Some of the other articles in Ultrasound Technician Careers and Jobs have touched upon possible ways to advance an ultrasound career. This article presents a list of career path options in greater detail so that sonographers can better understand how the ultrasound jobs they choose and the attitudes they adopt might contribute to successful long-term career development.
A Professional Approach
Regardless of specialty or career path, successful ultrasound careers involve adopting the right attitude to the work. For young college graduates and mid-life career changers alike, the temptation exists to simply do the job as trained and earn a salary. For those with student debt and expenses to pay down, having a steady income and stable employment may feel like everything they could possible wish for. However, sonography is a dynamic and evolving field with rigorous standards and a crucial role to play in the health and treatment of millions of patients. Viewed from this perspective, all sonographers, whether new or experienced, would be better served by regarding themselves as professionals rather than merely as workers. By doing so, they enter into a commitment with themselves, their health care teams and their patients to acquire and maintain credentials, engage in career-long learning, participate in professional societies, read about and participate in the latest research and, most of all, set the highest standards for every ultrasound procedure they complete. Furthermore, sonographers with high professional standards can look forward to frequent promotion and other career rewards. | See Job Openings
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Part of adopting a professional attitude from the outset is to complete all requirements for ultrasound certification as quickly as possible after finishing an ultrasound education program so that the sense of being a professional is present even in the first job. Many diagnostic medical sonographers begin as practicing ultrasound technicians and continue clinical work throughout their ultrasound technician careers, working in hospitals, outpatient facilities, imaging centers and other similar settings. They may become departmental heads and take on administrative duties as well as clinical work, or perhaps acquire a number of specialty certifications or related qualifications. Career advancement may also involve becoming full time administrators or managers in healthcare settings or switching to education, research or the commercial sector. | See Job Openings
Ultrasound educators work in colleges, universities and clinical hospital settings to prepare the next generation of ultrasound technicians. Although initial compensation may be lower than for clinical jobs, those who advance enjoy good salaries, benefits and job security. Ultrasound teachers need a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree depending on their position and are expected to keep abreast of new research and developments in the field. While teaching, networking and communication skills come to the forefront, sonography educators risk losing clinical skills and may need to look for opportunities to maintain their scanning technique. Academic pressure to publish, present lectures and serve on committees may add to job challenges, although the camaraderie and creative involvement with students and faculty can be rewarding. | See Job Openings
About one percent of ultrasound professionals eventually become research sonographers, typically after seven years or more working as clinical sonographers. Their average salaries are above $60,000 annually and for this they are expected to design and carry out research studies and regularly publish and present their findings in such topic areas as pathophysiology, equipment advances, scanning technique and other important aspects of the field. Research sonographers often collaborate with scientists and can look forward to experiencing job satisfaction and professional recognition as a result of their contributions to the field of sonography. Some researchers without formal academic research positions may work as clinical trial specialists or consultants on a per Diem basis. | See Job Openings
Ultrasound Application Specialist
Sonographers who enjoy training and supporting other professionals and who have an interest in the technical aspects of ultrasound machines itself may choose to become an ultrasound application specialist. Responsibilities may include supporting company sales representatives, demonstrating ultrasound products to customers, overseeing after-sales installations, attending trade shows and conferences, and providing education and training in equipment use. Ultrasound career paths in commercial sales, marketing and management may be open to ultrasound application specialists and can lead to sales bonuses and corporate benefits in addition to a salary. Those interested in this option should decide if travel, limited scanning time, irregular hours and varied work environments would be a good fit. | See Job Openings
Self-employed sonographers who work on contract or per Diem were mentioned in an earlier article Sonography Technician Salary Overview. Another ultrasound business path available to entrepreneurial sonographers is to become an independent sales representative associated with an ultrasound distributor or dealer. Certain personality types seem to thrive as entrepreneurs despite the uncertainties and responsibilities of running a business. They are organized, self-motivated, confident, and enjoy the competitive atmosphere of business. They benefit from having both clinical experience and a commercial background where they may have established a strong network of contacts in the ultrasound community. They enjoy meeting people and providing excellent service to their customers as they sell the latest in ultrasound technology.