How to Become a
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
A medical sonographer is a specialist who uses a sonogram, or ultrasound, to create images of different internal parts of the body. They analyze the images to diagnose health conditions. This is the least invasive way to visualize human organs, and it is used in many different medical fields.
Medical sonography is a highly in-demand skill that could help you build your career in the healthcare industry. Check out our comprehensive guide to learn how to become a medical sonographer. We’ll show you the most interesting details about this career.
What Is a Medical Sonographer?
A medical sonographer is a healthcare service provider who uses an ultrasound machine to form images of internal organs. They can help diagnose diseases by providing a better perspective of the condition from inside the body.
Medical sonographers are experts in everything about ultrasounds and sonograms. This profession plays a huge role in the diagnosing process. They can be the first to know about a patient’s condition, and doctors can help determine the final verdict.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Medical Sonographer?
To become a medical sonographer, you will have to attend college to obtain either an associate or bachelor’s degree in sonography. You can also get a degree in a related field and go through a one-year certificate in sonography.
Best Medical Sonographer Education Tracks
There are several career paths to take if you want to become a medical sonographer. Some of them include vocational school, community college, and traditional university. The one you decide to follow will depend on the number of years you’d like to put into this and how much you’d like to invest.
If you already have a bachelor’s or associate degree in a medical field, you can get a certificate to work as a medical sonographer. This means you can start in a more general program and decide to specialize in sonography later.
You can get a certificate or diploma in sonography at a vocational or trade school. Others also call it a technical school. This program takes up to a year, and it gives you the necessary tools to start working as a medical sonographer.
Another option to start your career in sonography is to attend community college. You can get an Associate Degree in Sonography or a similar topic. This is the most affordable and efficient way to get educated in the field.
Many community colleges offer associate degrees in sonography, including Tacoma Community College and Howard Community College. With this type of program, you don’t have to take general education electives. You can focus on sonography and get your degree quickly.
Medical Sonographer Degrees
To become a medical sonographer, you can also get a bachelor’s degree. Many companies prefer bachelor’s degrees because they take longer and therefore offer you a more extensive education. If you’re interested in moving up in the field, a Bachelor’s Degree in Sonography is a great choice.
You can specialize in diagnostics or choose a more general subject. To become a medical sonographer, you can study subjects like biology, nursing, or biomedical engineering. You will also learn communication skills to help you with patient interaction.
How to Become a Medical Sonographer: A Step-by-Step Guide
To become a medical sonographer, you must follow a particular protocol to meet government standards. Try to follow the steps below to become a medical sonographer.
Explore the medical field
Before you start studying, you should do your research. Is sonography the best choice for you? You should try looking at the daily life of a sonographer and the average salary in your area.
Get your education
You need to have a degree or diploma to become a medical sonographer. You can attend a vocational school, community college, or university. This depends on your previous level of education and the positions you want to pursue in the future.
Find an internship
Some bachelor’s degree programs include internship or co-op opportunities to help you get experience in the field. This is a great choice because you can network and get practice before you even graduate.
Go for a certification
If you want to practice as a medical sonographer, you need to get certified. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) must accredit you. Your certification can be in obstetrics and gynecology (OB), vascular technology (VT), or musculoskeletal (MSK).
Apply for jobs
If you have all the education, credentials, and training you need, you can start submitting your resume. You could work at a hospital or in a private clinic.
Key Medical Sonographer Skills
A medical sonographer must have certain technical and soft skills to perform efficient ultrasounds and diagnosis. Read below to learn more about the most important skills you can have as a medical sonographer.
As a sonographer, you must be able to read a sonogram and identify medical conditions based on what you see. Medical sonographers need to tell the difference between normal and irregular anatomy. This is crucial for the early detection of chronic diseases and other medical issues.
Although a medical sonographer doesn’t work with patients as much as physicians would, they must provide patient care. Medical sonographers often work with people who have delicate health conditions. You need to have excellent communication skills and a certain level of empathy.
Performing ultrasound, or sonogram, examinations is the most common task of a medical sonographer. As a sonographer, you need to be able to operate an ultrasound machine with ease. There are several different ultrasound specialties, including obstetric, gynecologic, abdominal, vascular, and musculoskeletal.
Medical Sonographer Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average medical sonographer salary is $75,920. The BLS says that this profession has a high salary compared to the national average, which is around $44,000.
BLS also reveals that the demand for medical sonographers will grow by 12 percent by 2029. This means that there will be more job openings in the next few years. This is the result of the increasing incidence of cardiovascular and heart diseases.
Entry-Level Medical Sonographer Job Requirements
To become an entry-level medical sonographer, you need to have a degree or diploma and a credential from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
What Does a Medical Sonographer Do?
A medical sonographer performs ultrasounds, but they also have many other responsibilities. They use sonographic equipment, help patients feel comfortable, and help diagnose diseases. Read more about these responsibilities below.
Analyzes Sonogram Imagery
A medical sonographer analyzes sonogram imagery to help doctors make diagnoses. As a sonographer, you must carefully identify anomalies in the ultrasound. This is the most common and most important role of a medical sonographer.
Uses Ultrasound Equipment
Medical sonographers use this equipment every day, so you must be proficient at using it. Some of the sonographic equipment includes a computer console and a video display screen. This can help you get a better view of the ultrasound imagery.
Communicates with Doctors
Once the medical sonogram has been properly analyzed, you need to communicate with the physician or other specialist to help come up with a diagnosis. It is important to be fast and efficient, especially for patients at high risk.
Medical Sonographer Certifications
If you want to get certified as a medical sonographer, you should contact the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). You can get a few different certifications depending on your specialization. Read below to learn more about some of the most common medical sonographer certifications.
Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)
This is the primary certification you should get to become a licensed medical sonographer. You will need to pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam. You can also choose a specialization like fetal echocardiography (FE), pediatric sonography (PS), or obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN).
Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)
The RDCS certification can help you become a cardiac sonographer. You must be familiar with the latest cardiac sonography techniques and practices. If you’re already a physician, you can apply without having a bachelor’s or associate degree in a sonography program.
To get this certification, you need to pass the SPI exam and the cardiac specialty exam. There are three specializations for this credential: adult echocardiography (AE), pediatric echocardiography (PE), and fetal echocardiography (FE).
Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer (RMSKS)
This certification covers the fundamentals of musculoskeletal ultrasounds. You should pass the SPI exam. After that, you have to go through 170 multiple choice questions in the MSKS examination. The cost for taking this certification test is $250 plus a non-refundable $100 fee.
Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
The Registered Vascular Technologist certification can help you work with cerebrovascular, venous, and abdominal blood vessels. Just like the RMSKS exam, this certification includes 170 multiple choice questions. You also need to complete the SPI exam and pass the specialty test.
How to Prepare for Your Medical Sonographer Job Interview
To make sure you ace your job interview, do some research beforehand. You should know what the company is looking for and what duties the job entails. This way, you’ll be prepared for any type of question the interviewer might ask. You can practice with the questions below.
Medical Sonographer Job Interview Practice Questions
- Why did you pursue a career as a medical sonographer?
- What are your aspirations for this particular position?
- What are the most difficult challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
- How do you keep up to date with the latest sonographic equipment and tech advances?
- How do you approach difficult diagnoses with patients?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Sonographer?
It takes about one to four years to become a medical sonographer. You can get a two-year associate degree, a four-year bachelor’s degree, or a one-year certification if you already have a degree in a similar field.
Should You Become a Medical Sonographer in 2021?
Yes, you should become a medical sonographer in 2021. This is a great option if you want to enter the healthcare industry without becoming a doctor. You can still have patient interaction and improve their lives by providing an accurate diagnosis.
Medical sonography is a highly in-demand profession in 2021, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You don’t have a lot of competition, and you can get a high-paying job. If you want to work in medicine and diagnostics, sonography is a fantastic choice.
Medical Sonographer FAQ
Do sonographers work 12-hour shifts?
No, sonographers generally work eight-hour shifts. During this period, they perform around 10 to 12 ultrasounds and work on other duties such as paperwork or communication.
What type of sonography makes the most money?
Specialized sonographers make the most money. According to ZipRecruiter, the top neuro sonographers make upwards of $122,500 per year.
Do you need to be good at math to be a sonographer?
No, you don’t need to be good at math. Although you might encounter simple math, you will mostly study and deal with biology and anatomy.
How much do sonographers make an hour?
According to PayScale, the average hourly pay for a medical sonographer is close to $32. However, this can vary depending on your location and specialty.