Career: Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Career requires only an associate’s degree. It pays about $70K

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Would you like a career in a medical field that requires an associate’s degree but starts at around a $70,000 salary in the Rochester area?

Consider becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer — or a technician who takes ultrasound images for physicians.

In addition to a healthy return on investment, the career offers a job outlook of 17 percent growth from 2016 to 2026, considered “much faster” than other jobs by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Chelsea Pino, sonographer with University of Rochester Medical Center, works mostly in the children’s hospital. She had always wanted to work in a medical field and after shadowing a sonographer, she realized it was the right fit for her.

“I like the availability of options,” she said.

Many people stereotypically picture the sonographer as the person who takes ultrasounds of their baby before birth; however, the career has many other options, too.

Sonographers work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and non-medical boutiques that offer sonography sessions for families to “meet” their new baby before birth (although this sub-specialty isn’t diagnostic in nature). The medical specialties include vascular, ophthalmology, cardiac, pediatric and many more.

Pino believes that attention to detail, personal drive and compassion are all “soft skills” that can benefit sonographers.

“We have to take it upon ourselves to tell the doctors what we’re finding on the images,” Pino said. “The ‘people’ aspect is a big aspect. Some of that is learned on the job.”

She completed Rochester Institute of Technology’s four-year program and completes continuing education credits to keep her credential and stay up-to-date.

“I like the interaction with patients,” she said. “If you give them a good experience, that’s a lasting memory.”

Hamad Ghazle with Rochester Institute of Technology, sees plenty of demand, “locally, regionally and nationwide” for sonography.

“Ultrasound is really becoming widespread in many parts of the world,” Ghazle added. “The demand is everywhere. The statistics show the demand will continue to increase into the future.”

Ghazle is program director, professor and advanced practice sonographer with the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program at the College of Health Sciences and Technology at RIT. The school offers an ultrasound program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. It includes a certificate in general and cardiac sonography and a bachelor’s degree in sonography, though in New York, only an associate’s degree is required before sitting for the required certification exam. At RIT, students receive clinical training and classroom instruction. A strong aptitude in science may be helpful.

“They use the latest technology and work in an outstanding, vibrant environment,” Ghazle said. “As you work in this field, you’re challenged on a daily basis to provide the best care, best examination and provide high quality diagnostic images.”

He believes that the work includes elements of other professions, including medical engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering and medical care.

Other related opportunities could include managing, education and working for companies that build and sell the equipment.

Ghazle said that repetitive motions when performing ultrasounds can result if technicians don’t use proper ergonomics. Because of the high demand, another challenge is the size of the workload for some people.

“The field is increasing all the time,” Ghazle said.

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