Some careers seem to have a built-in ceiling, leaving no room for future advancement. For those interested in expanding their career choice or continuing their education, these jobs quickly become stagnant.
Those interested in becoming an Ultrasound Technician will find this career choice full of opportunity. Ultrasound itself is a rapidly advancing technology, putting those interested in joining the field in a prime position for advancement opportunities as well as specialization.
To become an Ultrasound Technician, it is important that the school you choose is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. There are over 170 such accredited programs across the country. It is also very important you select a program that provides you with enough scanning hours (in a hospital) in order to qualify to sit for the exams. You may choose an accredited program in either a vocational setting, a community college that offers an Associates Degree (a two-year degree), or a Bachelor’s Degree, (a four year degree). An Associate’s Degree continues to be the most popular choice for those wishing to become an Ultrasound Tech.
Once graduated, you may choose to become a ‘registered’ sonographer. While most states do not require a state license, registering is highly recommended. Most employers prefer a registered sonographer because the additional exam (s) provides an independent and objective measure of the sonographer’s abilities, as well as professional standing. Registry is done through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, an independent organization that was founded in 1975, provides ultrasound professionals the ability to obtain certification as proof of their proficiency in the ultrasound field. In addition, the ARDMS provides re-certification for existing ultrasound technicians, as proof of their continuing competency. To become certified, you must pass an exam covering the important skills that are needed for your position. The ARDMS provides this examination, familiarly known as ‘sitting for the ARDMS.’ Passing the exams certifies you as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).
The Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification given by the ARDMS also provides specialty concentrations for those proficient in visualizing specific areas of the body. The more specializations and credentials a sonographer obtains, the more in demand that sonographer becomes. This increases job prospects, earning potential as well as opportunities for promotion.
The Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification provides for abdominal ultrasound as well as obstetrics and gynecology. The Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer credentials, for heart ultrasound specialists, provide certification after you have passed two exams. The first is a general exam including the principles of sonography, equipment and physics. The second exam, the specialty exam covers both normal and diseased organ anatomy.
For those interested in specializing in one area of ultrasound, these areas include:
Sonographers who work in this area work primarily with a patient’s cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. The Echocardiographer may assist the Physician in performing cardiac catheterizations, electrocardiograms, lung capacity tests and other diagnostic tests.
Known as neurosonology or neurosonography, Sonographers who work in this area obtain images of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. Neurosonographers must use highly specialized beams, transducers and frequencies to obtain accurate images of such specialized areas as the brain. Along with working with adult patients, Neurosonographers may also work with neonatal or premature infants to obtain images of their nervous systems.
- Abdominal Sonography
Sonographers who work in this area obtain images of the internal organs in the abdominal area. This includes the spleen, kidneys and liver, as well as any tumors or blockages that may be present. Some tumors or blockages can then be dissolved using high frequency sound waves that are focused on the area.
- Vascular Technology
This area focuses on obtaining images of a patient’s arteries, veins and pathology. Vascular Sonographers may use ultrasound to obtain images that can even measure a patient’s blood flow velocity and pressure. These images are used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have aneurysms, blood clots, or atherosclerosis (plaque build-up).
- Fetal Echo cardiology
Sonographers who work in this area work produce images of a pediatric (child) patient’s heart and great vessels. These images are used to diagnose congenital heart disease as well as other disorders. Images may be obtained using color flow Doppler, 2D and 3D Echo as well as transesophageal studies.
Previous to ultrasound, Ophthalmologists were limited in viewing a patient’s eye for diagnosis of disease, as well as to verify anatomy and physiology. Often, surgery was conducted as part of the diagnostic process. With ultrasound, Sonographers who specialize in this area can now obtain the necessary images of the eye for diagnosis, rather than the use of surgery.
- Adult Echo cardiology
Also known as Cardiac Sonographers, those who work in this area produce images of an adult patient’s heart and great vessels. These images are used to diagnose pericardiac disease, valvular disease, cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease.
- Breast Sonography
A rather new area of specialty, Sonographers who work in this area use ultrasound to obtain more detailed images of an abnormality previously seen on a mammogram, or felt during a breast exam. Breast Sonography determines if a mass is fluid-filled or solid, requiring a biopsy. To perform the biopsy, a needle is then guided by ultrasound to the mass. A small portion of the mass is then withdrawn. This biopsy can determine if a mass is malignant (cancerous) or benign.
- Obstetrics and Gynecologic Sonography
One of the most popular areas of specialty, OB sonography has been used since its’ development in the 1950’s. Sonographer who work in this area use ultrasound to obtain images of a pregnant woman and her unborn child (fetus). In addition, gynecologic sonography is used to obtain images of those organs within the pelvic region, such as the bladder and uterus, for diagnosis and treatment.
- Cardiac Sonography
Sonographers who work in this area use ultrasound to obtain detailed images of the heart. Known as an echocardiogram, the images obtained show the heart chambers (and their size), valve and muscle function, even the blood flow. The Cardiologist uses these images for analysis and diagnosis.