What’s a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer? Job Description & Career Growth

Learn about what you’ll do as a diagnostic medical sonographer.

woman sonographer give woman a throat scan
woman performs sonogram on patients throat

The Basics

What you’ll do: Sonographers, also called ultrasound technicians and diagnostic medical sonographers, use ultrasound high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal body tissues. This helps doctors diagnose and monitor a variety of conditions such as heart disease, pregnancy and cancer.

Where you’ll work: Hospitals, physicians’ offices, imaging clinics, medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Degree you’ll need to practice: Postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree

Average annual salary: $75,780*

Job Environment

As a sonographer, you’ll work directly with patients. Most of your work is done at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms, but you may also perform procedures at patients’ bedsides. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergencies, sonographers sometimes work evenings, weekends or overnight.

Diagnostic ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. To do this, you’ll press an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to the parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes are then sent to the ultrasound machine, which processes and displays them as images.

Career Advancement

Employers may prefer to hire sonographers who have professional certification. You’ll want to take continuing education in order to keep your certification current throughout your career. Sonographers certified in more than one specialty are expected to have the best opportunities as employment of sonographers continues to grow—by a healthy 12% through 2029.

If you enjoy diagnostic work, you may wish to advance in the medical field by pursuing a related career as a medical and clinical laboratory technologist or technician, a radiologic technologist (X-ray technician) or a nuclear medicine technologist.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics; Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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