What Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists Do
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests.
Most diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, work full time. Most diagnostic imaging workers are employed in hospitals, while most of the rest worked in physicians’ offices or medical and diagnostic laboratories.
How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician, Including Vascular Technologist
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require professional certification.
The median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $57,720 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $74,320 in May 2019.
Overall employment of diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the large baby-boom population ages, the need to diagnose medical conditions—such as blood clots and heart disease—will likely increase. Imaging technology is a tool used in making these diagnoses.
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Sonographers and technologists may work closely with physicians and surgeons before, during, and after procedures.
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, typically do the following:
- Prepare patients for procedures by taking their medical history and answering any questions about the procedure
- Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
- Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
- Review images or test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
- Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal images, and identify other diagnostic information
- Analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
- Record findings and keep track of patients’ records
Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating images of the body’s organs and tissues. The images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected.
Diagnostic sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The sonographer uses an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to scan parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes are then sent to an ultrasound machine, which processes them and displays them as images used by physicians for diagnosis.
The following are examples of types of diagnostic medical sonographers:
- Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen. Abdominal sonographers may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.
- Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissues. Sonography can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, the physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information that will aid doctors in making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.
- Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patient’s heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. The images obtained are known as echocardiograms. An echocardiogram may be performed either while the patient is resting or after the patient has been physically active. Cardiac sonographers also may take echocardiograms of fetal hearts so that physicians can diagnose cardiac conditions during pregnancy. Cardiac sonographers work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures.
- Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These sonographers may assist with ultrasound guidance for injections, or during surgical procedures, that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.
- Pediatric sonographers specialize in imaging children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.
- Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive sonograms to track the baby’s growth and health. Obstetrical sonographers work closely with physicians in detecting congenital birth defects.
- Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) create images of blood vessels and collect data that help physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow. Vascular technologists often measure a patient’s blood pressure and the volume of blood in their arms, legs, fingers, and toes in order to evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries or blood clots in the body.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians create images and conduct tests involving the heart and lungs. The following are examples of types of cardiovascular technologists and technicians:
- Cardiovascular invasive specialists, also known as cardiac catheterization technologists or cardiovascular technologists, monitor patients’ heart rates and help physicians in diagnosing and treating problems with patients’ hearts. They assist with cardiac catheterization, which involves threading a catheter through a patient’s artery to the heart. They also prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery and during the insertion of pacemakers and stents. Technologists prepare patients for procedures by shaving and cleansing the area into which the catheter will be inserted and by administering topical anesthesia. During the procedure, they monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate.
- Cardiographic or electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians specialize in EKG testing. EKG machines monitor the heart’s performance through electrodes attached to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. The tests can be done while the patient is at rest or while the patient is physically active. For a stress test, the patient walks on a treadmill and the technician gradually increases the speed to observe the effect on the heart of increased exertion.
- Pulmonary function technologists, also known as cardiopulmonary technologists, monitor and test patients’ lungs and breathing. For example, they use spirometry to measure the amount of air that a patient can inhale or exhale. These technologists help physicians in diagnosing and treating problems of the pulmonary system.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians held about 57,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of cardiovascular technologists and technicians were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||79%|
|Offices of physicians||12|
|Outpatient care centers||3|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||2|
Diagnostic medical sonographers held about 74,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of diagnostic medical sonographers were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||61%|
|Offices of physicians||21|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||11|
|Outpatient care centers||4|
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, complete most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms. They may perform procedures at patients’ bedsides. Diagnostic imaging workers may be on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are ill or disabled.
Most diagnostic imaging workers work full time. Some may work evenings, weekends, or overnight because they work in facilities that are always open.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists.
For more information about diagnostic medical sonographers, visit
For more information about cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, visit
For more information about registration and certification, visit
For a current list of accredited education programs in diagnostic medical sonography and cardiovascular technology, including vascular technology, visit
For a career video on cardiovascular technologists and technicians, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm (visited ).