Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized assesment equipment to diagnose patient ailments. Their equipment projects high-frequency sound waves through patient’s bodies, producing an image based on reflective echoes. Physicians then view and interpret these images, determining medical courses of action based on their professional diagnoses.
One example of the diagnostic medical sonographer’s many tools is called a transducer, which is designed to emit a cone-shaped or rectangle-shaped beam to generate such images.
There are specialty positions available within the field of diagnostic medical sonography, such as the vascular sonographer (who employs similar technology, but focuses exclusively on cardiovascular health).
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary Details
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of approximately $62,000 for sonographers in 2008. The lower end reported at $44,000 a year and the upper end reported $84,000 and more a year.
Education, Training and Qualifications
Diagnostic medical sonography training programs are offered in a variety of different formats, including:
- Traditional sonography degree programs offered by accredited colleges and universities
- Vocational sonography courses or certificate programs
- On-the-job sonography training
- Career specific experience in sonography through military service
Colleges and universities with diagnostic medical sonography programs offer them in both 2-year associate degree and 4-year bachelor degree levels, with 2-year programs being the most common. Vocational programs and diagnostic medical sonography schools (including online schools), by contrast, offer faster-paced sonography education programs which can be completed in as little as one year! When considering your educational path, please do remember that just like other healthcare occupations, the more education you complete, the better the chance you will have of finding a job with a good salary.
Certification is not required at the State level for diagnostic medical sonographers, although there are a number of potential certifying institutions for the aspiring sonographer interested in improving their employment options or salary opportunities through the earning of additional credentials. The most popular institution is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and its associated Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) examination.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 18 percent growth rate for diagnostic medical sonographers in the 2008-2018 decade; which is considered very large, even for health care occupations. Job growth is expected to come mainly from healthcare providers increasing their use of ultrasound imagery since it affords a safe and cost-effective alternative to previous (much more invasive) diagnostic methods. It is expected that the current projected graduating classes at schools for sonography will not provide enough well-trained professionals to meet this increased demand, thus employment potential is high, and salaries are likely to increase.
While hospitals will remain the primary source of employment for the majority of diagnostic medical sonographers, employment is expected to increase more so in the offices of private practice physicians and in medical diagnostic laboratories, for all of the same reasons that we expect to see similar growth in the demand for Medical Laboratory Technicians.
By achieving competency in sonography specialties, the diagnostic medical sonographer may advance into a more lucrative specialty role, like vascular sonography, abdominal sonography, or cardiac sonography. Sonographers may also advance into managerial positions within their departments.
To learn more about the the available traditional sonography college programs and online sonography schools available, please fill out our “Find a School” widget on the top left hand side of the page. Or if you’re looking for additional information on the specialty roles available to sonographers, please visit our resource on Vascular Sonography Schools.