Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: What They Do and Salary


diagnostic medical sonographer

Diagnostic imaging workers operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians diagnose patients. Sonographers may work with physicians and surgeons.

What Do Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Do?

  • 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.

See the ARDMS Job Board

Types of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

There are many types of diagnostic medical sonographers including those who take images of fetuses.

There are a few types of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

Abdominal Sonographers

They 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

They 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)

These workers 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

They 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

They specialize in imaging children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image involve premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.

Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonographers

They 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.

Other Titles for Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

  •  Cardiac Sonographer
  • Cardiac/Vascular Sonographer
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Medical Sonographer
  • Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)
  • Sonographer
  • Staff Sonographer
  • Ultrasonographer
  • Ultrasound Technician (Ultrasound Tech)
  • Ultrasound Technologist (Ultrasound Tech)

Where Do Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Work?

Diagnostic medical sonographers held 72,790 jobs as of May 2019. The largest employers of diagnostic medical sonographers were:

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 43,830
Offices of Physicians 15,630
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories 7,660
Outpatient Care Centers 2,860
Employment Services 750
BLS.gov

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.

How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require professional certification.

Education

Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular and vascular technology. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.

Many diagnostic medical sonographers earn an Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which takes 24 months. A Bachelor of Science program will take approximately four years to complete.

Employers typically prefer graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Find CAAHEP accredited programs in your state.

Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular education programs usually include courses in:

  • anatomy
  • medical terminology
  • applied sciences

Most sonography programs are divided into the specialized fields listed earlier that correspond to the relevant certification exams, such as abdominal sonography or breast sonography.

Cardiovascular and vascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures.

In addition to requiring classroom study, most programs include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.

High school students who are interested in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiovascular technology, or vascular technology should take courses in:

  • anatomy
  • physiology
  • physics
  • math

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most diagnostic imaging workers need to have their professional certification or earn their certification shortly after being hired. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work.

Certification is available from:

Diagnostic imaging workers can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program, although candidates also may qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience.

All candidates must pass an exam.

Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging; for example, a sonographer can earn a certification in abdominal sonography.

Most diagnostic imaging workers have at least one certification, but many earn multiple certifications.

In addition, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a basic life support (BLS) certification, which affirms that they are trained to provide CPR.

Few states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed.

What is the Salary for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?

The average annual salary for this profession was $75,780 as of May 2019. Half of all diagnostic medical sonographers in the U.S. made more than $74,320 a year as of May 2019.

Industry Hourly Average Wage Annual Average Wage 
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $36.47$75,870
Offices of Physicians $35.88$74,620
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories $33.69$70,080
Outpatient Care Centers $44.74$93,060
Employment Services $39.08$81,290
BLS.gov

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salaries for 50 States

Location # EmployedMedian Salary 2019
Hawaii170 $     103,640 
California6,650 $      98,070 
Alaska150 $      96,290 
District of Columbia160 $      94,900 
Washington1,690 $      91,630 
Oregon1,050 $      91,490 
Rhode Island270 $      89,980 
Arizona1,640 $      88,710 
Massachusetts1,860 $      86,330 
Wisconsin1,440 $      85,780 
Colorado1,260 $      85,730 
Nevada380 $      81,580 
New Hampshire250 $      81,540 
Connecticut1,010 $      80,990 
Vermont110 $      80,430 
Minnesota1,190 $      80,330 
New Jersey2,800 $      78,390 
Maryland1,530 $      78,050 
Maine330 $      77,430 
New York5,880 $      77,380 
Montana180 $      77,360 
Virginia1,700 $      76,960 
Idaho220 $      76,880 
Utah630 $      76,770 
Kansas620 $      76,560 
Illinois3,030 $      76,010 
Wyoming80 $      73,050 
Missouri1,530 $      72,320 
Delaware180 $      72,110 
Texas5,120 $      72,080 
Iowa700 $      71,530 
Indiana1,200 $      71,380 
North Dakota250 $      71,050 
Oklahoma860 $      70,440 
New Mexico500 $      69,550 
South Carolina760 $      69,190 
North Carolina2,330 $      69,100 
Florida5,380 $      67,490 
Tennessee1,570 $      66,300 
Ohio2,940 $      66,040 
Kentucky770 $      65,800 
Pennsylvania2,820 $      64,840 
Nebraska470 $      64,300 
Arkansas420 $      64,170 
South Dakota280 $      63,550 
Michigan2,660 $      62,970 
Louisiana1,110 $      62,000 
Mississippi660 $      61,550 
Georgia2,390 $      61,020 
West Virginia500 $      59,790 
Alabama1,110 $      56,570 
Puerto Rico530 $      23,600 

Job Prospects Look Fabulous

Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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, cardiovascular technologists and technicians, and vascular technologists will be in high demand to provide an alternative to imaging techniques that involve radiation.

Diagnostic imaging personnel who are certified are expected to have the best job opportunities. Those certified in more than one specialty are expected to find even greater job opportunities.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is a Good Fit For

O*NET Interest

investigative job

A diagnostic medical sonographer is an investigative occupation with secondary interests of social and realistic.

Investigative occupations work with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Social occupations work with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Personality Type

ISFP the adenturer

Adventurers, or ISFPs are artists, but they don’t need paint and canvas to make their mark. They are experts in using aesthetics, design their actions to test the oh so ordinary social convention.

While a diagnostic medical sonographer can’t break all of the rules, they can use their interpretive brilliance to make decisions regarding a potential diagnosis. These creative thinkers see potential and what ifs in everything they see.

They don’t want to be bored. ISFPs love novelty and using all of their senses in their work. With the focus on the individual patient, these observant souls don’t apply the same rules for everyone.

Get More Information

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, visit

Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

For more information about cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, visit

Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals

American Society of Echocardiography

Society for Vascular Ultrasound

For more information about registration and certification, visit

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

Cardiovascular Credentialing International

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

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Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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