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  • Writer's pictureMichael Zaladonis

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Education, Clinical Experience, Certification, and Job Search Requirements for Becoming an Ultrasound Technician.



An ultrasound student standing in front of a machine, wearing scrubs, and holding a probe, ready to gain hands-on experience in the field.
As a sonography student, you'll gain hands-on experience using specialized equipment to create images of internal organs and tissues, helping healthcare providers diagnose and treat patients."

If you're considering a career as an ultrasound technician, one of the most important questions you may have is how long it takes to complete the necessary education and training. While the answer to this question can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the specific program you choose, the amount of time you can devote to your studies, and whether you pursue certification, there are some general guidelines that can help you plan your educational path.


Step 1: Education and Training

Most programs in diagnostic medical sonography require at least an associate's degree, which typically takes two years to complete. Some programs may also offer a bachelor's degree or a certificate program, which can take between one and four years to complete, depending on the program and your level of commitment.


2-4 years depending on the program

Step 2: Clinical Experience

In addition to completing your coursework, you will also need to gain clinical experience working with patients and operating ultrasound equipment. This experience is typically gained through a clinical component of your program, which can range from a few months to a year or more.


Step 3: Certification

While certification is not required in all states, most employers prefer to hire ultrasound technicians who have earned a professional certification. The most widely recognized certification is offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). To become certified, you must pass the ARDMS exam, which requires extensive knowledge of sonography and can take several months of dedicated study to prepare for.


Step 4: Job Search and Continuing Education

Once you have completed your education, clinical experience, and certification, you will be ready to start your job search. The demand for ultrasound technicians is expected to grow in the coming years, with opportunities in hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, and diagnostic imaging centers. You may also want to consider continuing your education by earning additional certifications or pursuing advanced training in a specialized area of sonography.


In conclusion, the path to becoming an ultrasound technician can vary depending on the program you choose, your level of commitment, and whether you pursue certification. Generally, completing an associate's degree program in diagnostic medical sonography takes two years, and gaining clinical experience can take several months to a year or more. Obtaining certification requires extensive knowledge and can take several months of dedicated study. By planning ahead and understanding the requirements of the field, you can position yourself for a successful career as an ultrasound technician.

  • Writer's pictureMichael Zaladonis

Updated: Feb 4


Ultrasound technology allows for safe and non-invasive imaging of the abdomen, providing valuable diagnostic information for healthcare providers.


Ultrasound Tech Scanning Knee
Ultrasound Tech Scanning Knee

Ultrasound technology is a rapidly growing field in the medical industry, with increasing demand for qualified ultrasound technicians. Ultrasound Techs use ultrasound to create images of internal organs and tissues, assisting physicians in diagnosing and treating patients. If you're interested in pursuing a career as a sonographer, there are some important steps you'll need to take, including passing the ARDMS exam.


Step 1: Research the Role of an Ultrasound Tech

Before diving into the process of becoming an ultrasound tech, it's essential to understand the role and responsibilities of the job. Ultrasound techs use high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal body structures, such as organs, tissues, and blood vessels. Physicians then use these images to diagnose and treat medical conditions.


Ultrasound techs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They may specialize in a specific area, such as obstetrics and gynecology, abdominal sonography, or vascular sonography.


Day-to-Day Responsibilities of an Ultrasound Tech



Sonographer Helping Patient
Sonographer Helping Patient

The daily tasks of an ultrasound tech may include:

  • Preparing patients for procedures by explaining the process and answering any questions

  • Positioning patients and equipment to obtain the best images

  • Operating the ultrasound equipment and adjusting settings as needed

  • Analyzing images to ensure quality and accuracy

  • Communicating with physicians and other healthcare professionals to discuss findings and assist with patient care

  • Maintaining patient records and equipment maintenance logs

Clarifying the Terminology: Sonographers vs. Ultrasound Tech

The terms "sonographer" and "ultrasound tech" are sometimes used interchangeably in medical imaging, but the two have important differences.


Sonographers are healthcare professionals who use ultrasound technology to create human body images. They have specialized training in anatomy and physiology, ultrasound physics and instrumentation, and patient care. Sonographers also have a thorough understanding of optimizing ultrasound images for diagnostic purposes, and they work closely with physicians to help interpret and analyze the images.


Ultrasound technicians, on the other hand, may refer to anyone who operates an ultrasound machine, regardless of their level of training or expertise.


As healthcare professionals specializing in using ultrasound technology to create medical images, we are sonographers.

Is It Hard to Pursue a Career as an Ultrasound Tech?

Before choosing ultrasound technology as your career path, key factors to remember are your potential to gain a degree and the job's growth rate in the field. Like many other professions within the medical sector, ultrasound technician jobs are expanding rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there's an anticipated increase of 14% in jobs for ultrasound technicians from 2020 to 2030, a rate that surpasses the average growth for all careers. The aging baby-boomer generation requiring diagnostic tests for multiple cardiovascular issues could be the reason behind this hike.


Upon obtaining your degree and certification, opportunities open up to embark on a career in settings such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, or diagnostic laboratories. Many individuals manage to earn a certification after studying for 2-4 years.


In your journey towards becoming an ultrasound tech, most courses focus on science since understanding the human body is essential to operate the sonogram machine effectively. Following the completion of your studies, you become eligible to take the certification exam.


Step 2: Complete an Accredited Ultrasound Tech Program

To become an ultrasound technician, you must complete an accredited training program in diagnostic medical sonography. Attending ultrasound tech school has the potential to be an exceptionally rewarding and enjoyable period of your life, as it offers opportunities for personal and professional growth. However, the crucial factor is selecting an CAHEEP program.


Community colleges, vocational schools, and universities typically offer these programs. Some programs may also offer specialized tracks, such as abdominal sonography or obstetric and gynecologic sonography. Coursework typically covers anatomy and physiology, ultrasound physics and instrumentation, patient care and communication, and image interpretation.


There are many colleges and universities across the United States that offer accredited programs in diagnostic medical sonography, which is the field that includes ultrasound technology. Here is a list of some of the colleges and universities that offer diagnostic medical sonography programs:

  1. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

  2. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

  3. Oregon Tech

  4. Adventist University of Health Sciences

  5. University of Missouri-Columbia

  6. Seattle University

  7. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

  8. Thomas Jefferson University

  9. University of Alabama at Birmingham

  10. San Diego Mesa College

This is not an exhaustive list, and many other colleges and universities also offer sonography programs. Researching and comparing programs is important to find the one that best fits your needs and goals.

Step 3: Certification

While certification is not required in all states, most employers prefer to hire ultrasound technicians who have earned a professional certification. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers the most widely recognized certification. To become certified, you must pass the ARDMS exam, designed to test your knowledge and skills in sonography.

Sonography professionals who earn the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) certification meet rigorous criteria in both knowledge and expertise in Sonography. To earn one or more of the following credentials, applicants must meet prerequisites in education and clinical experience and pass ARDMS examinations:

  • Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer® (RDMS®)

  • Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer® (RDCS®)

  • Registered Vascular Technologist® (RVT®)

  • Registered Musculoskeletal™ Sonographer (RMSKS™)

  • Midwife Sonography Certificate

ARDMS-awarded credentials are widely accepted in the medical community by sonography and vascular professional organizations, as they document personal achievement of recognized professional standards. It is important to note, however, that ARDMS does not validate the day-to-day job performance of any sonography professional.

Obtaining ARDMS certification is a significant achievement in the field of Sonography, as it demonstrates a high level of knowledge and expertise. It also provides opportunities for career advancement and professional recognition. If you're interested in pursuing ARDMS certification, review the prerequisites and requirements carefully and prepare thoroughly for the examinations.

Applying to take the basic Sonography Principles and Instrumentation exam costs $250. Follow-up specialty tests cost $275. Practice tests are available on the ARDMS website.

Other Certification Options

  • The American Association of Radiologic Technologists administers credentials in sonography and other areas related to medical imaging. Applying for primary certification costs $225.

  • The Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) Certification Academy issues credentials for the use of point-of-care ultrasound equipment, i.e., mobile ultrasound imaging systems.

  • The POCUS Academy online issues a POCUS Fundamentals Certificate as well as certificates for various medical specialties. Obtaining a POCUS certificate costs $150.

Step 4: Job Search and Continuing Education

Once you have completed your training and earned your certification, you will be ready to start your job search. Ultrasound technicians are in high demand, with opportunities in hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, and diagnostic imaging centers. You may also want to consider continuing your education by earning additional certifications or pursuing advanced training in a specialized area of sonography.

In conclusion, becoming an ultrasound technician requires a commitment to education, clinical experience, and certification. By completing an accredited training program, gaining clinical experience, passing the ARDMS exam, and pursuing continuing education opportunities, you can position yourself for a successful career in this dynamic and rewarding field.


After completing an accredited program and obtaining certification, it's time to start your job search. Ultrasound techs can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

Networking with professionals in the field and utilizing job search websites can help you find employment opportunities. It's also beneficial to gain experience in multiple specialties to increase your job prospects.


Sonographers can earn a solid income, especially when compared to other healthcare careers that are possible with an associate degree. As with all jobs, though, income varies across a spectrum. The top 10% of sonographers earn $107,730, in contrast to the bottom 10%, who earn $61,430, according to the BLS’s 2021 data.

Factors that can affect an ultrasound tech's salary include experience, education, certification, and geographic location. Ultrasound techs with more experience and advanced certifications may earn higher salaries.

Highest Paying States for Ultrasound Techs

The top-paying states for ultrasound techs in 2020 were:

  • California: $109,070

  • Washington: $106,610

  • Oregon: $103,990

  • Massachusetts: $103,920

  • Colorado: $100,480

Ultrasound Tech Specialties and Salaries

As mentioned earlier, ultrasound techs can specialize in various areas, and this can also affect their salary. Here are the median annual salaries for some of the most common ultrasound tech specialties:

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology: $76,860

  • Abdominal Sonography: $74,320

  • Vascular Sonography: $74,320

  • Breast Sonography: $74,320

  • Neurosonography: $74,320

Advancement Opportunities for Ultrasound Techs

With experience and additional education, ultrasound techs can advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Some advancement opportunities include:

  • Lead Sonographer: In this role, you would oversee a team of ultrasound techs and manage the daily operations of the ultrasound department.

  • Ultrasound Educator: With additional education and certification, you can become an ultrasound instructor at a college or technical school.

  • Ultrasound Manager: As a manager, you would be responsible for the overall operations of the ultrasound department, including budgeting, staffing, and quality control.

Conclusion

Becoming an ultrasound tech requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for helping others. By completing an accredited program, obtaining certification, and gaining experience in the field, you can embark on a rewarding career as an ultrasound tech. With a competitive salary and job stability, this career path offers a bright future for those interested in healthcare and technology.



  • Writer's pictureMichael Zaladonis

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Want to know if you can negotiate your salary as a new sonographer? Yes, you definitely should! Learn what it means to negotiate, how to negotiate and what not to do when negotiating.



Can a Brand New Sonographer Negotiate Their Salary?


Yes, you should try negotiating your salary as a new grad sonographer. There are no rules that say you can't. If you negotiate, no one will scold or punish you, and the experience will be useful to you in the future. In fact, according to Glassdoor, your potential employer expects it, and you should do it. But you need to know what you're up against before you start salary negotiations. It is important to realize that most employers may not be willing to negotiate with new sonography school grads, but you should still do it anyway. Most companies have internal salary ranges they won't cross.



There are several reasons why your first job offer as a newly minted sonographer might be lower than you had anticipated:


  1. You don't have any experience in the field.

  2. Your employer knows you are more likely than an experienced sonographer to be flexible on salary.

  3. Because you lack experience, your options will be limited, and they know this.

  4. You will still require months of training and will not take call during this time.


What Does It Mean to Negotiate Salary?


When negotiating your employment terms, don't forget about the little things. In addition to your salary, several other items can be up for negotiation. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is that your employer says no. But you may be surprised at what you can get if you're willing to ask.


Negotiating isn't only about your salary. You can negotiate:

  • 401k / 403b

  • Hiring/signing bonuses

  • Vacation time

  • Personal days and sick leave

  • Parental leave

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Student loan repayment

  • Child care reimbursement

  • Professional development or CME allowance

  • Telecommuting options

  • Flextime

  • Relocation assistance

  • Travel allowances

  • Commuting reimbursement

  • Gym membership reimbursement

  • Job titles


Why Is It Important for Sonographers to Negotiate Their Salary?


There are many reasons why sonographers need to negotiate their salary. First and foremost, sonographers are in high demand so that they can command a higher salary. Additionally, negotiating their salary allows sonographers to ensure they are paid a fair wage for their experience and qualifications. Finally, by negotiating their salary, sonographers can set themselves up for future success by ensuring they are paid what they are worth.


What Influences a Sonographer's Salary?


Sonographers' salaries differ according to their credentials, education (AS, BS, MS), experience, business type (non-profit or for-profit), location, and what they negotiate.


What Are the Steps Sonographers Should Take Before Negotiating their Salary?


Research What The Market Rate Is For Your Position


When looking for a new job, it is important to research the market rate for your position. This will help you to negotiate a fair salary with your potential employer. There are a few different ways to research the market rate for your position. You can look online at salary comparison websites or talk to people in similar positions to you and see what they are being paid. This will give you a good idea of your position's going rate. Once you know the market rate, you can start to negotiate a fair salary with your potential employer. Remember, it is important to be prepared and to know what you are worth before you start any salary negotiations.


Useful websites:



Practice Negotiating


If the idea of negotiating makes you anxious, you are not alone. To be, prepared, you should get some experience under your belt first. You can get practice negotiating with a friend or relative in a variety of settings, including in person, over the phone, or via email. The second person can act as though they are the hiring manager. It would help if you got in as much practice as possible until you reach a point where you are confident.




Request More Time

Once you are offered the job, the employer will make you an offer. If the salary or benefits are not what you expected you can request a few days to consider it.


How to Negotiate Salary After You Get a Job Offer?

  1. Don't be afraid to negotiate. The worst that can happen is they say no.

  2. Do your research. Know what the going rate is for your position and what you're worth.

  3. Be prepared to walk away. If they're not willing to meet your needs, be prepared to walk away from the offer.

  4. Be confident. You need to believe in yourself and your worth in order to negotiate effectively.

  5. Know your bottom line. What is the minimum you're willing to accept?

  6. Be willing to compromise. Be open to giving and taking in order to come to an agreement.

  7. Be professional and honest. Remember, this is a business transaction.

  8. Be timely. The longer you wait to respond to an offer, the less leverage you have.

  9. Be assertive. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself.

  10. Be thankful. At the end of the day, remember that you're being given an opportunity. Be thankful for that.

What Sonographers Should You Not Do When Negotiating a Salary?

When you're negotiating a salary for a new position, there are a few things you should avoid doing if you want to be taken seriously:

  1. Don't be condescending. This includes talking down to the person you're negotiating with or acting like you're better than them.

  2. Don't give ultimatums. This means you shouldn't threaten to walk away from the negotiation if you don't get what you want.

  3. Don't make it all about you. The negotiation should be about finding a mutually beneficial agreement, not just about getting what you want.

  4. Don't lie. This is self-explanatory, but it's important to remember that honesty is always the best policy.



Prepare Now for a Higher Salary Later in Your Career


Even if you are unlikely to earn more money or receive additional benefits negotiating as a new grad, learning how to advocate for what is in your best interests and negotiate will help you in the long run. Sonographers can increase their earning potential at their current and future jobs by obtaining ARDMS or CCI certifications in their specialties.

Getting that certification shows and proves via an evaluation and exam that you are competent and certified as a sonographer.

Prepry - Ultrasound Registry Review

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