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How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

April 16, 2014 General 0 Comments

How to Become a Diagnostic Medical SonographerIf you are looking for a career in health care that offers excellent pay and tremendous job growth, consider being a diagnostic medical sonographer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2012 and 2022, the number of sonographer jobs is anticipated to grow by 39 percent, well above the 14 percent projection for all health care jobs combined. It also reports the national median salary for this occupation is $60,350 annually.

What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?

According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), as a sonographer, you will be a vital member of a health care team. Primarily working in hospitals and outpatient centers, you will operate and maintain diagnostic equipment that transmits ultrasound waves through a person's body "to produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body." Health care providers are then able to use this imagery to make a diagnosis and develop care plans.

Educational Pathways

You can become a diagnostic medical sonographer in as little as a year through vocational training programs that award certificates or diplomas. By pursuing an associate degree, however, you greatly improve your job prospects.

The SDMS recommends looking for programs accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. The SDMS also advises that sonography programs follow curricula laid out by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). You should avoid schools that minimize clinical field training.

The goal of an Associate Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is to prepare you to pass the ARDMS certification exam and work as an entry-level sonographer. In this rigorous two-year program, you can expect courses that bring your basic academic skills up to a college level. These usually include classwork in algebra, English composition and biology. Some schools require these courses be completed before you even begin the program. One-year certificate programs are similar to an associate degree but are not as in-depth, lack specialized courses and only offer two to three terms of clinical fieldwork.

Once in the program, you will take relevant science classes such as anatomy and physiology. Simultaneously, you'll complete foundational sonography studies through such courses as Principles and Concepts of Sonographic Imaging, Fundamentals of Sonography, and Medical Sonographic Physics. Beyond this general focus, you will also concentrate on different specializations. For example, most programs require both beginner and intermediate courses such as Sonography of the Circulatory System, Abdominal Sonography, Echocardiography and OBGYN Sonography.

The Value of Clinical Training

Supervised clinical instruction usually begins as soon as the second semester and continues throughout the program. These clinical rotations help you in a variety of ways. Along with gaining experience with the technical aspects of the job, you learn the social skills needed to work with patients and interact with health care staff. By practicing with actual equipment on real patients, you get a much fuller sense of what the job will be like. Clinical rotations also help you make important connections and can even lead to job opportunities.

Once you finish school and pass the exam, you are eligible for certification or licensure in your state (although not all require a license). After that, a rapidly growing health care system puts your profession in high demand, so you should be able to find work as a diagnostic medical sonographer practically anywhere in the nation.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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