Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Why Pursue a Career in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography?

Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography is a branch of diagnostic medical imaging. Those in this career learn how to use medical ultrasound for a medical diagnosis with 2D and 3D images of the body. Ultrasounds beam high-frequency sound waves into the body and then a doctor translates the echoes into colorful, visual images that provide the needed medical information to help the patient.

Within the Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical field, there are many different concentrations. Under General Sonography you can find:

  • Abdominal Ultrasound, which focuses on all aspects of the human body except for the heart and veins.
  • Obstetric Ultrasound, which focuses on reproductive organs, pregnant women, and the fetus.
  • Breast Ultrasound, which focuses on human breast tissue.
  • Pediatric Sonography, which is the same as abdominal ultrasound but for children.
  • Musculoskeletal Sonographer, which focuses on the muscles and the skeletal system.

In addition to General Sonography, there is also Cardiac Sonography. This is where the tech uses echocardiograms to check the size and structure of the heart muscle and valves and traces the movement of the blood that goes through the heart.

Ultrasounds provide versatile images that can give us a better look at soft tissues. They are also widely accessible, as well as non-invasive. Most people won’t feel much discomfort with an ultrasound and there is less risk than there is with CT scans and x-rays. Ultrasound is a needed diagnostic tool and a great field to go into.

If you feel like you are emotionally mature, highly motivated, self-disciplined, and enjoy working with people, you might be a good fit for a job in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography Career Outlook

The career outlook for the Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography field is good as ultrasound is an important tool in healthcare. There are different types of sonography and different jobs you can work towards if you want to go into this field.

BLS, which is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that the field of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians is projected to grow 10% from 2021-2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations. There are over 10,000 job openings for this field projected each year, on average, over the next decade.

When it comes to salaries, a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer can make an average of $79,300 according to Salary.com.

Here is a breakdown of similar careers and how much you can expect to make from each of them.

Annual Salaries – Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

JOB TITLELower RangeAverageHigher Range
Neurodiagnostic Technologist$54,970$58,852$70,223
Obstetric Sonographer$65,158$71,950$78,918
Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer$73,600$81,800$90,800
Ultrasound Tech$62,258$71,225$83,518
Head Ultrasound Technologist$90,900$101,100$111,900


All salary information is from Salary.com.

Location can also play a part in your salary. In California, the average annual salary for a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is $109,350, while in Texas, it is $74,630. You can read more about locations at BLS.

Skills Gained with an Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography Degree

Within the Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography field, there are a variety of degrees you can pursue. Some examples are:

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • Biology
  • Medical Technician
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Patient Care

Within these degree programs, students will develop the skills they need for a career in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography. These skills include:

  • Customer Service
  • Communication Skills
  • Patient Care Skills
  • Physically Fit
  • Good Listening Skills
  • The ability to understand doctor’s orders

Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography Career Paths

There are different types of careers you can pursue within the Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography field. Here are a few examples:

  • Neurodiagnostic Technologist – Where you would perform tests that would diagnose issues with the brain as well as the nervous system.
  • OB/GYN Sonographer – Where you would focus on using ultrasound to perform scans of pregnant mothers and the fetus. You would work with the female reproductive system.
  • Ultrasound Tech – Where you would use specialized equipment to examine different parts of the body such as the abdomen and the prostate.
  • Sonography Educator – Where you would teach sonography within the university or college setting, in a clinical instructorship, or as a staff sonographer.
  • Research Sonographer – Where you would play a role in medical research by working at a university, for a private research firm, or a private practice.

How to Start Your Career in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

While you can have a Career in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography with just an associate’s degree, getting your bachelor’s degree would be a good idea. An associate’s degree will take between 18 months and two years and a bachelor’s degree would take four unless you find an accelerated program. It is also possible to get a master’s degree in this field, however, there are not that many programs and it would be for those who are interested in going into a management or leadership role.

Master’s Degrees in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Getting your master’s in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography, you would take courses in:

    • Medical Ethics
    • Abdominal Ultrasound
    • Related Topics

Bachelor’s Degrees in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

For a bachelor’s degree, you can get a Bachelor’s in:

    • Medical Sonography
    • Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technology
    • Health Science

Associate Degrees in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

For an associate degree, you can study::

    • Sonography
    • Physiology
    • Physics
    • Anatomy
    • Patient Care

Of course, there are more options than those listed, but that should give you a good idea of what your options might be. The name of the program depends on where you go to school and what type of program you are looking for.

Certifications for a Career in Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

You should also need to look into being licensed in your state once you get your degree. Each state might have different qualifications. While not all will be required by your state, certifications are a great way to set yourself apart in the job market. Here are three certifications for this field.

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) 

With ARDMS, you would need to meet the requirements of a prerequisite that meets your education and clinical ultrasound experience and take the exam. The different options are:

    • RDMS Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
    • Registered Vascular Technologist
    • RMSKS Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer
    • Midwife Sonography Certificate

Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)

CCI offers certifications and credentials for those focusing on the heart and vascular systems. You would create an account, select the right exam and pathway and apply. Some of the pathways they offer are:

    • Advanced Cardiac Sonographer (ACS)
    • Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT)
    • Registered Cardiac Sonographer
    • Registered Phlebology Sonographer

American Registry for Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

ARRT is to recognize people who are qualified to perform the role of a sonographer. They offer the primary eligibility pathway and the post primary eligibility pathway. You can earn credentials in:

    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
    • Nuclear Medicine Technology
    • Radiation Therapy
    • Radiography
    • Sonography
    • Vascular Sonography

You must have an associate’s degree or higher and completed an ARRT-approved educational program in the same discipline as the credential you are pursuing. There is an ethics requirement as well as an exam.

Hear from an Industry Expert

Industry Pathway:  Ultrasound Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Melinda Brillhart, EdD, RDMS, RVT, RDCS, of Johnstown

  • Program Director and Associate Professor, Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • Awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
  • Awarded the COTC Teaching Excellence Award for the 2014-15 academic year

How do I get into this Industry?

Becoming a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer requires formal training & education. When people think about a career in sonography, they often associate ultrasound with pregnancy. A career in sonography can do so much more. Sonography involves the use of an ultrasound tool for diagnostic purposes for several different areas of the body.

COTC offers the Bachelor of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technology. The BAS incorporates the highly regarded curriculum with advanced training in special modalities, giving graduates a competitive edge in the job market. The BAS in DMS is an accelerated, three-year program.

Sonographers perform clinical assessments and a variety of ultrasound examinations, both invasive and non-invasive using highly specialized equipment.

The program has 2 distinct majors: General or Cardiovascular

In the General program, students learn how to perform a variety of examinations including:

  • Abdominal organs: liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, etc.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Breast, thyroid, prostate, etc.
  • Musculoskeletal muscles and tendons
  • Neonatal brain and pediatrics

In the Cardiovascular program, students learn how to perform a variety of examinations including:

  • Adult heart
  • Pediatric/Neonatal heart
  • EKG
  • Cerebrovascular carotid arteries and brain
  • Peripheral blood flow of vessels in arms and legs
  • Abdominal arteries and veins

What Certifications do I need in this industry?

In order to gain employment as a trained sonographer, candidates must successfully pass their national credentialing examinations to become registered. In the United States, sonographers can earn their credentials through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).

What degrees or education pathways should I take?

Interested candidates must take 2 prerequisite courses prior to applying for the sonography program: Math 140: College Algebra & PHYS 105: General Physics

Translating my military experience specifically for this industry


Entry level/mid-level experience I need for this industry

An education from an accredited college and passing the credentialing examinations are required to work as a sonographer.

How do you advance in this industry?

Once you are a sonographer, there are many opportunities to cross-train into a new sonography specialty.  For example, if you are a general sonographer, there are opportunities to cross-train into vascular sonography, OB/GYN, Breast, Musculoskeletal, and other ultrasound departments.

What are they looking for from me to communicate in an interview?

Strong customer service skills translate to strong patient-care skills. Sonographers are interested in STEM, science, technology, and math and often demonstrate high levels of intellectual curiosity.  Individuals who enjoy understanding “how things work” and “why” become the best students.

Tips and tricks to getting into this industry

The sonography program at COTC is selective admission, meaning that students are ranked by and the highest ranked students are offered a seat for admission.  The best way to prepare for a career in sonography is to maintain a high GPA (>3.4) and perform well on the entrance exam (HESI).  Sonography is a science-based program so students who are strong in mathematics, biology, chemistry, and other STEM areas are most successful.

What can I do while still in the service to prepare for this industry once I get out?

Enroll part-time at Central Ohio Technical College and complete the two pre-requisite courses. Take College Algebra one semester, then take General Physics a different semester. That way, you can still work and fulfill your job duties while taking and focusing on only one class at a time. You can also prepare and study for the entrance examination (HESI).  There are online study material and preparation books that can be used to ensure you perform well on this exam.

Remain physically fit—you might not think of ultrasound as a physical job, but sonographers work on our feet 8-10 hours a day and scanning require repetitive movements and strength.  Shoulder, back, upper arm, and grip strength is essential for daily work.

What is the work-life balance like in this industry?

Working as a sonographer is very rewarding. Most sonographers work in a hospital setting, but there are many other options including out-patient clinics, imaging centers, physician offices, urgent care centers, etc.  Anywhere there are patients, there is a need for a sonographer. Some facilities have on-call responsibilities, but most out-patient facilities are only open Monday-Friday with no on-call requirements.