An ultrasound technician is an allied health profession, and is available to most people as a highly desirable job because it tends to pay very well. Ultrasound technicians are also referred to more properly as a “diagnostic medical sonographer”. This refers specifically to the type of equipment used by these health professionals – the sonograph. Ultrasound technicians are not to be confused with ultrasound service technicians, who perform repairs on ultrasound machines. An ultrasound technician is trained to use a sonograph, which works by using a probe containing acoustic transducers to send pulses of sound into a patient’s body. Materials with different densities reflect the sound waves back in different ranges, so that it is detected as an echo, and from this, an image is formed digitally. Both two dimensional and three dimensional images can be created by using different techniques, and ultrasound technicians are trained to create both forms of images.
Ultrasound technicians are trained to use the high tech medical instrument – the sonograph – to visualize internal body structures such as organs, tendons, joints, vessels, and muscles. This is usually done at the request of a licensed medical doctor in the case of medical concerns surrounding these structures. Ultrasounds are ordered to allow doctors a closer inspection of these body structures, and to inspect them for lesions or diseases. An ultrasound technician can also specifically work with obstetricians and gynecologists, to visualize the developments of pregnancies. Ultrasound technicians who work specifically in this field are referred to as obstetric sonographers, or obstetric ultrasound technicians.
Currently, in the United States, New Mexico is the only state that regulates ultrasound technicians. However, certification examinations for ultrasound technicians are available through three different agencies: The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography; Cardiovascular Credentialing International; and American Registry of Radiological Technologists.
In order to become an ultrasound technician, one must first graduate from high school. While in high school, you must obtain grades that are adequate to gain entry into an accredited college that has a course program in diagnostic sonography. This will usually be a program that takes one and a half to two years, after which you will obtain an associate’s degree in diagnostic sonography. If you have already graduated from a four year college, then you will likely be able to gain your diagnostic sonography degree within a years time if you have filled the basic prerequisites in biology and physics. It is best to stay away from shorter programs (several weeks or half a year long) as these do not adequately prepare you. After graduating with your associate’s degree, take a certification examination, which consists of two parts – a physics section and a section on the specialty of your choice (ob/gyn, abdominal, etc.)