Those interested in sonography as a career choice should thoroughly consider the advantages and disadvantages of working in this field. Some positive aspects already mentioned in the Ultrasound Salary Section include the fact that sonographers are among the highest paid professionals for whom a two-year degree is commonly accepted. After only two years of educational expenses, sonographers graduate to find that their services are in demand and that starting salaries are generous enough to justify the investment in a college education and to enable them to pay back any student loans they received.
Other advantages have also been touched on including strong demand for workers in this sector in future, job security, good benefit packages, the opportunity for ultrasound career development and the satisfaction of helping patients as part of a dedicated team of health care professionals. Career development choices for interested and qualified sonographers can include specialization, administration, research and teaching as well as acquiring credentials in related healthcare fields. Furthermore, the high demand for sonographers spans many regions of the U.S. and the rest of the world, so sonographers have a high degree of potential mobility and need not fear being unemployed if they move to new locations.
Is ultrasound technician career a good career for working mothers? The combination of a good salary, generous benefits and flexible scheduling options are attractive considerations. Being able to take time off for a sick child or schedule work hours during the school day, for example, results in greater job satisfaction and lower stress because the constant challenge of balancing work and family life is less acute than in some other kinds of jobs. For some single people, the option in many settings to work evening and weekend hours lets them avoid rush-hour commutes and is another way in which flexibility and variety in scheduling is a potential benefit.
Men interested in becoming sonographers may wish to know that 85 to 90 percent of sonographers are women. This can present a disadvantage to men insofar as many female patients prefer a female sonographer for breast, abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds. However, some male patients likewise may prefer a male sonographer for some procedures although others are comfortable having women administer their ultrasounds. Gender is less of a concern in some ultrasound specialties that involve areas of the body for which modesty may not be an issue for either men or women.
Despite the many advantages to a sonography career, significant risks to sonographers exist that need to be acknowledged in any balanced discussion. Sonography is physically demanding and involves repetitive and sometimes awkward motions that result in a higher rate of pain and occupational injury than is seen in many other professions. Despite efforts by professional organizations and government to address this issue, a 2009 survey of sonographers indicated that almost 90% of them work in pain and that the number of musculoskeletal injuries has risen. Cases of pain and musculoskeletal injury occur most often in the shoulder, neck, wrist, hands and fingers, and upper back. Some of these sonographer injuries are serious enough to cause ultrasound technicians to leave the profession, adding to staffing shortages and the workloads of those remaining.
Sonographers entering the profession today can lower their likelihood of future ultrasound injury by ensuring that their college education and clinical training includes the most up-to-date information on safe scanning techniques and practices. They need to take the risk seriously and not choose to ignore pain or work through it, and they need to follow all new safety recommendations and guidelines that arise over the course of their careers.