About the Profession
The job outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is very good. Nationwide, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 18 percent increase in the number of jobs between 2008 and 2018, faster growth than the average for all jobs. Job growth in Tennessee alone is projected at 24 percent during the same time span.
Multiple factors make this a growing profession. Because sonography does not use radiation, either for diagnosis or treatment, it is considered safer than repeated radiation exposure for both patients and operators. Also, demand for both diagnosis and treatment will increase as the country’s population ages.
Uniform salary data lags by a few years, but in 2008, the median wage of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers was $29.80, or $62,000 a year. In Tennessee, the rates were slightly lower, with a median of $26.76 an hour, or $55,700. The top 10 percent of sonographers in the country, however, earn more than $80,000 a year, with potential higher salaries as supervisors and specialists in new fields.
Keep in mind that Diagnostic Medical Sonography is a relatively new medical field. The American Medical Association recognized the occupation in 1974 and educational programs were first accredited in 1982. Medical sonography evolves constantly: real-time imaging in the 1980s revolutionized the field, making the technology more accessible to patients because they could recognize what sonographers were looking at. Images in three and four dimensions followed in the 1990s, providing the views of a moving fetus now familiar to every parent-to-be.
Obstetric and gynecologic, along with abdominal, applications are the most well known, but ultrasound technology is an important diagnostic tool in other medical specialties. Neurosonographers focus on the nervous system and the brain. Neonatal neurosonography is even more specialized, targeting the study and diagnosis of nervous system and blood disorders in premature infants.
Ophthalmologic ultrasound helps diagnose, blood supply levels, separated retinas, tumors and other problems of the eyes.
Most diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals but employment is expected to grow faster in non-hospital settings, including diagnostic imaging centers, laboratories and physicians’ offices. Two factors will drive this trend: a big shift toward outpatient care because it is less expensive and ongoing technological advances that won’t require a hospital setting.
Most health care fields are licensed and regulated, and each state regulates its own licensing. Tennessee does not yet test or license ultrasound technicians, but the industry standard is qualification through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. The agency offers the following examinations: Abdomen, Adult Echocardiography, Breast, Fetal Echocardiography, Neurosonology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatric Echocardiography, Vascular Technology, and Sonography Principles & Instrumentation.
The professional organization also provides three credentials for non-physicians: Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer and Registered Vascular Technologist.
National, state and local associations help Diagnostic Medical Sonographers stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technology, provide networking opportunities and other resources.
- AIUM: American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
- ARDMS: American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- SDMS: Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- SVU: Society for Vascular Ultrasound
- JRCDMS: Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- ASE: American Society of Echocardiography
- RSNA: Radiological Society of North America
- ACC: American College of Cardiology
- ACOG: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- ACR: American College of Radiology
- AHRA: American Healthcare Radiology Administrators
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