What Does a Medical Sonographer Do? (And How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 30, 2023

Published May 7, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sonography is a medical procedure that involves using sound waves to produce images of a patient's internal body parts. Medical sonographers are crucial in health care facilities because they support medical diagnoses, treatments, and monitoring procedures. By learning more about a medical sonographer's role, you can understand their purpose in health care systems and consider exploring this career path. In this article, we review, "What does a medical sonographer do?" outline how to become one, discuss the skills to develop, and discuss common questions and answers.

What does a medical sonographer do?

Learning the answer to, "What does a medical sonographer do?", can help you determine whether their role aligns with your skills and professional interests. A medical sonographer operates ultrasound equipment to record images of a patient's organs, tissues, and blood flow. Ultrasound equipment sends sound waves at high frequency. Medical sonographers typically help doctors monitor pregnancies and identify medical conditions before they become urgent. During a physical examination, they often use a probe over a specific body area. Doing this provides information on an internal body part's size, shape, and consistency during the actual examination time.

Here are other duties and responsibilities of a medical sonographer:

  • Monitoring medical examination by viewing images on a video screen

  • Making ultrasound equipment adjustments whenever required

  • Recording and processing scanned images using a camera unit connected to ultrasound equipment

  • Educating patients on medical sonography and why conducting it is essential

  • Caring for patients throughout physical examinations to ensure they're safe and comfortable

  • Preparing examination reports for physicians and updating a patient's medical records

  • Performing quality control checks on ultrasound equipment and conducting minor repairs whenever required

  • Supervising and training students and other medical sonographers

How to become a medical sonographer

Here are the steps to take if you're considering a medical sonographer career:

1. Complete medical sonography training

There are two training options to become a medical sonographer. You can earn a diploma or degree in diagnostic medical sonography or ultrasound technology from an accredited college or institute of technology. During these three- to four-year programs, you can expect to learn about medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, patient care, and ultrasound instrumentation.

Alternatively, you can complete a two- to three-year college program in an allied health field and earn a diploma. Then, you typically require one-year post-diploma training in diagnostic medical sonography. Allied health fields are disciplines aside from nursing and medicine, such as dental hygiene, audiology, and emergency medical sciences.

2. Register with regulatory bodies

Next, it's essential you join organizations that regulate medical sonography in your region. You can register with Sonography Canada, which offers a community to share ideas, experiences, and suggestions on sonography practices. Becoming a member of this organization can also help you stay updated with the field's developments, which can make you more employable. In Quebec, employers typically require you to register with L'Ordre des Technologues en Imagerie Médicale, en Radio-Oncologie, et en Électrophysiologie Médicale du Québec (OTIMROEPMQ). Alternatively, you may register with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

3. Gain work experience

Like many health care fields, it's crucial you gain relevant experience as a medical sonographer. You can consider job shadowing opportunities or volunteer work to practise your skills. While you can become a general medical sonographer, you may also specialize in:

  • Abdominal sonography: involves capturing organs and structures within a patient's abdomen

  • Cardiac sonography: involves recording images of a patient's heart to diagnose medical conditions

  • Cerebral sonography: uses sound waves to produce pictures of a patient's brand and inner fluid chambers called ventricles

  • Obstetric sonography: involves using sound waves to create images of a developing embryo or fetus in a patient's uterus

  • Gynecologic sonography: refers to the application of sound waves to a female's pelvic organs to capture images of internal body parts, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and uterus

  • Ophthalmic sonography: is an imaging technique for evaluating the eye's structures and surrounding tissues

  • Intraluminal sonography: involves using sound waves to evaluate the lumen, which is the space inside structures, such as arteries or intestines

  • Peripheral vascular sonography: is an imaging technique for examining vessels that carry blood around the body

  • Pediatric echocardiography: involves using sound waves to capture images of a child's heart

4. Engage in continuing learning

Because medical sonography is a growing field, it's essential you improve your skills and expand your knowledge. You can take the Canadian Clinical Skills Assessment (CCSA) to show you have the required skills for entry-level practice. Reading and writing articles for sonography journals and publications can also show your eagerness to contribute to the field. Participating in continuing professional education can help you advance your medical sonography career.

Read more: How to Become a Medical Sonographer (With Essential Skills)

What skills do medical sonographers require?

Here are essential skills medical sonographers use at work:

Communication

Communication skills define your ability to exchange information with others. Medical sonographers typically work with patients, radiographers, and physicians. Improving this skill can help them convey a patient's medical records to authorized personnel verbally or in writing.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail refers to your ability to be mindful and thorough at work. Developing this skill can help you capture accurate images for diagnoses. Becoming more detail-oriented can also help you write detailed reports and adjust ultrasound equipment correctly.

Read more: Attention to Detail

Time management

Time management skills describe your ability to use time well. Working as a medical sonographer typically involves meeting multiple patients daily. Using your time management skills, you can handle all patient appointments, complete the necessary paperwork, and update medical records before your workday ends.

Interpersonal

Interpersonal skills define how you interact with others. As a medical sonographer, it's essential you develop a calm and friendly demeanour to help patients feel more comfortable. Showing interpersonal skills also involves providing excellent after-care services.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to your ability to review an issue and make informed decisions. In your medical sonography role, you can expect to use this skill to form conclusions about the images from ultrasound equipment. Developing this quality can also help you use a suitable communication method to interact with different personalities you meet at work.

Technical

Technical skills are qualities you learn through practice, education, and training. For example, it's essential to learn CPR techniques and understand how to use patient management information systems. Improving your technical skills can also show your medical sonography expertise to employers.

Teamwork

Teamwork describes your ability to work with others to reach a shared goal. Medical sonographers typically work as part of a diagnostic team. They receive a doctor's request to perform diagnostic medical ultrasounds and report their findings to radiologists for interpretation.

FAQs about a medical sonographer's role

You can explore the following questions and helpful answers about working as a medical sonographer:

What is the average salary and work condition for medical sonographers?

The national average salary of a medical sonographer is $39.20 per hour. If you choose a specialization, you may negotiate and earn higher pay. Whether as a generalist or specialist, you can expect to work regular nine-to-five hours in clinics and hospitals. You may also work as an educator, application specialist, researcher, or sales representative in ultrasound equipment manufacturing firms.

What is the difference between a medical sonographer and an ultrasound technician?

While medical sonographers and ultrasound technicians both use equipment to capture internal images, you can differentiate them by training. Qualifying for a medical sonography role typically requires completing additional training and gaining more certifications than ultrasound technician positions. For example, while medical sonographers typically learn how to examine blood vessels, an ultrasound technician's training often focuses on the technical aspects of sonography. Employers may also expect sonographer candidates to join professional organizations.

Related: How Much Does an Ultrasound Technician Make? (With Skills)

What career advancement options are available to medical sonographers?

Here are other careers available to medical sonographers after gaining additional qualifications:

  • Radiologist: is a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats medical conditions using medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray

  • Health care administrator: manages staff within a facility and ensures excellent patient care

  • Biomedical engineer: applies biological and engineering principles to design, evaluate, and develop medical devices and equipment

What tips can help you get a medical sonographer role?

Here are actions you can take to increase your likelihood of getting the medical sonographer position you want:

  • Consider health care establishments that can support your long-term career goals in medical sonography.

  • Evaluate the benefits of earning more qualifications, such as an associate or bachelor's degree, to advance your career.

  • Consider exploring a generalist's role before sonography specializations to understand your options.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on a hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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