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Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician

Job Outlook: 14% (Much faster than average)

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What Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians Do About this section

Diagnostic medical sonographer looking at an image on a computer
Diagnostic medical sonographers use high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body.

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians operate special equipment to create images or conduct tests. They work closely with physicians and surgeons, who view the images and test results to assess and diagnose medical conditions.

Duties

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Prepare patients by explaining the procedure to them and answering their questions
  • Prepare exam rooms and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
  • Properly situate patients for imaging
  • Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
  • Review images or test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
  • Analyze results for abnormalities and other diagnostic information and provide a summary of findings to physicians
  • Record findings and keep track of patients’ records

Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating images, known as sonograms or ultrasounds, that depict the body’s organs and tissues. Sonography is often the first imaging test performed when disease is suspected.

Sonography uses high-energy sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The sonographer uses an instrument called a transducer to scan parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes form an image on a computer that physicians use for diagnosis.

The following are examples of types of medical sonographers:

  • Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen. Abdominal sonographers may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.
  • Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissue. Sonography can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, the physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information that will aid physicians in making decisions about treatment options for breast cancer patients.
  • Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patient’s heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. An echocardiogram may be performed either while the patient is resting or after the patient has been physically active. Cardiac sonographers also may take echocardiograms of fetal hearts so that physicians can diagnose cardiac conditions during pregnancy.
  • Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These sonographers may assist with ultrasound guidance for injections, or during surgical procedures, that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.
  • Pediatric sonographers specialize in imaging of children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.
  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. For example, many pregnant women receive sonograms to track the baby’s growth and health.
  • Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) create images of blood vessels and collect data that help physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow. Vascular technologists often evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries or blood clots.

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians create images and conduct tests involving the heart and lungs. The following are examples of types of cardiovascular technologists and technicians:

  • Cardiovascular invasive specialists, also known as cardiac catheterization technologists or cardiovascular technologists, monitor patients’ heart rates and help physicians in diagnosing and treating heart problems. They assist with cardiac catheterization, which involves threading a catheter through a patient’s artery to the heart. They also prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery and during insertion of pacemakers, defibrillators, and stents. Technologists may prepare patients for procedures by shaving and cleansing the area into which the catheter will be inserted and by administering topical anesthesia. During the procedure, they monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Cardiographic or electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians specialize in EKG testing. EKG machines monitor the heart’s performance through electrodes attached to a patient’s chest, arms, and legs. Tests record heart metrics while the patient is at rest or is physically active, such as walking on a treadmill.
  • Pulmonary function technologists monitor and test patients’ lungs and breathing. For example, they use a spirometer to measure how much and how fast patients can inhale or exhale. These technologists help physicians in diagnosing and treating problems of the pulmonary system.

Work Environment About this section

Diagnostic medical sonographer working with a patient
Diagnostic medical sonographers may perform procedures at patients' bedsides.

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians held about 58,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of cardiovascular technologists and technicians were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 76%
Offices of physicians 11
Outpatient care centers 3
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 1

Diagnostic medical sonographers held about 82,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of diagnostic medical sonographers were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 57%
Offices of physicians 23
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 10
Outpatient care centers 4

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians complete most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms. They may need to stand for long periods and to lift or turn patients who are ill or disabled.

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians work as part of a healthcare team that includes physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and respiratory therapists.

Work Schedules

Most diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians are full time, although part-time work is common. Because they may work in medical facilities that are always open, they may have shifts that include evenings, weekends, or overnights.

How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician About this section

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians and vascular technologists
Cardiovascular education programs typically include a clinical component in which students work in a medical facility.

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians typically need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Employers may require or prefer that workers have  certification.

Education

High school students who are interested in medical sonography or cardiovascular technology should take classes in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math. EKG technicians may qualify for entry-level jobs with a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular technology. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.

Sonography and cardiovascular education programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Instruction in sonography programs generally  corresponds to the relevant certification field, such as abdominal sonography or breast sonography. Cardiovascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive procedures. Programs also typically include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under the direction of an experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Employers may prefer to hire diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians who have professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. For payment purposes, insurance providers and Medicare may stipulate that a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician perform certain procedures. Certification is available from several organizations, such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

All diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians must pass an exam to earn certification. To sit for the exam, eligibility requirements vary and may include graduating from an accredited program or a combination of education and experience. Certifications are typically for specialties in diagnostic imaging; for example, a sonographer may earn a certification in areas such as abdominal, breast, or pediatric sonography.

In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have basic life support (BLS) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

States may require diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians to be licensed. Typically, certification is required for licensure; other requirements vary by state. Contact state medical boards for more information.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians work closely with patients, including those who may be in pain, and must be able to explain the procedure in an understandable way. They also must convey information clearly when discussing images with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.

Detail oriented. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients. They also must pay attention to the images they produce, because healthy and unhealthy areas may be subtle.

Hand–eye coordination. To get quality images, diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians must accurately move equipment on the patient’s body in response to what they see on the screen.

Physical stamina. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians stand for long periods and must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.

Pay About this section

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2021

Diagnostic medical sonographers

$77,740

Medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians

$75,380

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

$60,570

Health technologists and technicians

$46,910

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $60,570 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,070.

The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $77,740 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,650.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $78,590
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 74,660
Offices of physicians 62,220
Hospitals; state, local, and private 60,230

In May 2021, the median annual wages for diagnostic medical sonographers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $100,990
Hospitals; state, local, and private 77,770
Offices of physicians 77,760
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 76,430

Most diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians are full time, although part-time work is common. Because they may work in medical facilities that are always open, they may have shifts that include evenings, weekends, or overnights.

Job Outlook About this section

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Diagnostic medical sonographers

15%

Medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians

10%

Health technologists and technicians

7%

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Overall employment of diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 10,100 openings for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Projected employment of diagnostic imaging workers varies by occupation (see table). As the large baby-boom population continues to age, the need to diagnose medical conditions that affect older adults—such as blood clots and heart disease—will likely increase. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians use imaging technology as a tool to help physicians diagnose these conditions. Moreover, these workers will continue to be needed in healthcare settings to provide an alternative to imaging techniques that involve radiation.

Employment projections data for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians

140,400 155,200 10 14,700

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians

29-2031 58,100 60,800 5 2,700 Get data

Diagnostic medical sonographers

29-2032 82,300 94,400 15 12,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, visit

Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals

American Society of Echocardiography

Society for Vascular Ultrasound

Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

For more information about certification, visit

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

Cardiovascular Credentialing International

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

For a current list of accredited education programs in medical sonography and cardiovascular technology, visit

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

CareerOneStop

For a career video on cardiovascular technologists and technicians, visit

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

For a career video on diagnostic medical sonographers, visit

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

O*NET

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

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