What does a Sonographer do?

sonographer performing an ultrasound on a woman

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Like so many careers in the medical services industry, jobs in diagnostic health are booming. Sonographers are trained in the use of diagnostic imaging technology equipment that helps doctors diagnose and determine patient care and needs faster than ever before. The seemingly unstoppable forward motion of technological advancements, high demand for care, and increased emphasis on personalized medical service means that sonographers are now more in-demand than ever before.

Watch a video to learn what a sonographer does:

How to Become a Sonographer

sonographer performing an ultrasound on a woman

A sonographer must earn a minimum of an associates degree, though a bachelors degree is becoming more common. These tracks require anywhere from two to four years of study with hands-on training in operating the necessary equipment in addition to coursework in anatomy, applied sciences, and medical terminology.

Though most states do not require you to have a certification, employers tend to seek out recruits from accredited institutes or hospital programs recognized by The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). If you do choose to get certified you can obtain this from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Credentialing International. We do encourage you to call your state’s medical board office to ensure you meet all the requirements before practicing in the state you reside in.

Job Description of a Sonographer

When most people hear the word “sonography” they think of ultrasounds, the technology doctors use to take images of fetuses during pregnancy. Actually, sonography has many applications in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. This technique uses sound waves to produce medical images and is also often used for looking at the abdomen, chest, heart, and musculoskeletal system for any problems.

A sonographer is responsible for operating the necessary machinery and creating images from doctors orders. In addition they help doctors by preparing patients for the procedures and helping read images to determine if consult by a physician is necessary. Some sonographers even offer assistance to physicians and surgeons during surgery. Sonographers must also keep medical records on all the patients for verification and insurance purposes.

Sonographers typically work a regular 40-hours-a-week schedule. Nights, weekends, and holidays are common in the career field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics over fifty percent of sonographers are employed by hospitals followed by physician offices, and then diagnostic laboratories. This job can be physically demanding, keeping you on your feet and requiring you to help lift patients or machinery.

Sonographer Career Video Transcript

Using sound to see, like a bat’s flight through the darkness, that’s the short way to explain the science of sonography. Diagnostic medical sonographers use special equipment to direct safe, high-frequency sound waves towards a particular part of the body. The echoes of those waves are collected and turned into moving images that reveal inner body structures. These images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds.

The sonographer selects particular images and records them for a physician to use when making a diagnosis or for monitoring pregnancies or medical conditions. Sonographers may specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, or in a specific area of the body such as the abdomen, heart, or the circulatory system. Diagnostic medical sonographers need good interpersonal skills to calm anxious patients and explain the process in a reassuring way.

Sonographers’ duties include keeping patient records, adjusting and maintaining equipment, and preparing work schedules. Most work in hospitals and clinics or doctors’ offices. To enter the field, credentials may be earned at either the associate’s or bachelor’s degree level, or by earning a one-year certificate from a college or hospital.

Most employers prefer to hire sonographers with a professional certification. When a patient’s condition isn’t just skin-deep, diagnostic medical sonographers bring what’s beneath the surface to light.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Sonographer.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2032.00. O*NET OnLine.

The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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