Within the healthcare field, several types of equipment and technology are used to create images illustrating what’s going on inside the body. Doctors use these images for a wide range of purposes, from detecting cancer to diagnosing nervous system disorders and from guiding surgeons during operations to monitoring the development of an unborn baby. Operating the machines that create these images requires the work of a trained professional, such as a diagnostic medical sonographer. If you have always had an interest in healthcare and enjoy working with technical machinery, consider staring your path to a career in sonography by earning a college degree.
The Role of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Like radiologic technologists, sonographers are healthcare professionals with the right education and training to perform diagnostic medical imaging tests. However, sonographers specialize in using a technology known as sonogram or ultrasound. Ultrasounds may be best known as a way for obstetricians and expecting parents to peek at the baby growing in the womb, but that’s far from the technology’s only purpose. In fact, diagnostic medical sonographers often specialize in various regions or systems of the body, including musculoskeletal sonography, abdominal sonography, neurosonography, breast sonography, gynecologic sonography and cardiac sonography. Ultrasounds are usually the first diagnostic imaging test a doctor will recommend to confirm or rule out a disease, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Sonographers interact directly with patients, recording their medical histories and explaining the ultrasound process. They prepare and operate sonogram equipment to create images of the desired region of the body, which doctors then use to diagnose a condition and develop a treatment plan. Some ultrasounds take place during a surgical procedure and serve as a guide for the surgeon. Sonographers must be able to distinguish between normal and atypical images. They also maintain records of patients’ test results.
A Sonographer’s Education
If you want to become a sonographer, you must first complete the formal education. In accredited sonography programs at both the associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels, students study medical terminology, anatomy and physiology and applied sciences. They also gain clinical experience working in hospitals, laboratories and doctors’ offices. Often, schools offer programs in particular specializations of sonography. Graduates of college degree programs in sonography must earn a passing score on a state test to become certified in a given specialty, though they may possess more than one certification if they choose to prepare for and take multiple exams. In some states, sonographers must also obtain a license.
The role of a medical sonographer is an important and rewarding one. These healthcare professionals earn a median salary of $65,860 per year, according to the BLS. They also look forward to a highly positive job outlook, with the BLS anticipating a massive 46 percent increase in job opportunities over just 10 years. Sonographers also have the satisfaction of knowing that their work helps doctors diagnose and treat patients, potentially saving and improving lives.