Career as an Ultrasound Technician
By Diane Turner
Ultrasound technicians are professionals in the healthcare sector who are tasked to conduct diagnostic ultrasounds to patients. Also referred to as a medical sonographer, this profession is highly technical and the technician will need to undergo certain training in order to take up this job title.
Ultrasound technicians give other medical professionals an important service and without them it would be impossible to identify some of the ailments that affect our internal organs. There are various aspects to this profession and it doesn’t just involve the taking imagery. The ultrasound technicians also need to prepare patients for the ultrasound by explaining to them what the procedure entails and answering their concerns. The ultrasound technician will then apply gel and position the patient on the table where the exam will be conducted. Patients’ records also need to be taken and examined to ensure that the patient is fit to take the exam. During the procedure, the ultrasound technician will want to ensure that the patient is comfortable and operate the equipment personally to take the best possible images. The more images are taken the better as these make it easier to select images that clearly indicate the underlying problem. After the tests have been completed, copies of the images are presented to the doctor in charge and the ultrasound technicianwill be required to give a written report on the findings and an oral one as well.
As of 2010, the number of ultrasound technicians in the US stood at an approximated figure of 54,000. These figure is said to have risen drastically and this is a profession that has been set to experience the largest average growth from 2010-2020. The number of these professionals is expected to hit 77,100 which is a growth of about 44%. The 2010 US Census Bureau also indicated that by the year 2030, 20% of the population will be above the age of 65. What this means is that, demand for ultrasound technology will increase given the fact that this age group are major users of the technology. Job security is therefore guaranteed should you choose to pursue the course. As technology continues to evolve, so does this professionandultrasound imaging has also undergone various changes over the years.
If you are interested in this profession, you may want to begin looking for a school which has accredited radiology or ultrasound courses. These programs are available in community colleges, vocation schools and various universities as well. Though there are certificate programs, most employers will not employ you with anything less than an Associate’s degree. Bachelor programs are also available. These courses cover a broad range of subjects and these include: human anatomy, disease and pathophysiology, pregnancy and obstetrics, interpretation of sonographic images, imaging and diagnostics, computer technology, ultrasound equipment and troubleshooting as well as medical terminology. Besides completing your education, you also need to complete clinical rotations at a radiology department in a teaching hospital. This is a requirement if you wish to get certification by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography simply known as the ARDMS. Before you join any training institution to undertake your ultrasound technology training, ensure that it is accredited by CAAHEP or the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Though not all states require that you be certified as an ultrasound technician, other states will not allow you to practice without certification and unless you attend an accredited school you cannot get certification. It is therefore important to ensure that you choose the rightschool to attend whether or not your state requires certification. In order to keep your certification current, you also need to undertake continuing education units.
Ultrasound techs need to have people skills. Though they spend the better part of their day operating machines, they deal with people too. Most of the time, patients are stressed about the outcome of the ultrasound some are even claustrophobic, the ultrasound tech therefore needs to be of a lovable persona to make the patient feel comfortable. The good thing about this profession is that there are various places which one can get employment and some of these are hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient centers and more. The major employer of ultrasound technicians is hospitals. That said; diagnostic laboratories and physicians offices are also taking up a huge chunk of these professionals. Though most ultrasound technicians work full time, there are those who are employed part-time to cover evening, overnight and weekend shifts.
Ultrasound Technician Average Salary
The average ultrasound technician salary is about $66,000 a year which if calculated by hour comes down $32. This amount is dependent on a number on factors and these include experience, location and education level amongst others which we will be discussing in detail.
Ultrasound Technician Salary Factors and Influences
As was mentioned above, an ultrasound technician earns an average salary of approximately $66,000 every year. This amount is subject to a lot of factors and these are:
Experience – This is one of the major factors that affect one’s pay slip. The medical profession is perhaps one of the major profession’s that identifies experience as an exceptional skill and this is obviously because as an experienced ultrasound technician who has been in the job for years, you have learnt a lot in terms of diagnosis, handling patients and the equipment used as well. If you are a fresh graduate even with an Associate’s degree, it is highly unlikely that you are going to earn a starting salary of more than $50,000. Often your salary will begin anywhere between $28000 and $58000. This will also depend on factors such as location and employment setting which will be discussing shortly. Experience of 1-4 years could give you a salary of $29,056 to $60,200. If you have five to nine years of experience, your salary significantly increases and could be in the $42,247 and $77,869 range. For those with over 10 years working experience you should be earning an amount of not less than $41,217 and this could go up to $86,000 or even more in some states. People with over 20 years experience earn anywhere between $57,000 and $103,856.
Other than experience, another factor that largely contributes to the pay scale is location. Your state plays a major impact in your salary and New York, California, Oregon, Connecticut and Colorado are known to be some of the best states to work in if you are an ultrasound tech. If for example you live in California, you should expect a salary that falls between $47,667 and $104,722. It is important to note that when it comes to states, California is the best employer in this sector. New York on the other hand guarantees salaries that start from $42,500 and go up to $104,722. Other states that are not amongst the top 5 employers but equally pay well are Florida which pays its ultrasound techs salaries between $35,000 and $99,829, New Jersey which pays between $45,000 and $60,000 as well asPennsylvania which pays $39,000 to $50,868. When thinking of location, you not only need to look at locations that pay the best but the standards of living as well. The top 5 states and cities also have some of the highest standards of living in the country.
Your employment facility will also have a significant role to play in your salary and below is how much you can expect to earn with these top employing facilities:
Diagnostic laboratories: $62,290
Physician offices: $64,560
Outpatient care centers: $69,740
Though hospitals are the top employers, they do not necessarily pay the best. The best areas of employment are outpatient care centers.
Ultrasound Technician Salary Compared To Related Fields
As an ultrasound technician, you will be glad to know that your salary is highly competitive with others in your field. Below we compare other similar professionals and list their average pay.
Average Nuclear Medicine Technologist Salary: $68,560
Average Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist Salary: $46,680
Average Radiologic Technologist Salary: $54340
Average Cardiovascular Technologist Salary: $49,410
Ultrasound Technician Salary by State
As mentioned earlier on, State location has a major impact when it comes to the salary an ultrasound technician earns. Below we list the average salary for an ultrasound technician by state.
Ultrasound technician average salary in California: $81,750
Ultrasound technician average salary in New York: $64,000
Ultrasound technician average salary in Oregon: $81,000
Ultrasound technician average salary in Illinois: $57,000
Ultrasound technician average salary in Massachusetts: $80,000
Ultrasound technician average salary in Connecticut: $79,000
Ultrasound technician average salary in Texas: $51,000
Ultrasound technician salary in Alabama: $49,910
As you can see, ultrasounds technicians in states such as Texas and Alabama are amongst the worst paid. Though their average salaries are above most professions, it is still way below the national average pay for these professionals.
Ultrasound Technician Types of Salaries
Ultrasound technicians or sonographers as they are often referred too also come with their areas of specialization and below are the different types of sonographers and their average annual salaries.
Breast Sonographer: Average Salary: $70,000
Breast sonographersspecialize in providing breast ultrasounds and mammography exams. Most are situated in hospitals, outpatient centers and private practices.
Obstetric and Gynecological Ultrasound Technicians: Average Salary: $39,000
These ultrasound technicians specialized in fertility studies and therefore provide medical imaging services to mostly pregnant women. Some are tasked to specifically handle fetal echocardiography and high risk pregnancies as well. These ultrasound technicians earn lower than the average salary of an ultrasound technician.
Echocardiography Ultrasound Technician: Average Salary: $54,000
Echocardiography ultrasound technicians examine the heart and blood vessels. These professionals are usually found working for cardiologists either in hospitals or private clinics. These ultrasound technicians are paid 20% less than the national average for this profession.
Nuero Ultrasound Technicians: Average Salary: $114,000
Neurosonology involves using transcranial Dopper imaging with the aim of assessing the brain’s blood vessels. These are the most highly paid ultrasound technicians with the lowest earning $40,000 per year.
Vascular Ultrasound Technicians: Average Salary: $63,000
Vascular ultrasound technicians inspect blood cells. This imagery is used to detect conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and other vein related conditions. Arteries are examined especially when there is concern for strokes. Vascular ultrasound technicians earn close to the national average with some earning even more.
Therapeutic Ultrasound Technicians: Average Salary: $86,000
These ultrasound technicians are therapists and usually conduct physiotherapy on patients. They do not really conduct ultrasound imaging and instead conduct therapy to stimulate blood flow and treat scar tissue with heating equipment. This category of ultrasound technicians is paid really way and they earn way more than most ultrasound technicians.
History of Ultrasound Technicians
Ultrasound is one of the most used diagnostic imaging tools in modern day. However this technology was highly unused in the medical profession until the 1940s. Psychiatrist and neurologist Karl Dussik who worked at the University of Vienna used ultrasound beams alongside his brother Friederichwho was a physicist. They both used ultrasound beams to look for brain tumors and identify cerebral cavities that contained cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Other medical experts soon began expounding on this technology and a decade later Ian Donald used ultrasound for fetal development diagnosis. However, it wasn’t until 1973 that the US accepted ultrasounds as a part of healthcare and introduced it into the educational curriculum as well. Since then, the medical profession has become highly dependent on ultrasound to diagnose many ailments and examine internal organs.
Ultrasound Technician Salary Outlook – Conclusion
The work ultrasound technicians provide cannot be undervalued. Not only are they a vital part of the medical profession but without them diagnosis would not be as efficient as we know it. From the different jobs in the ultrasound technician profession, we have been able to identify that ultrasounds can be used to produce the imagery of different organs in the body and this means that their job outlook is bright. With increasing job opportunities, the salary for an ultrasound technician is also set to rise up from the current annual $66,000. If you are interested in joining this profession, it is important that have a clear understanding of what the job entails and as mentioned above attend accredited schools because that is the only way you can become certified. Ensure that you look beyond the salary of an ultrasound technicianbecause not only is the pay good, the job is also highly involving and analytical as well.