Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests.
What they do
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Sonographers and technologists may work closely with physicians and surgeons before, during, and after procedures.
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, typically do the following:
- Prepare patients for procedures by taking their medical history and answering any questions about the procedure
- Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
- Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
- Review images or test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
- Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal images, and identify other diagnostic information
- Analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
- Record findings and keep track of patients’ records
Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating images of the body’s organs and tissues. The images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected.
Diagnostic sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The sonographer uses an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to scan parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes are then sent to an ultrasound machine, which processes them and displays them as images used by physicians for diagnosis.
The following are examples of types of diagnostic medical sonographers:
- Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen. Abdominal sonographers may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.
- Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissues. Sonography can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, the physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information that will aid doctors in making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.
- Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patient’s heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. The images obtained are known as echocardiograms. An echocardiogram may be performed either while the patient is resting or after the patient has been physically active. Cardiac sonographers also may take echocardiograms of fetal hearts so that physicians can diagnose cardiac conditions during pregnancy. Cardiac sonographers work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures.
- Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These sonographers may assist with ultrasound guidance for injections, or during surgical procedures, that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.
- Pediatric sonographers specialize in imaging children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.
- Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive sonograms to track the baby’s growth and health. Obstetrical sonographers work closely with physicians in detecting congenital birth defects.
- Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) create images of blood vessels and collect data that help physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow. Vascular technologists often measure a patient’s blood pressure and the volume of blood in their arms, legs, fingers, and toes in order to evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries or blood clots in the body.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians create images and conduct tests involving the heart and lungs. The following are examples of types of cardiovascular technologists and technicians:
- Cardiovascular invasive specialists, also known as cardiac catheterization technologists or cardiovascular technologists, monitor patients’ heart rates and help physicians in diagnosing and treating problems with patients’ hearts. They assist with cardiac catheterization, which involves threading a catheter through a patient’s artery to the heart. They also prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery and during the insertion of pacemakers and stents. Technologists prepare patients for procedures by shaving and cleansing the area into which the catheter will be inserted and by administering topical anesthesia. During the procedure, they monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate.
- Cardiographic or electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians specialize in EKG testing. EKG machines monitor the heart’s performance through electrodes attached to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. The tests can be done while the patient is at rest or while the patient is physically active. For a stress test, the patient walks on a treadmill and the technician gradually increases the speed to observe the effect on the heart of increased exertion.
- Pulmonary function technologists, also known as cardiopulmonary technologists, monitor and test patients’ lungs and breathing. For example, they use spirometry to measure the amount of air that a patient can inhale or exhale. These technologists help physicians in diagnosing and treating problems of the pulmonary system.
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, complete most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms. They may perform procedures at patients’ bedsides. Diagnostic imaging workers may be on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are ill or disabled.
How to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer and Cardiovascular Technologist and/or Technician, Including Vascular Technologist
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require professional certification.
Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular and vascular technology. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
Employers typically prefer graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular education programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Most sonography programs are divided into the specialized fields listed earlier that correspond to the relevant certification exams, such as abdominal sonography or breast sonography. Cardiovascular and vascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures. In addition to requiring classroom study, most programs include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.
High school students who are interested in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiovascular technology, or vascular technology should take courses in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math.
Most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Diagnostic imaging workers can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program, although candidates also may qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience. All candidates must pass an exam. Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging; for example, a sonographer can earn a certification in abdominal sonography. Most diagnostic imaging workers have at least one certification, but many earn multiple certifications.
In addition, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a basic life support (BLS) certification, which affirms that they are trained to provide CPR.
Few states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. Typically, professional certification is required for licensure; other requirements vary by state. Contact state medical boards for more information.
The median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $57,720 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,370.
Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Similar Job Titles
Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Technologist, Cardiac Catheterization Technician, Cardiac Technician, Cardiology Technician, Cardiopulmonary Technician, Cardiovascular Technician, Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT), Electrocardiogram Technician (EKG Tech), Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS), Cardiac Sonographer, Cardiac/Vascular Sonographer, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Medical Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Sonographer, Staff Sonographer, Ultrasonographer, Ultrasound Technician (Ultrasound Tech), Ultrasound Technologist (Ultrasound Tech)
Radiation Therapist, Radiologic Technologist, Respiratory Therapy Technician, Neurodiagnostic Technologist, Nuclear Medicine Technologist
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support Training Center
- Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals
- American Association for Respiratory Care
- American College of Cardiology
- American College of Sports Medicine
- American Heart Association
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- American Society of Echocardiography
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International
- Society for Vascular Ultrasound
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Magazines and Publications
- Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- American Journal of Sonography
- Radiology Today
- Ultrasound Journal
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer:
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians:
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer:
Using sound to see... like a bat's flight through darkness... that's the short way to explain the science of sonography. Diagnostic medical sonographers use special equipment to direct safe, high-frequency sound waves towards a particular part of the body. The echoes of those waves are collected and turned into moving images that reveal inner body structures. These images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds. The sonographer selects particular images, and records them for a physician to use when making a diagnosis, or for monitoring pregnancies or medical conditions. Sonographers may specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, or in a specific area of the body such as the abdomen, heart, or the circulatory system. Diagnostic medical sonographers need good interpersonal skills to calm anxious patients and explain the process in a reassuring way. Sonographers' duties include keeping patient records, adjusting and maintaining equipment, and preparing work schedules. Most work in hospitals and clinics or doctors' offices. To enter the field, credentials may be earned at either the associate's or bachelor's degree level, or by earning a one-year certificate from a college or hospital. Most employers prefer to hire sonographers with a professional certification. When a patient's condition isn't just skin-deep, diagnostic medical sonographers bring what's beneath the surface... to light.
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians:
It takes a team to accomplish the everyday miracles of modern care for heart patients. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians are essential members of that team. Technologists are trained to prepare patients and assist physicians during procedures such as cardiac catheterization and open-heart surgery. They also monitor patients’ blood pressure and heart rate. The work requires a high degree of precision and concentration, but also the ability to keep patients comfortable and ease their anxiety. The work of technicians focuses on the measurement of the electrical signals generated by the heart— called an electrocardiogram, or EKG. Technicians place sensors on the patient, and operate different machines that record the patient’s heartbeat. They also administer stress tests. Some technicians take images, known as echocardiograms, of a patient’s heart using ultrasound equipment. An associate’s degree in cardiovascular technology and certification are the most common qualifications needed for employment. The work can be stressful, but very rewarding because every hour of every day someone’s life is on the line.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org