy, and growth.|
|Pediatric sonographers||Pediatric sonographers focus on children's health, examining them as they develop in the womb and after birth, and can detect fetal abnormalities and congenital disabilities.|
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Ultrasound Technician
Is it hard to become an ultrasound technician?
It depends. You need postsecondary education and, in many cases, certification to become an ultrasound technician. The time it takes to become an ultrasound technician ranges from one to six years, depending on your education level.
According to the Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology, sonography programs can be challenging due to the technical nature of the courses, such as anatomy, physiology, and ultrasound physics.
Do ultrasound technicians make good money?
Ultrasound technicians make good money compared to others with their education level. Ultrasound technicians need an associate degree to enter the field. According to the BLS, a typical ultrasound technician earns $75,380 per year, which is about 50% more than the median pay for workers with an associate degree, $50,090.
How long is schooling for an ultrasound technician?
How long it takes to become an ultrasound technician depends on which degree you choose. An associate in sonography or cardiovascular technology will take 2-3 years. A bachelor's degree in either will take 4-6 years. Some colleges and hospitals also offer one-year certificate programs.
Colleges and universities offer both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in sonography and cardiovascular technology. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
What's the difference between an ultrasound technician and a sonographer?
There isn't much of a difference between ultrasound technicians and sonographers. While sonographers need additional training and certifications, they both use ultrasound to monitor medical conditions in the body. In the medical world, ultrasound techs are sometimes called sonographers and vice versa.