The health industry includes a number of professions that vary widely in their educational needs and salary. Some require only a study of a few months but pay relatively low wages. Others, such as doctors, study for more than a decade but are compensated with a six-figure income. Ultrasound technicians are between these extremes, enjoying the comfortable income, while they usually reach the profession with only a two-year diploma.
A diploma in ultrasound usually lasts two years. The first year of these programs usually includes math, written communications and a selection of courses in science, including physics and biology. The second-year covers human anatomy and physiology, ultrasound physics and an introduction to various disciplines within ultrasound, such as fetus or vascular images. The programs also include practical clinical experience in a supervised environment. There are one-year certification programs for people who already have degrees in science or health professionals who work in related fields, such as radiology. These programs provide training focused on ultrasound, similar to the second year of a diploma.
Although it is possible to enter the ultrasound profession with only one diploma, the most ambitious sonographers opt for the best education, offered by a four-year degree. The bachelor’s degrees provide two full years of education in basic sciences, as well as additional and optional courses in communications, administration and information technology. The third and fourth year involves theoretical and clinical instruction in all major specialities within the profession, such as neuro sonography, echocardiography and obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound. A bachelor’s degree can give ultrasounds more attractive in terms of employers, and improve both the prospects for progress and those of income.
According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ultrasound is one of the highest-paid professions available for those with a diploma. In May 2011, the office reported an average income of US $ 65,800 per year for sonographers. Broken down into percentiles, the lowest 25% revenue reported revenue of up to the US $ 53,830 per year. The average was US $ 65,210, and 25% with the best salary earned the US $ 76,060, or more. A 2010 study of salaries done by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists reported an average salary of US $ 66,247 annually for beginning ultrasounds, US $ 72,010 for senior sonographers and the US $ 79,640 for supervisors. The average for sonographers with a bachelor’s degree was the US $ 69,106 per year.
The BLS projects substantial growth for most health professions between 2010 and 2020. Sonographers can expect strong employment prospects, even by health care standards. The bureau predicts an increase of 44% in the demand of sonographers in this decade, much faster than the average for the rest of the occupations. Ultrasound is an attractive option for doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics, which requires smaller and less expensive equipment than many other technologies. This expansion of ultrasound from hospitals to smaller centres represents a large part of the growth in employment in the field.