Ultrasound Technician/Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

An ultrasound technician, or a diagnostic medical sonographer, creates images called ultrasounds or sonograms. Sonography uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of your body. There are many different types of ultrasounds and many different types of ultrasound technicians.

What is an ultrasound technician?

An ultrasound technician, or a diagnostic medical sonographer, is a healthcare provider that uses a special medical instrument to produce images of the inside of your body. Medical sonographers work closely with physicians and other healthcare providers who look at the images to assess and diagnose medical conditions.


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What does an ultrasound technician do?

Ultrasound technicians specialize in creating images called ultrasounds or sonograms. Sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your body’s organs and tissues. A sonographer scans parts of your body with a medical instrument called a transducer. The transducer sends out pulses of sound that bounce back, which cause echoes. The echoes form an image of the inside of your body on the sonographer’s computer screen.

In addition to operating the transducer to get the images, ultrasound technicians have many other responsibilities, including:

  • Profiling you, by checking your prior exams.
  • Preparing the exam room and maintaining the imaging equipment.
  • Preparing you for the procedure by explaining what’s going to happen and answering any questions you may have.
  • Getting you set up in the proper position for imaging.
  • Reviewing the images to check for quality and coverage of the areas needed.
  • Analyzing the imaging results for abnormalities and providing a summary of their findings to your radiologist.
  • Recording their findings and keeping track of your medical records.

Types of diagnostic medical sonographers

Diagnostic medical sonographers may specialize in different parts of your body. The different types of medical sonographers include:

Abdominal sonographers

An abdominal sonographer specializes in taking images of your abdominal cavity and surrounding organs, including your liver, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder and spleen. Abdominal sonographers may also help during biopsies and other types of exams that need ultrasound guidance.

Breast sonographers

A breast sonographer specializes in taking images of your breast tissue. They look for and confirm the presence of tumors or cysts that you or your healthcare provider may have found during an exam, mammogram or breast MRI. Breast sonographers also help with procedures that track tumors. They can assist your provider by providing information that will help them in making decisions about your treatment options, too.


A neurosonographer specializes in taking images of your brain and nervous system. They examine the area using a different type of medical instrument called a transcranial Doppler, which uses special beam shapes and frequencies. Neurosonology and neuroimaging are other names for this type of sonography.

Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers)

A cardiac sonographer, or an echocardiographer, specializes in taking images of your heart (echocardiogram). They look at your heart’s vessels, chambers and valves. Cardiac sonographers may also perform echocardiograms of fetal hearts, helping healthcare providers diagnose heart conditions during pregnancy.

Musculoskeletal sonographers

A musculoskeletal sonographer specializes in taking images of the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments throughout your body. They may also help with ultrasound guidance during surgical treatments or for injections that deliver medication directly to affected tissues.

Pediatric sonographers

A pediatric sonographer specializes in taking images of babies and children. They frequently take images associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may assist and work closely with pediatricians and other healthcare providers.

Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers

An obstetric and gynecologic sonographer specializes in taking images of the female reproductive system. They take many sonograms that evaluate a pregnant person’s health and track a fetus’s growth. This is the type of ultrasound many people think of when they hear the term “ultrasound” or “sonogram.”

Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers)

A vascular technologist, or vascular sonographer, specializes in taking images of your blood vessels, including your veins and arteries. They also collect data that help healthcare providers diagnose diseases that affect blood flow. Vascular technologists frequently study your blood flow and detect blood clots or blocked arteries.

How do you become an ultrasound technician?

There are several ways to become a diagnostic medical sonographer. The most common way is through an accredited two-year ultrasound technician program, where you’ll earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. Some people get a four-year Bachelor of Science degree focusing on sonography. There are also one-year certificate programs in sonography for people who have training in another healthcare field.

Two- and four-year ultrasound technician programs include classes in:

  • Biology.
  • Chemistry.
  • Anatomy.
  • Physiology.
  • Physics.
  • Medical terminology.

You’ll also take classes related to your chosen sonography specialty.

After you earn your degree, you’ll take an exam to get certified through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Certain sonography specialties require additional exams and certifications.

How long does it take to become an ultrasound technician?

You can become an ultrasound technician through a two-year associate ultrasound technician program.


What is the average salary of an ultrasound technician?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of an ultrasound technician was $77,740 in 2021.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

When you hear the word “ultrasound,” you may be thinking of someone who is pregnant and whose healthcare provider is looking at their fetus on a computer monitor. While that’s one common type of ultrasound, there are many more. An ultrasound technician, or diagnostic medical sonographer, can produce internal images of many different parts of your body. They work with doctors and other healthcare providers to help them assess and diagnose health conditions.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/05/2023.

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