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.
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.
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.