Sonographers & Cardiovascular Technologists

sonography careers
Career Clusters: Health Sciences

What you need to know

Overview

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions.

What is this career like?

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists complete most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms. They may perform procedures at patients’ bedsides. They may be on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are ill or disabled.

Some of the things sonographers and cardiovascular technologists might do:

  • Prepare patients for procedures by taking their medical history and answering any questions about the procedure
  • Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
  • Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
  • Review images or test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
  • Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal images, and identify other diagnostic information
  • Analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
  • Record findings and keep track of patients’ records
What skills are needed?
  • Detail oriented. Diagnostic imaging workers must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients. They must also pay attention to the screen while scanning a patient’s body, because the cues that contrast healthy areas with unhealthy ones may be subtle.
  • Hand–eye coordination. To get quality images, diagnostic imaging workers must accurately move equipment on the patient’s body in response to what they see on the screen.
  • Interpersonal skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must work closely with patients. Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and these workers must get cooperation from the patients in order to create usable images. Diagnostic imaging workers must also communicate clearly when discussing images with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.
  • Physical stamina. Diagnostic imaging workers are on their feet for long periods and must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.
  • Technical skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.
What is the pay?

The average pay for sonographers and cardiovascular technologists in the United States ranges from $28,680 to $99,840.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Overall employment of sonographers and cardiovascular technologists is projected to grow 17 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the large baby-boom population ages, the need to diagnose medical conditions—such as blood clots and heart disease—will likely increase. Imaging technology is a tool used in making these diagnoses.

What education is required?

Sonographers and cardiovascular technologists need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require professional certification.

Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular education programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences.  In addition to requiring classroom study, most programs include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.

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