Beneath your skin exists a world of swirling blood, pumping organs, and contracting muscles. When something stops working as it should, your doctor needs to know what's going on inside to diagnose the problem. Many times, the only way to see what is going on under the surface is with a specialized procedure called a sonograph.
More than 50,000 people have devoted their careers to becoming diagnostic medical sonographers -- what do they love about it? "I teach, I get taught, I do, I adapt, I think, and I'm physically active," says one sonographer via the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). "There aren't many jobs out there that can say that!"
Diagnostic Ultrasound Sonography School: What to Expect
Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized medical equipment to assist in diagnosing ailments or medical conditions. This equipment directs high-frequency sound waves into a specific area of a patient's body. These sound waves generate an image of the part of the body being examined. Ultrasound is used in many areas of medicine to examine organ systems and identify health conditions.
Sonography technicians are typically trained at a college or university that offers diagnostic medical sonographer courses. Most programs result in a two-year associate degree, but some may extend to a four-year bachelor's degree program.
Whether you are in a traditional classroom setting, or are taking diagnostic medical sonographer online courses you will likely be required to complete hands-on instruction in the following areas:
- Sonographic physics
- Gray-scale and color-flow doppler sonography
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology and ethics
Diagnostic medical sonographers also have the option to take specialty courses in a variety of fields including abdominal, vascular, obstetrical/gynecologic, neurologic, and ophthalmic ultrasound. Many diagnostic medical sonography degree programs also require you to satisfy a specific number of hours working in an internship.
Career Options for Diagnostic Ultrasound Sonography School Graduates
Most employers prefer to hire sonographers who are certified. The ARDMS offers an exam and certified each person who passes the test as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS). The SRDMS only offers certification to students who have graduated from an approved sonography program.
Diagnostic medical sonographers may work in several different fields:
- Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonographers: Specialize in imaging a woman's reproductive system including examining the fetus of a pregnant woman
- Abdominal Sonographers: Primarily examine a patient's abdominal cavity including the gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, pancreas, spleen, and male reproductive system
- Breast Sonographers: Study diseases of the breast, track tumors, and assist in accurate biopsy of breast tissue
- Neurosonographers: Examine the nervous system, including the brain
Regardless of the specialty, diagnostic medical sonographers may work in a hospital, outpatient facility, physician office or medical or diagnostic laboratory.
Salary Outlook for Diagnostic Ultrasound School Degree Holders
The mean annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $61,980 in 2008. The employment services industry compensates sonographers best with an annual mean salary of $68,020. General medical and surgical hospitals employ the highest number of sonographers with approximately 30,490 workers.
There are states that reimburses diagnostic medical sonographers more favorably than others. The top five highest paying states, along with the annual mean salary for sonographers, are listed below:
- Massachusetts: $78,460
- Oregon: $78,320
- Colorado: $77,380
- Washington: $76,980
- Alaska: $75,500
Sonography can be a lucrative health care career that you can enter with only a two-year degree. Check out diagnostic medical sonography schools to learn more about your education options.