As you begin exploring the right career for you, one of the things you might look for is meaningful work. A career in healthcare provides you with the opportunity to make a difference in the world, touching the lives of patients and their family members during both stressful and happy times in their lives.

A diagnostic imaging technologist provides medical imaging, including X-rayCT, MRI, nuclear medicine, or ultrasound (sonography) in clinics and hospitals.

What Is an Ultrasound Tech?

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 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 and are just one of dozens of exams ultrasound techs can perform. Ultrasound technologists help doctors and other healthcare professionals 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 spine, hips, and brain in infants. 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 Techs 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

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

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

  • Obtain medical history as necessary to ensure safety

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

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

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

  • Position the patient according to standards for the exam  

  • Obtain required images according to facility’s protocol and evaluate each image for quality and accuracy 

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

  • Transmit images for reading by the radiologist or physician 

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

  • Test, maintain, and care for equipment

In most settings, ultrasound techs are trained to perform basic first aid and/or CPR in situations that warrant intervention. Additionally, ultrasound techs 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. Techs 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:

  • 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 - talk 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 oriented. While you should learn all of the skills you need in a quality sonography program, it's also important that you have an interest in the field and strengths in these areas.

How to Become an Ultrasound Tech

You can become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) in as little as two years! That means that just two years from today, you could be conducting an exam that finds two babies instead of one.

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 a 96-week on-campus hybrid program at our Austin, Fort Worth, Northwest Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio - North campuses.

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

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

  • Start your education! In our 96-week program, you'll learn all about providing compassionate bedside manner, communicating professionally with physicians and other medical professionals, performing examinations, maintaining ultrasound equipment, analyzing your 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 grads are eligible for the ARRT. Only grads with a bachelor's degree or grads from a CAAHEP accredited program (Fort Worth and Austin only) are eligible to sit for the ARDMS board.

  • Check for 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. You can now begin working as a sonographer!

Whether you're in high school and thinking about your future or you graduated twenty years ago, it's never the wrong time to ask yourself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Finding a career that's rewarding - both financially and in a way that fuels your spirit - should be
everyone's goal. The College of Health Care Professions is here to help you take the first step toward “future you” - the you who has letters after your name and who does things you thought you'd never do.

We know how overwhelming it can feel at first, but it's all about baby steps. And step number one is to either apply online today if you already meet the prerequisites or simply call us at 800-487-6728. We can help you take that first step.