(7.0 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||23,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Healthcare Jobs||#12|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#22|
Is it a boy or a girl? As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you could be the one answering this or a host of other life-changing medical questions with the help of ultrasound technology. Beyond babies, sonograms are used today in a wide range of procedures ("everything that doesn't have bone and is not full of air," sonographers say), with specialities including abdominal, cardiac, and neurosonography. Skilled technicians are a vital part of ensuring a proper diagnosis. It's a job with both social and technical elements, since the name of the game is getting a patient positioned just right so that a properly calibrated machine can produce the best possible image. It's also a job that requires social savvy, since you'll be the first person nervous patients turn to for information about their condition.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment growth of 45.5 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is among the fastest rate in all healthcare jobs on our list of the Best Jobs of 2013.
According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median salary of $65,210 in 2011, and a mean hourly wage of $31.63. The best-paid 10 percent earned $90,640 annually, while the lowest-paid earned less than $44,950. Areas of the industry that pay well include outpatient care centers. Big cities also tend to compensate well—specifically, the metro areas clustered in northern California.
While there is no formal licensure process in most states (healthcare professionals can learn on the job in their hospital, for example, or pass a variety of one-year certificate programs), most employers prefer a candidate who's passed a certification exam by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), which usually requires clinical experience, a more likely component of an accredited program (the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education keeps a list of such programs). There are bachelor's programs in sonography, but most students get two-year associate's degrees, and many students already have undergraduate degrees in math or science. The curriculum includes anatomy, physiology, instrumentation, and other medical courses.
There are a host of programs that can train sonographers, although experts say employers are looking for graduates of accredited programs who’ve had vital experience in a clinical setting. "An accredited program is the way you'd like to go," says Joy Guthrie, the ultrasound supervisor and sonography program director at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif. "It's by far my strongest recommendation." She says other programs, including vocational schools, offer sonography training but don’t have the same clinical requirements that set students up to pass the ARDMS certification and provide much-needed hands-on training. "It's hard to get entry into a practice without passing the exam," she says. She also recommends staying abreast of the latest changes in sonography technology, since the field and its applications are still evolving, and says an ability to adapt to those changes will be key. "It takes a lot of critical thinking to recognize pathology and take the appropriate pictures when you see it," Guthrie says.
|Stress Level||Below Average|