How to Become an Ultrasound Technician:
The Definitive Guide


We’ve all seen those grainy black and gray images on computer screens, sometimes they show little babies in their mom’s womb, or they show the insides of a person’s stomach.

The cool thing about ultrasounds is that they use sound waves to see through people, it’s almost like having a superpower.

If you think this sounds like something that piques your interest, then maybe a career as an Ultrasound Technician is right for you.

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What is an Ultrasound Technician?

An Ultrasound Technician works with patients as well as doctors to create images of the insides of people.

These images are taken by placing a small sound wave on the patient’s body, which resonates throughout the body and onto a screen in the doctor’s office.

The purpose of the images is to diagnose medical conditions or to see a fetus before they are born.

The images are then analyzed and used to help with diseases, pregnancy, injuries, or other illnesses.

Duties

As an Ultrasound Technician, you will be working very closely with patients.

Some of the duties that you can expect on a daily basis include:

  • Operating diagnostic medical equipment
  • Obtaining patient history
  • Positioning patients
  • Explaining the procedure to patients
  • Analyzing images
  • Keeping medical records
  • Archiving images
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Ordering supplies

Salary

In the United States, the average salary for an Ultrasound Technician is around $76,000 a year.

Those that are just starting out in the career can expect to make around $69,000 a year.

After much experience, education, and specializations, it is possible to make up to $84,000 a year as an Ultrasound Technician.

Technicians that work in small offices or private practices may make less than those who work in larger hospitals or clinics.

Doctors and patients are always looking for new and innovative ways to use ultrasounds, so when you have experience and knowledge about the career, it is likely that you will make more money.

Average National Salary: $76,000

$69K
$72K
$76K
$80K
$84K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%
*Salary information last updated 2020

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$71,686
Alaska$85,763
Arizona$75,639
Arkansas$70,558
California$85,457
Colorado$76,276
Connecticut$82,779
Delaware$80,331
Florida$72,681
Georgia$74,019
Hawaii$80,270
Idaho$72,208
Illinois$78,572
Indiana$74,746
Iowa$73,216
Kansas$72,604
Kentucky$71,992
Louisiana$73,293
Maine$73,752
Maryland$78,882
Massachusetts$83,238
Michigan$76,567
Minnesota$78,266
Mississippi$66,560
Missouri$72,910
Montana$69,353
Nebraska$70,156
Nevada$78,419
New Hampshire$77,653
New Jersey$84,585
New Mexico$69,926
New York$82,091
North Carolina$72,987
North Dakota$71,839
Ohio$74,700
Oklahoma$71,916
Oregon$76,200
Pennsylvania$76,353
Rhode Island$80,637
South Carolina$71,609
South Dakota$65,489
Tennessee$69,506
Texas$75,126
Utah$72,484
Vermont$73,675
Virginia$76,047
Washington$81,708
West Virginia$67,784
Wisconsin$75,358
Wyoming$68,090

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $85,763

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $85,763
California - $85,457
New Jersey - $84,585
Massachusetts - $83,238
Connecticut - $82,779

How to Become an Ultrasound Technician

Step 1Earn a Degree

Depending on where you want to work, most employers require at least an Associates’s degree or a Bachelors’s degree in order to work as an Ultrasound Technician.

It may also be possible to earn a certificate through a university or technical school in order to complete this requirement.

However, regardless of the path that you choose, it’s important to make sure that the program is accredited with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

In most cases, you will not be able to earn a license or certification unless you have the proper education from an accredited program.

Some of the courses that you’ll likely take in an Ultrasound Technician program include:

  • Anatomy
  • Ethics
  • Patient care procedures
  • Equipment operation

It’s also possible to study specific areas as an Ultrasound Technician.

Some of these areas are:

  • Obstetrics
  • Breast
  • Cardiac
  • Abdominal

Depending on the degree you choose, it can take between two years and four years to become an Ultrasound Technician.

Step 2Become Certified

After you earn a degree, it’s essential that you become certified as an Ultrasound Technician.

Although this is not required by law, many employers will not even consider hiring an Ultrasound Technician who is not certified.

Certification gives you an advantage because it shows you are competent in the area.

There are several types of certifications that you can earn as an Ultrasound Technician.

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography provides certification for complete a program and pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation exam.

After passing the SPI exam, you may take an exam in a specialty of your choice.

This is also not a requirement but looks great to employers.

Some of the specialty certifications that you can earn include:

  • Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer
  • Registered Vascular Technician

Step 3Gain Experience

There are many places that you can find jobs as an Ultrasound Technician.

From hospitals to clinics and public health facilities, there are many areas to work in.

It may even be possible to find employment at laboratories and doctor’s offices.

It’s important to gain a certification in order to get the most out of your experience as an Ultrasound Technician.

Many jobs require Ultrasound Technicians to be on their feet most of the day.

Some other things you can expect to do when gaining experience in this field include:

  • Preparing the exam room
  • Cleaning ultrasound equipment
  • Conduct examinations
  • Write reports
  • Alert medical staff of any abnormalities

Most Ultrasound Technicians work full time in their careers.

Step 4Continue Your Education

Just because you have a job as an Ultrasound Technician already, it doesn’t mean you can’t strive to learn more and educate yourself.

Some of the areas that you may want to consider when continuing your education and career include:

  • Research
  • Management
  • Teaching

It’s also important to think about returning to school for additional credentials or a degree.

The best job prospects go to those who have multiple credentials in Ultrasound Technology.

Some of the extra degrees that you can earn with a career as an Ultrasound Technician:

  • Diagnostic Medical Stenography
  • Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound
  • Cardiovascular Sonography
  • Radiologic Technology

Education

There are a few choices that you’ll need to make on your journey to becoming an Ultrasound Technician.

First, is whether or not you want to enroll in a certificate program, earn an Associates’s degree, or go for your bachelor’s.

Most employers want to see at least an Associates’s degree, but many may even consider someone fresh out of high school.

A certificate program to become an Ultrasound Technician can take from one year to two years.

While an Associates’ degree takes around two years to complete.

With a Bachelors’s degree, you can expect to be in school for at least four years.

Some of the things that you can expect to learn in the courses you will take include:

  • Abdominal Ultrasound and Small Parts
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Ultrasound
  • Pathophysiology of the Heart
  • Ultrasound Physics
  • Vascular Ultrasound
  • Medical Terminology
  • Sectional Anatomy
  • Anatomy of the Heart

While in an Ultrasound Technician program, you will also gain experience through clinicals and a supervised hands-on internship.

The internship can last from three to six months and may result in full-time employment after graduation.

In order to gain the most out of your education, you will need to make sure that your school is accredited with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or another regional accreditation committee.

Without accreditation, you will not be able to use financial aid or become certified as an Ultrasound Technician.

It’s possible to earn an Associates’ degree and then gain experience as an Ultrasound Technician with the hopes of returning back to school to earn a Bachelors’s degree.

If you already have an Associates’ degree, it’s possible to earn a Bachelors’s in a more specialized field like vascular stenography.

Choosing a specialization means that all of your courses will pertain to that specialty.

Video About The Career


Certification

In order to be an employed Ultrasound Technician, you are going to need to become certified.

There are four different types of certifications that you can earn, they are:

  • RDMS- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • RDCS- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer
  • RVT- Registered Vascular Technologist
  • RMSKS- Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer

The RDMS certification shows that the Ultrasound Technician goes above and beyond in the field.

By earning this credential, you will show that you are competent and cutting edge in your career.

In order to earn a certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, you must pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation Exam.

With the passing of this exam, you’ll also be eligible for specialty certifications in:

  • Abdomen Examination
  • Breast Examination
  • Fetal Echocardiography Examination
  • OBGYN Examination
  • Pediatric Examination

The certification for a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer must also be accompanied by the passing of the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation Examination.

This certification is for medical professionals, such as doctors, who want to enhance their specializations.

With this certification, you can earn special certifications including:

  • Adult Echocardiography
  • Fetal Echocardiography
  • Pediatric Echocardiography

As a Registered Vascular Technician, you’ll need to pass the same exam, and it’s possible to earn special certifications in:

  • Vascular Technology

The last certification of the Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer also requires the passing of the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation Examination.

With this certification, you can earn special certification in:

  • Musculoskeletal Sonography

There are some prerequisites to be eligible for any of these exams:

  • Successful completion of an Ultrasound Technician program
  • 12 months of full-time employment as an Ultrasound Technician

As with most certifications, it is required to update credentials every three years.

Your school will give you a list of testing centers to take the exam, as it may vary between states.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you have five years from the time that you graduate from your program to take the exam, or else you must re-educate.

Certification Example:

Ultrasound Technician Certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

The average training program to become an Ultrasound Technician is around one year.

Many people decide that instead of earning an Associates’s degree, they’d rather go for a certificate as an Ultrasound Technician.

This can be done through hospitals, technical schools, and even community colleges.

Most often, these training programs include an internship and clinicals in order to gain real-life experience in the field.

If you decide to work toward an Associates’ degree, that may take longer, at around two years.

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Job Outlook

It seems that the role of an Ultrasound Technician will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

The career is looking to grow around 19 percent within the ten years.

This is much faster than many other careers within the same field.

With the aging population, the need to use ultrasounds for health issues like blood clots and heart problems will become more prevalent.

Those Ultrasound Technicians who are certified will likely gain employment faster than those who are not.

Many employers will only hire Ultrasound Technicians who have a certification, which can open many more doors within the healthcare field.

Employment Growth Projection: 19%

72,900
2018
87,100
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 14,200 jobs.

Ultrasound Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become an Ultrasound Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

More than half of today’s Ultrasound Technicians say that they are satisfied with their careers.

Many people believe that their job makes the world a better place, which can add to feelings of accomplishment.

There is a lot of possibility for job growth in this field, and it is possible to achieve promotions and raises quite easily.

The hours of the job make it nice as well, with most Ultrasound Technicians working less than 40 hours a week.

Depending on where you work, whether in a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic, the times that you work may vary from midnights to the day shift, but picking one that suits you is best.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary in the United States for an Ultrasound Technician is around $76,000 a year.

The range typically falls somewhere between $69,000 and $84,000 a year.

When just starting out as an Ultrasound Technician, you can expect to make much lower than a co-worker who has been doing the job for quite some time.
Experience, certifications, education, and a willingness to succeed will allow you to make more money.

It’s important to think about the location of your office as well, as people who work in smaller populations and in smaller offices typically make less than those who work for larger hospitals.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The job growth outlook for an Ultrasound Technician looks incredible for the next decade.

The career will show a spike in growth at around 19 percent.

This is unusual for many careers, but the healthcare field will be important for the foreseeable future.

Those that work as Ultrasound Technicians may find that having a certification will provide more employment possibilities.

Another reason for the growth in jobs is that the baby boomer generation is aging, needing more medical attention to issues like heart disease.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

The length of education in order to become an Ultrasound Technician can vary.

Some people earn an Associates’s degree, which can take around two years to complete.

Others decide that they want to earn a Bachelors’s degree.

This can take a couple of years longer, at four years.

Others earn certifications through a hospital or other facility, this education can take from a year to three years to complete.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Most Ultrasound Technicians have these personal skills:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Ability to listen
  • Public speaking
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Dependability
  • Attention to detail
  • Concern for others
  • Independence
  • Willing to work as a team
  • Integrity

As an Ultrasound Technician, you will be working with patients during sensitive moments in their lives.

It’s important to have a good bedside manner and treat every patient with respect.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does an Ultrasound Technician make?

In the United States, an Ultrasound Technician can make around $74,000 a year.

When just starting out, it is likely that you’ll make around $64,000 as an Ultrasound Technician.

After gaining certifications, specializations, and experience in the field, it is likely that you can make up to $85,000 and beyond.

Q. What does an Ultrasound Technician do?

The main goal of an Ultrasound Technician is to get a clear picture of what is going on inside their patient’s body.

They do this by putting a wand up against the body part of the patient, which transmits a sound wave throughout their body.

That soundwave shows up on a computer screen, and the Ultrasound Technician can basically see an x-ray of the patient’s body part.

This can be done to check on a fetus, to take a look at someone’s heart, and even diagnose something like kidney stones.

Q. How long does it take to become an Ultrasound Technician?

The length of time that it takes to become an Ultrasound Technician can vary, depending on which type of school you attend.

Those that attend certificate programs can expect their education to take around a year.

People that want to earn an Associates’ degree can expect to be in school for two years.

Finally, if you’d like to earn a Bachelors’s degree as an Ultrasound Technician, you can expect to be in school for around four years.

Q. Is there a demand for Ultrasound Technicians?

Yes, there is a high demand for Ultrasound Technicians.

It seems that more and more doctors are using ultrasounds to help diagnose illnesses.

They are even using ultrasounds to help nurses find veins in order to insert IVs.

An ultrasound can be an important tool in the medical field, which means that more and more skilled people are needed.

Q. How much does it cost to become an Ultrasound Technician?

It can cost a bit of money to become an Ultrasound Technician.

A typical Associates degree can cost around $10,000 depending on the college you attend.

An average Bachelors’s degree can run around $30,000.

A certificate program for an Ultrasound Technician can cost around $5,000 to $10,000 as well.

It is possible to get financial aid in order to go to school for this career.


Ultrasound Technician Information by State


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