Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers use sound waves to perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients.

Diagnostic medical sonographers use sound waves to perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients.

When they hear the word “ultrasound”, most people think of black and white images of fetuses. And it’s true that medical sonographers operate sonograph, or ultrasound, machines to examine a baby during pregnancy. However, diagnostic medical sonographers can also use ultrasound equipment to detect stones, cysts, tumors, growths, and internal injuries in various parts of the body

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree Required: Associate’s

Top 3 Skills: Precision, Communication, Comfortable with Computers and Machines

Average Starting Salary: $45,000/year

Job Description

Sonographers typically schedule visits with patients through their primary care physician or overseeing physician (during a hospital stay). Some work in specialized centers or clinics, in association with a small group of doctors. A typical visit with a patient might go like this:

  • Take down medical history, and any concerns the patient may have that day.
  • Prepare the patient for imaging, based on their area of concern
  • Conduct a thorough ultrasound of the patient, and discern what problems, if any, are present
  • Explain images to patient (if for a pregnancy ultrasound)
  • Verify that the images are thorough and clear
  • Send the images and preliminary observations to the overseeing physician
  • Record findings and copies of image-work in patient’s file.


Diagnostic medical sonographers must have an associate’s degree in diagnostic imaging or . Within a program, students often choose to specialize in abdominal, breast, joint, pregnancy or brain sonography.

Interested high school students can prepare for a degree in sonography by taking anatomy, biology, and mathematics courses.


Most employers prefer their sonographers to be certified. The process usually involves passing an exam and graduating from an accredited program. Sometimes certification may be awarded as a part of the degree, so check with schools to see if additional testing will be required.

Job Outlook: Outstanding

The BLS predicts a 44% increase in medical sonographers between the years 2010 and 2020, with greatly exceed the national average. The median pay for diagnostic sonographers in 2010 was $64,380/year, with 10% of workers earning more than $88,000.

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