As you begin exploring the right career for you, one of the things you might look for is a career in healthcare, which can provide you with the opportunity to make a difference in the world, as well as touch the lives of patients and their family members during both stressful and happy times in their lives. One essential healthcare career to consider is that of ultrasound technician.

What Is an Ultrasound Technologist?

Ultrasound technologists, also known as sonographers, are often featured on TV and in movies for their role in pregnancy care. They are there for the first heartbeat, the first picture of the baby inside the womb, or the shocking revelation that there are two babies instead of one.

While obstetric ultrasounds are one of the exams performed by ultrasound technologists, they provide much more valuable information than just a sneak peek at babies. Ultrasounds of babies in utero are just one of dozens of exams ultrasound techs can perform. Ultrasound technologists help doctors and other healthcare professionals in their quests to diagnose and rule out diseases and conditions by examining various internal organs and systems using specialized equipment.

Ultrasounds can be used to examine the heart and blood vessels, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, bladder, ovaries, uterus, eyes, breast, scrotum, thyroid, and parathyroid, as well as the spine, hips, and brain in infants. As noted previously, it can also be used to examine the fetus in pregnant patients. Additionally, ultrasound is often used to guide needles for aspirations, biopsies, injections, and drainage procedures.

What Do Ultrasound Technologists Do?

Ultrasound technologists perform sonography, or ultrasound examinations. Ultrasound exams use sound waves to produce images of structures inside the body, helping healthcare professionals identify anomalies. Unlike many other forms of diagnostic imaging, ultrasound is considered to be safe; there are no known risks to the sonographer or patient.

Daily Responsibilities

  • Preparing the exam room before each procedure, ensuring the room is clean and all the equipment and supplies needed for the procedure are set up

  • Screening each patient to ensure it is the right patient, the right exam, and the right order

  • Obtaining medical history as necessary to ensure safety

  • Describing the procedure to each patient, ensuring they know what to expect and have the opportunity to ask questions

  • Operating the sonography equipment, selecting and adjusting settings as necessary to carry out provider orders for specific ultrasound examinations

  • Communicating with providers, nurses, and other members of the team

  • Positioning the patient according to standards for the exam  

  • Obtaining required images according to the facility’s protocol and evaluating each image for quality and accuracy 

  • Determining whether to extend the scope of the exam based on findings and observations

  • Transmitting images for reading by the radiologist or physician 

  • Alerting medical staff when critical abnormalities are noted per facility policy

  • Testing, maintaining, and caring for equipment

In most settings, ultrasound technologists are trained to perform basic first aid and/or CPR in situations that warrant intervention. Additionally, ultrasound technologists must maintain strict confidentiality at all times, never sharing confidential patient information with anyone who doesn't have a right to know under stringent HIPAA guidelines. Technologists must also be compassionate and understanding, as many patients are in pain and/or worried about what possible findings will appear on their scan.

Skills Needed

The skills you need to be successful in your role as an ultrasound technologist include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Active listening to patients, family members, and colleagues—listening to understand, asking questions as appropriate, and avoiding interruption

  • Reading comprehension—the ability to read written orders, instructions, reports, and studies and understand what they mean within the context

  • Communication—talking to patients, their family members, and colleagues to effectively convey information

  • Social perceptiveness—the ability to read the patient and respond accordingly (to recognize that they feel afraid or offended, for example)

  • Critical thinking—applying reason and logic to compare alternative approaches to a problem or situation

Other important skills include monitoring, time management, instructing, and service orientation. While you can develop all of the skills you need in a quality sonography training program, it's also important that you have an interest in the field and strengths in these areas.

How to Become an Ultrasound Technologist

You can become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) in as few as two years! Here's how to get there:

  • First, you must meet the prerequisites. In order to apply to the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at The College of Health Care Professions, you must possess a high school diploma or GED, be able to read and write in English, pass the Scholastic Level Exam with a score of 21 or higher, and complete a criminal background check. Students who have criminal histories may still be eligible but must complete the Declaratory Order of Eligibility (DOE) for licensure through ARDMS and ARRT prior to enrolling and provide a copy of the form with their application.

  • Once you meet the prerequisites, you can apply to the Diagnostic Medical Sonography - AAS program. We offer an on-campus hybrid program at our Austin, Fort Worth, Northwest Houston, McAllen, and Northwest San Antonio campuses.

  • Participate in a panel interview with the sonography program acceptance committee. This gives us the opportunity to evaluate your potential placement in the program and provide feedback.

  • Be selected as a candidate for the program. There are limited openings for each class start and only a limited number of applicants will be selected and enrolled.

  • Start your education! In our program, which can be completed in as few as 96 weeks, you'll take classes that focus on providing compassionate bedside manner, communicating professionally with physicians and other medical professionals, performing examinations, maintaining ultrasound equipment, analyzing images, and more.

  • Get certified. Once you've completed your degree, you can apply to sit for the abdomen and obstetric/gynecology board exam with the ARRT or ARDMS*. Once you pass your exam, you become a certified sonographer.

    *NOTE: All CHCP DMS graduates are eligible for the ARRT. Only graduates with a bachelor's degree or graduates from a CAAHEP accredited program (Fort Worth and Austin only) are eligible to sit for the ARDMS board exam.

  • Check for specific state requirements. Some states have diagnostic imaging boards that require state registration in addition to a national certification. Texas does not have a state board. If your state requires this additional step, be sure to follow state guidelines before applying for jobs.

  • Apply for jobs. Once you meet the criteria necessary, you can start applying to begin working as a sonographer!

Whether you're in high school and thinking about your future or you graduated 20 years ago, it's never the wrong time to ask yourself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" The College of Health Care Professions is here to help you take the first step toward pursuing a future career.