Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Summary

diagnostic medical sonographers image
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special equipment to create images.
Quick Facts: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists
2014 Median Pay $62,540 per year
$30.07 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 112,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 24% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 27,600

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. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.

Work Environment

Most diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, work full time. Most diagnostic imaging workers were employed in hospitals in 2014, while most others worked in physician’s offices and 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists was $62,540 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. As imaging technology evolves, medical facilities will continue to use ultrasound to replace more invasive, costly procedures.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists Do

Diagnostic medical sonographers
Diagnostic sonographers use high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body.

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.

Duties

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, typically do the following:

  • Prepare patients for procedures by taking a patient’s 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 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 test performed when disease is suspected. Diagnostic medical sonographers may work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures. 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, physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information for making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.
  • 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 child and infant patients. 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.

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 on the 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 the ultrasound machine, which processes them and displays them as images used by physicians for diagnosis.

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians create images, conduct tests, or assist with surgical procedures involving the heart. The following are examples of types of cardiovascular technologists and technicians:

  • Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patient’s heart and use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. The images are known as echocardiograms. The echocardiogram procedure may be done while the patient is either resting or after being 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.
  • Cardiovascular invasive specialists or cardiac catheterization technologists, also known as 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 where the catheter will be inserted and administering topical anesthesia. During the procedure, they monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Cardiographic or electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians specialize in electrocardiogram (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 of increased exertion.

Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) are closely related to cardiovascular technologists and their duties are similar to those of diagnostic medical sonographers. Vascular technologists 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 to evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries. They complete noninvasive procedures using specialized ultrasound instruments or blood pressure cuffs to record information, such as the blood flow in arteries and veins, blood pressure (blood volume), oxygen saturation, and the presence of blood clots in the body. Vascular technologists may work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures.

Work Environment

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians and vascular technologists
Diagnostic imaging workers may perform procedures at patients' bedsides.

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists held about 112,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 68%
Offices of physicians 20
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 7

These workers complete most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms, but they also 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 disabled.

Work Schedules

Most diagnostic imaging workers work full time. Some may work evenings, weekends, or overnight because they work in facilities that are always open.

How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician, Including Vascular Technologist

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians and vascular technologists
Cardiovascular technologists monitor patients’ heart rates and perform and assist in the diagnosis and treatment of problems having to do with the patient’s heart.

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.

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 or hospitals.

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

Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular education programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Most sonography programs are divided into the specialized fields 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 classroom study, most programs also include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, physician’s office, or imaging laboratory.

High school students who are interested in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiovascular technology, or vascular technology should take courses in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Credentialing International.

Diagnostic imaging workers can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program and passing 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 certification, which shows they are trained to provide CPR.

Few states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. Professional certification is typically required for licensure; other requirements vary by state. Contact state medical boards for more information.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Diagnostic imaging workers must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients. They must also pay attention to the screen while scanning a patient’s body because the cues that contrast healthy areas with unhealthy ones may be subtle.

Hand-eye coordination. To get quality images, diagnostic imaging workers must be able to accurately move equipment on the patient’s body in response to what they see on the screen.

Interpersonal skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must work closely with patients. Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and they must get cooperation from the patient to create usable images.

Physical stamina. Diagnostic imaging workers are on their feet for long periods and must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.

Pay

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Diagnostic medical sonographers

$67,530

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists

$62,540

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

$54,330

Health technologists and technicians

$41,430

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $54,330 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,940.

The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $67,530 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,850.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $65,460
Offices of physicians 64,590
Hospitals; state, local, and private 61,490

Most diagnostic imaging workers work full time. Some may work evenings, weekends, or overnight because they work in facilities that are always open.

Job Outlook

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Diagnostic medical sonographers

26%

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists

24%

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

22%

Health technologists and technicians

16%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 26 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, is projected to grow 22 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As imaging technology evolves, medical facilities will continue to use ultrasound to replace more invasive, costly procedures. Ultrasound is often less expensive than other imaging technologies and is often used as a first-line tool for diagnosis. Third-party payers encourage the use of these noninvasive measures over invasive ones in order to save on costs. Diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists and technicians, and vascular technologists will continue to be needed in healthcare settings to provide an alternative to imaging techniques that involve radiation.

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.

Additionally, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Diagnostic imaging workers will continue to be needed to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.

Job Prospects

Diagnostic imaging personnel who are certified are expected to have the best job opportunities. Job opportunities increase when diagnostic imaging personnel are certified in more than one specialty.

Employment projections data for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists

112,700 140,200 24 27,600

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

29-2031 52,000 63,500 22 11,500 [XLSX]

Diagnostic medical sonographers

29-2032 60,700 76,700 26 16,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

See How to Become One $49,310
Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.

Associate's degree $72,100
Radiologic technologists

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Associate's degree $57,370
Radiation therapists

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Associate's degree $80,090

Contacts for More Information

For more information about 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

For a current list of accredited education programs in diagnostic medical sonography and cardiovascular technology, including vascular technology, visit

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

Society for Vascular Ultrasound

O*NET

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm (visited February 08, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015