Employment Outlook for Sonography Technologists and Ultrasound Technicians
The outlook for employment for sonography technologists, including ultrasound technicians, is expected to be faster than average. The field is experiencing rapid growth. One obvious sign of this growth is the industry’s transition from the job title Ultrasound Technician to the broader job title Sonography Technologist or Sonographer. Both jobs are rooted in the same principles, but Sonography Technologist reflects the growing variety of jobs and specialties in the ultrasound imaging field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of medical sonographers is expected to increase by about 18% through 2018 which is faster than the average for all occupations. The reason for this explosion in the demand for sonography services is the increasing age of the U.S. population. Also, due to the increasing cost of imaging services, it is expected that healthcare providers will utilize ultrasound imaging as a safer and more cost-effective alternative to ionizing radiation examinations. Innovative changes in ultrasound imaging technology is expected, which may provide ways to examine body areas that were not previously accessible. Changes in equipment design that focuses on smaller, hand-held sonography imaging devices will also permit examinations to be performed in geographic areas that might not have previously been possible. All of these factors – aging population, the cost-effectiveness of sonography vs. other examinations, and advances in ultrasound technology – are leading to an increased demand for medical sonographers.
Hospitals have traditionally been the principal employer of sonography technologists. But with innovative design changes in sonography imaging equipment and less expensive sonography systems, it is expected that the use of sonography will increase in doctors’ offices and in medical and diagnostic laboratories. Healthcare reform and other changes in the way medical care is reimbursed are expected to drive healthcare toward outpatient services. Thus, the need for highly skilled professionals such as sonographers is expected to increase in outpatient healthcare organizations, meaning there will be more jobs for sonographers, and those jobs will increasingly be outside of hospitals.
The outlook for job opportunities for sonographers is expected to remain favorable. This comes from job openings due to increasing demand for ultrasound imaging examinations but also from jobs that arise from the need to replace sonographers who leave the occupation, retrain for other careers, or retire.
Unique Sonography Jobs
Sonographers who make a career out of taking temporary jobs, whether the U.S. or overseas, are referred to as “travelers” or “traveling techs.” Although each story about a traveling tech is different, all travelers have some common traits. The number one commonality is that they enjoy traveling, seeing new places and working with diverse people. Travelers love adventure and adapting to new environments and work conditions. Flexibility is essential for success in traveling medical sonography jobs, as some assignments may last longer than the usual three-month term. Often, a traveling sonographer holds several certifications, such as sonography, radiography and computed tomography. By having multi-modality certification, sonography technologists who want to travel can sometimes pick the prime locations, like Hawaii or a spot at the beach in Florida or California. A disadvantage of being a traveling sonographer, for some, might be the time spent away from family and friends.
Mobile sonography jobs are available for those who have the requirements to fulfill the obligations of the position. Holding down a job as a mobile sonographer often requires the technologist to drive the van, secure the van on location, and transport the patient to the van (when the sonography machine is installed on the van). Some mobile sonographers use portable sonography machines that are rolled off of the van and into a nursing home, clinic or a patient’s home. Patients confined to a nursing home, assisted living facility and or their own home often need a sonography examination, however, they cannot be transported to a hospital or radiology clinic. Portable sonography equipment that is transported via a van to the patient is the solution to such dilemmas.
Bedside sonography typically refers to imaging examinations performed while the patient is in a bed or confined to a hospital room, intensive care unit or cardiac-care unit. Mobile sonography examinations have proven useful in hospital settings (emergency room, surgery and bedside) when the patient’s condition does not permit transport to the imaging department. In the battlefield, during war and conflict, mobile sonography equipment has served the imaging needs of wounded soldiers. The clinical and environmental challenges that confront technologists in performing mobile ultrasound sonography require creative adaptation in routine positioning and selection of technical exposure factors. The need for unique adaptations in positioning and technical factors, additional projections in mobile sonography poses challenges to even the most experienced technologist.
Job Advancement in Medical Sonography
The potential for job advancement in sonography imaging is virtually unlimited, especially for those willing to accept new challenges and expanded roles within healthcare organizations. One way to gain advancement in medical imaging is to obtain competency in more than one specialty. After completing initial education and certification, most sonographers are generalists, meaning that they have not specialized in one particular area of ultrasound imaging. One avenue for a general sonographer to advance on the job is to seek additional training in breast ultrasound and to take the competency examination to gain certification status. By being both a generalist and a breast-imaging specialist, sonographers can broaden his or her job opportunities and increases their marketability. Others may find advancement by becoming qualified in sonography specialty areas that are rapidly growing. Employment of cardiovascular sonography technologists is expected to increase 24% through the year 2019, which is much faster than average. This rapid increase will most likely outpace the number or qualified cardiovascular sonography technologists creating a vast employment opportunity.
Also, sonographers may through training acquire multiple credentials. For example, being both a registered radiologic technologist and a registered sonographer increases one’s value to potential employers who might be trying to ensure coverage for several imaging areas within the hospital or clinic. Assuming additional responsibility within the imaging department is another way to gain job advancement. Supervisory, managerial, and administrative positions with the healthcare organization are a pathway to advancement for sonography technologists. Sonography technologists may also find employment in sonography training programs as instructors or supervisors overseeing the clinical instruction of students.