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U is for Ultrasound Technician

by Chloe Campbell
January 2017

What do Ultrasound Technicians do?

Ultrasound Technicians, also known as Diagnostic Medical Sonographers 1, operate special imaging equipment to create images of the body’s organs and tissues called sonograms or ultrasounds. Ultrasound Technicians prepare patients for procedures by taking the patient’s medical history and answering any questions about the procedure. They prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment and operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests. Ultrasound Technicians 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 other diagnostic information, analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians, and record findings and keep track of patients’ records. An ultrasound is often one of the first tests used by physicians when disease or injury is suspected. Table 1 shows the areas Ultrasound Technicians can specialize in.

Table 1

Abdominal Ultrasound Technician

Specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen. Abdominal ultrasound technicians may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.

Breast Ultrasound Technician

Specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissues. Ultrasounds can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, physician, or a mammogram. Breast ultrasound technicians work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information for making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Technician

Specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These ultrasound technicians may assist procedures with ultrasound guidance for injections during surgical procedures that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.

Pediatric Ultrasound Technician

Specialize in imaging child and infant patients. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric ultrasound technicians may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.

Obstetric and Gynecologic Ultrasound Technician

Specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive ultrasounds to track the baby’s growth and health. Obstetrical ultrasound technicians work closely with physicians to detect congenital birth defects.

Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-2

Educational Requirements

There are several education options available to students who wish to pursue a career as an Ultrasound Technician. An Associate’s Degree is usually required to work as an Ultrasound Technician. An Associate’s Degree program is generally 18-24 months long. Students obtain full knowledge of how to operate ultrasound equipment and receive thorough patient care education which includes instruction on working with diverse populations. Bachelors of Science (BS) Degrees are also available. Many ultrasound technicians who already have an Associate’s Degree and are working in the field will choose to pursue a BS so they may specialize in a particular area or move into management in their field. Certificates are also available. A certificate program to become an ultrasound technician is generally intended for students who already have a complimentary college degree. Certificate programs are generally 12-18 months in duration. It is important that the degree or certificate program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Minnesota has several accredited schools that can be found at http://www.ultrasoundschoolsinfo.com/minnesota/.

Economic and Growth Outlook

According to the most recent Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data, 61,250 people work as Ultrasound Technicians in the United States, and 1,400 of those are in Minnesota. The median wage for Ultrasound Technicians is generally higher in all areas of Minnesota than the U.S. median wage with the exception of median wages in the Northwest and Southwest region of the state. Long term projections for the United States and parts of Minnesota show strong growth. Strongest long term projections are in the Seven County Minneapolis-St Paul region with a 22.2 percent employment change from 2014-2024.

Conclusion

Physicians and Surgeons rely on Ultrasound Technicians to provide vital information to help treat and care for their patients. Being an Ultrasound Technician is a personally and financially rewarding career for someone looking for a job in the healthcare field. With most positions requiring just an Associate’s Degree from an accredited school, within 18 to 24 months a person could go from entering the classroom to entering the job market. Based on long term employment projections, there will continue to be a need for new Ultrasound Technicians.

 

Table 2

Region

OES
Employment

Median Wage

Projections
Percent Change 2014-2024

United States

61,250

$33.43/hr

24.0% 2

Minnesota

1,400

$36.51/hr

18.9%

Seven County Met Area

860

$36.51/hr

22.2%

Southeast Minnesota

250

$37.94/hr

N/A

Central Minnesota

160

$38.34/hr

20.0%

Northeast Minnesota

70

$34.75/hr

2.5%

Northwest Minnesota

60

$33.33/hr

7.8%

Southwest Minnesota

40

$33.40/hr

N/A

Source: https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/lmi/projections/detail.asp?geogCode=2701000000&code=292032&geog=2701000000
https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm

 


1 According to O*Net Online, Ultrasound Technician and Diagnostic Medical Sonographer are interchangeable. For this article, the title Ultrasound Technician will be used for consistency. Also because this article is sponsored by the letter U.

2 The United States projection is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and includes Ultrasound Technicians, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists.

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