What is an Ultrasound Technician?

J. Beam

An ultrasound technician is a medical professional who operates imaging equipment to obtain and record internal imaging of patients’ bodies for the purpose of helping physicians diagnose various conditions. Also known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, an ultrasound technician typically works in a hospital or independent medical facility or imaging lab. There are certain educational requirements and certification that must be obtained before an ultrasound technician can be employed, but because it is a position within the medical field, it is a job that is expected to grow faster than average through the year 2016.

A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.
A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.

People often first envision an ultrasound technician in one of their best-known roles as an obstetric sonographer. While an ultrasound technician is the professional who captures images of a pregnant woman’s developing fetus, there are many other situations where ultrasound technology is employed. For instance, other abdominal imaging such as of the gallbladder, liver, kidneys, and pancreas, is also obtained through ultrasound.

Ultrasound technicians can answer questions about anatomy, however only a doctor can deliver a diagnosis that relates to an ultrasound's findings.
Ultrasound technicians can answer questions about anatomy, however only a doctor can deliver a diagnosis that relates to an ultrasound's findings.

An ultrasound technician can obtain education and training through a few different venues, including universities offering allied health programs and vocational training institutions. Most hospitals and doctors prefer to employ technicians who have completed an accredited program. As of 2006, the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) had accredited nearly 150 training programs for diagnostic medical sonography. As of the start of 2009, licensing is not a requirement to be an ultrasound technician, but this could become a requirement in the future. However, independent certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography may be required for employment by a hospital or lab.

There are both two year and four-year degrees available in the area of diagnostic medical sonography. Specific areas of study for sonography include anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and operation of the equipment used. Training typically involves practical labs as well. In addition to role-specific medical training, students also receives training in patient relations and communication because they work directly with the patient.

Ultrasound diagnostics and tests are typically ordered and scheduled by a physician and are rarely an emergency, so an ultrasound technician employed by a hospital, doctor, or other medical facility will often have a set schedule. There could be limited instances where a technician may be required after hours or on an on-call basis.

A renal ultrasound will show abnormal masses, injuries or lesions on the kidneys.
A renal ultrasound will show abnormal masses, injuries or lesions on the kidneys.

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Discussion Comments


@anon266047: There are a number of accredited programs across the USA. Online listings are updated every few months. You can also find job listings on the site, or have job openings sent directly to your email.


I will have an ultrasound technician diploma from Pitt Community College in Greenville, S.C. Is it accredited?

And where I can get information on where I will able to work after that? I mean which countries). P.S. I'm from Europe.


SauteePan - I also wanted to say that it is important that you receive your ultrasound technician courses from an accredited school because they will help you prepare for the ARDMS licensing exam.

A lot of community colleges are accredited and are much cheaper than the ultrasound technician schools that can cost of up $40,000 for two years of training.

Some of these trade schools are not accredited which means that your education is not recognized and they will not help you prepare for the ARDMS exam.

The ultrasound technician career is a good one because the average ultrasound technician's salary is about $55,000 with some earning as much as $75,000 a year. Not too shabby for only two years of training.


Donna - I wanted to say that Miami Dade College offers ultrasound technician training which consists of one year of class work and the second year involves externships at various hospitals.

At the end of the program you can take your ARDMS exam and receive your license. This allows you more marketable options because many hospitals and medical facilities will not hire you unless you have this license.

The reason has to do with insurance reimbursements. Hospitals that have unlicensed ultrasound technicians will not get reimbursed because that is a requirement for reimbursement.

It also cuts down on potential liability lawsuits.


Whenever I hear about ultrasound technicians, I remember the scene in Juno when her stepmother says to the ultrasound tech, "Well, I'm a nail technician, and I think we both ought to stick to what we know," after she says that a teenager raising a child is a "poisonous" environment. While I have had a couple of ultrasounds for other medical problems and they've never seemed at all unprofessional to me, I still love this scene.


The difference between the two and four year programs is sometimes determined by whether you already have a Bachelor's or Associate's degree.

Either way, these programs are in very high demand and the competition is great. There are times when you might end up on a waiting list. I have noticed that a lot of the programs like it if you have completed the radiography technician program and certification first (another high-demand type of program!)

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