How to become an ultrasound technician

If you wish to work in the medical field but have not decided which branch of medicine to focus on, you might want to consider becoming an ultrasound technician. Also known as diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technologist, this profession is one of the most in demand and popular careers right now. Aside from a shorter duration of study, it is a very rewarding profession financially that promises more job opportunities and advancement in the coming years.

3 Easy Steps To Becoming an Ultrasound Technician:

Step 1: Complete an Ultrasound Technician Program accredited by CAAHEP.

Step 2: Graduate and complete enough hours in your externship.

Step 3: Sit the ARDMS exams.

Step 4: Apply for positions as a registered medical diagnostic sonographer.

These steps are described in more detail below - but this is the process of becoming a medical sonographer.

What is an ultrasound technician?

An ultrasound technician drives imaging equipment such as sonography and ultrasound diagnostic images to take pictures, document, and verify digital images of patient's tissues, internal organs, and blood flow so doctors can diagnose successfully and correctly illnesses and diseases. In general, ultrasound techs work in hospital laboratories or imaging laboratories, although some can also find employment in private medical facilities.

Fields of medicine that heavily depend on ultrasound equipment are obstetrics, gynecology, and neurology, among others.


How To Become An Ultrasound Technician

Ultrasound technicians perform very specialized duties related to the use of sonography and ultrasound machines. They seldom do administrative tasks.

Explain ultrasound procedure to the patient. Before taking any digital images, sonographers enlighten patients about the procedure to put them at ease and answer questions that patients might have.

Determine proper equipment settings and patient positioning.
After explaining the procedure to the patient, they then set the equipment to its correct setting, apply a special gel on the area to be examined, and direct the patient's best position to obtain the best digital view.

Take internal scans of patients' organs. Ultrasound techs operate the sonography equipment to take images of patients' internal organs. As soon as images are developed, doctors use them to come up with their prognoses.

Decide whether scans are satisfactory for the purpose of diagnosis. Before finalizing which images to capture and store, technicians review the screen thoroughly and determine whether the scans are enough for a physician to make a judgment. Using visual indications, they measure, quantify values, and evaluate their findings to come up with the report.

Minor administrative tasks. Technicians manage and maintain the equipment, patient files, and the imaging division itself. In addition, they also determine whether equipment need to be fixed or a new one should be bought.

Educational Requirements

You need a high school diploma to gain acceptance into an ultrasound technician program. Preferably you've studied maths, English, computer science, health, and both physical and life sciences in high school. If not you may have to complete pre-requisites first before being accepted into a program. Check with your chosen college or school. For example, some colleges require you to have a CNA course completed as a pre-requisite before gaining entry into a DMS program, if you don't come from a healthcare background.

Sonography training programs can be found in colleges or universities, hospitals, or vocational schools. As mentioned some educational institutions prefer applicants with previous healthcare or science experience, so check in with your college about the entry requirements into the program.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP, has already accredited more than 150 training programs for ultrasound technicians, which are typically available in hospitals, colleges, universities and the Armed Forces. You may also choose to study online, distance learning or on-campus. Classes in a college can be offered online however clinicals are done physically in a clinic or a hospital.

Depending on your education and work experience, there are four main types of programs:

Four-year program. Formal education in Ultrasound Technician course that leads to a bachelor's degree.

Two-year program. Fast-track option leading to associate's degree and also the most prevalent amongst employed sonographers today.

One-year program. Another fast-track option that is beneficial to career shifters who already work in the healthcare industry seeking better options as ultrasound technologist. High school graduates are also accepted in this program. At the end of the course, students earn a vocational certificate.

Tips & Warnings: Some schools with accredited programs have a large waiting list, 2 years isn't unheard of especially in metropolitan cities. Many of these schools also have a small intake of 12-25 students per program. While that's a positive as you get better interaction between student and tutor, the negative is that it creates waiting lists.

What some individuals have chosen to do due to waiting periods into the programs is to complete an unaccredited program, finish training in less than 2 years and sit the ARDMS as soon as it was possible. The difficulty with this option is that you would need to work for a min. of 12 months before you could sit the ARDMS examination and most employers prefer to recruit registered ultrasound technicians.


For ultrasound technicians, there are no licensing requirements that need to be completed. However, if you want to increase your marketability, ensure that you pass a registration exam conducted by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) in order to become a certified ultrasound technician or Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for ultrasound technicians are very promising. In fact, it is projected to grow from the current 59,000 jobs to almost 19% more from now through 2018.

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References & Further Information:
Bureau of Labour Statistics -
Society of Medical Sonography -

Other Titles:

Jobs in this field are often advertised in the classified section of newspapers under headings such as "Diagnostic Medical Sonographer", "Medical Sonographer", "Sonographer", "Health care" or "Health care professional"

Ultrasound Technician Salary

According to the US Department of Labor, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual income of $43,600 in 2011 . See Sonographer Salary for more information.