It is 2017! Ready to choose a sonography career? The first step is researching the occupation to get an understanding of the job duties it entails day-to-day, opportunities for advancement, job openings and much more. Research should also include getting a real feel for the working lifestyle of the sonographer to ascertain the impact on the personal lifestyle. There are many ways to research an occupation, ranging from reading the government’s occupational handbook to job shadowing.
1. Identify Personal Preferences First
Rather than diving into research, the first step is thoughtful analysis of the personal requirements and expectations of an occupations. Sit quietly and think about the type of work that would be most satisfying and interesting. What are the minimum requirements? For example, is it important to pursue a career that involves working with people or one where work is done in relative solitude?
Following are some other questions to ask:
- What type of work setting is ideal, i.e. hospital, physician office, business office, educational facility, research laboratory, etc.?
- What type of work sounds most interesting, i.e. healthcare, office, sales, teaching, writing, research, etc.?
- What are the person’s skills, talents and competencies? Does challenging work requiring independent thinking sound ideal? The successful sonographer must blend good judgment with high level technical skills with success (unique responsibilities of sonographers). If someone prefers more routine work, then sonography is not a good choice of occupations.
- What personal capabilities can benefit from additional training?
- Where does the student want to live after graduation? Sonography jobs are more plentiful in metropolitan areas than they are in rural sections of the country. However, there are now numerous medical staffing agencies that contract with Diagnostic Medical Sonographers willing to travel or work temporary jobs.
After envisioning a career, the list of occupations gets considerably shorter. Professionals who chose Diagnostic Medical Sonography did so for many reasons, and some of them have very personal goals. For example, the ultrasound technician may have selected sonography as an occupation because it is involves using technology to help others with medical issues or because the majority of work is in the hospital setting. During this stage of the process, it is also important to think ahead. If the ultimate goal is to become a healthcare researcher, it is wise to select a sonography program offering a bachelor’s degree because down the road the student will want to pursue a Master’s Degree in Sonography.
Break down aspirations into specifics. If using imaging technology sounds fascinating, consider what holds the most interest. Does working in a busy hospital where the sonographer is likely to deal with a large variety of medical issues sound most appealing? If not, does specializing in a particular area and becoming an expert sound better? If so, the student will want to choose a sonography education program that prepares her or him to take the ARDMS specialty exam. There are many “ifs” during this stage of the process.
2. Research the Occupation
The Ultrasound Technician Center offers in-depth information on how to become a sonographer, the educational process and the work environment. There are other resources.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ digital “Occupational Outlook Handbook” is a convenient resource. It is easy to access at here. The handbook offers detailed information on the work environment, how to become a sonographer, the job outlook for sonographers, typical work and average salaries. Another good source of information is the O*Net Online site at here.
The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are two examples of organizations providing valuable information.
Colleges, Universities and Technical Schools
Every post-secondary facility has a career center or a career counselor. Go to the list of CAAHEP accredited programs developed by the Ultrasound Technician Center and find telephone numbers, contact names and website links. Contact the nearest schools and request an appointment with the career counseling center staff.
Books and other online career resources
There are numerous career guides available. The hardcover “New Guide for Occupational Exploration” is a great resource for occupational research.
It is important to prepare a list of questions before talking to a career counselor. The student will want to ask about the typical work, the percent of graduates finding employment, if high school coursework was adequate for entering a sonography program and any other questions that help with making a career decision. Each person is different. The specific job duties are easily researched online, but what the student really needs to find out is what the work is like in the real world and the career progression the student can pursue.
3. Research the Real-World Life of a Sonographer
Talking to a career counselor is important, but even more beneficial is talking to a sonographer who is talking the talk and walking the walk, so to speak. If someone does not personally know a sonographer, a little assertiveness can go a long way. For example, call the local hospitals or imaging clinics and ask if they know a sonographer who would share their personal experience. Ask a personal physician, who is likely to have many professional connections, if she or he can make the connection. In other words, do not be shy! If a local medical facility will allow job shadowing, it is a great way to actually see a sonographer at work.
4. Take a Broader Look at the Occupation
Thoroughly researching an occupation includes understanding how it fits within an industry. Sonography is included in the healthcare industry and the medical imaging industry. However, the skills learned as a sonographer could be applied in other non-medical industries, like the food or manufacturing industries. Sonographers are also working in commercial R&D laboratories, helping them develop new products as equipment or supplies.
Though medical sonography is dedicated to medical services, it is always good to understand how an occupation meshes in the broader ultrasound imaging industry. Browsing the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine’s online Industry Buyers Guide is an excellent way of learning the many ways ultrasound is applied through new services and products across industries.
5. Imagine a Variety of Scenarios
Life routinely presents challenges. One thing not often discussed is this: What if things do not go as planned? Ask these kinds of questions during the research process:
- Sonographers must work some weekends. It that a problem in view of family obligations or other restrictions?
- Some sonographers start their careers as part-time professionals in the hope of getting a full-time position at the local medical facility. Will the part-time income be sufficient?
- What if there are no positions available in the home location after earning ARDMS registration? Can the sonographer pursue other options, like moving to a new location or returning to school to add a sonography specialty or earn a compatible degree?
The more a person researches an occupation, the more likely the right decision will be made. Though not mentioned in this discussion, there are all kinds of career and skills assessment tools available. Anyone who decides to pursues a degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography should do so with full knowledge of what the future can hold and how the career will fit the person’s lifestyle. Getting it right the first time is always the best option.