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Career Profile: Ultrasound Technician

Why Is Ultrasound Technology a Job of Tomorrow?
Ultrasound technology, which is used to capture images inside the body for diagnostic purposes, will likely increase in popularity due to its quick and noninvasive nature. Unlike surgical procedures, which are costly, time consuming and require long recovery periods, ultrasound readings are relatively quick and completely painless. In addition, ultrasound technology is safer than radiation-emitting diagnostic tools like X-rays. Employment opportunities for ultrasound technicians are expected to increase 19 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for ultrasound technicians is $57,160.

What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?
Ultrasound technicians use specialty equipment to produce images of structures inside a person's body. Depending on the technician's specialty field, the equipment can be used to examine the spinal cord, developing baby, heart or abdomen, among other areas. The ultrasound equipment emits inaudible high frequency sound waves that penetrate into body tissues. It records the varying echoes of the sound waves to create an accurate picture of the patient's body. Ultrasonographers are responsible for preparing patients for the procedure in addition to performing it. They explain the procedure to the patient and make note of any conditions that are relevant to the ultrasound reading. For example, if a patient is scheduled for a cardiovascular ultrasound reading, the patient's history of heart conditions such as defects or surgeries is recorded. As the images show up on the equipment's screen, ultrasonographers examine them for evidence of abnormalities. Technicians store some of the images for the physician's records. In addition to these duties, ultrasound technicians are often also in charge of managing and maintaining the equipment they use.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become an Ultrasound Technician?
Ultrasound technicians must have at least a two-year associate degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. To gain admittance into an ultrasound program, applicants must have a high school diploma as well as a strong background in math, science and health care. The associate degree program covers such topics as anatomy, physics and equipment usage. Most of the courses cover the specialty field in which the technician is training. For example, an obstetric ultrasound technician would take classes on fetal development.