Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: A Career Guide (2024)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Sonographers play an important role in the health care community. Learn more about this exciting field and how you can get started today.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: A Career Guide (1)

Diagnostic medical sonographers use sonography machines to create digital images of certain parts of the human body to diagnose conditions or illnesses. They then report their findings to physicians.

Sonographers in Canada need to complete a three- to four-year program in diagnostic medical sonography or ultrasound technology. Alternatively, they can complete a two- to three-year program in a related allied health field and a one-year post-diploma program in diagnostic medical sonography.

What does a diagnostic medical sonographer do?

Diagnostic medical sonographers conduct ultrasounds on a patient's body, interpret the results, and convey those findings to the appropriate medical provider. The results from ultrasound are used to diagnose medical conditions, so it’s important that sonographers capture accurate images and understand what denotes a quality image. This requires an understanding of human anatomy, usually a specific part of the body.

Diagnostic medical sonographers are also responsible for:

  • Preparing the patient for ultrasound (educating patient on the procedure, answering any questions they may have, ensuring patient comfort)

  • Understanding patient history and how it pertains to the ultrasound procedure

  • Interpreting the results of an ultrasound and communicating those findings to the doctor

Diagnostic medical sonographers salary

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, a medical sonographer earns an average salary of $36.71 per hour. The salaries can range from $32 per hour to $53 per hour [1].

Factors that may impact how much diagnostic medical sonographers earn include location, employer, the industry, and any credentials or additional education or training they may hold. Credentialing and years of experience can impact salary, and you may also earn more if you have more than one credential.

Where do diagnostic medical sonographers work?

The majority of diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals, but some also find work in physicians’ offices, diagnostic and medical laboratories, and outpatient surgical care centers. Diagnostic medical sonographers with advanced degrees or certifications may also work in the classroom as educators, in corporate buildings as part of ultrasound marketing or sales teams, or in labs as researchers.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: A Career Guide (2)

Duties and responsibilities

A diagnostic medical sonographer's main duties and responsibilities are conducting ultrasounds of parts of the body, interpreting the results, and sharing those findings. The results from an ultrasound are used to diagnose medical conditions, so it’s important that a sonographer captures accurate images and understands what denotes a quality image. This requires understanding human anatomy, usually a specific part of the body.

A few other duties and responsibilities include:

  • Educating patients on the details of the procedure

  • Maintaining diagnostic imaging equipment

  • Compiling a summary of findings for medical professionals

  • Working with the patient's medical records

How to become a diagnostic medical sonographer

Like most health care professions, the path to becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer is marked by training, continuing education, and skills building. Here's what you can expect to do as you work to become a sonographer in the health care field in Canada.

  • Obtain a three- to four-year program in diagnostic medical sonography or ultrasound technology

  • Earn a two- to three-year program in a related allied health field and a one-year post-diploma program in diagnostic medical sonography from an accredited institution

You may also need to register with the Canadian Association of Registered Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound Professionals or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, depending on your employer and province or territory.

Note: For those working in Quebec, registration with l'Ordre des Technologues en Radiologie du Québec is required.

Consider certifications.

Although not necessarily required, some employers prefer candidates with credentials. Being credentialed can also show your expertise to employers that do not require it. Sonography Canada offers the following:

  • Canadian Registered Generalist Sonographer (CRGS): Qualified to examine the abdomen, pelvis, obstetrics, peripheral veins, and superficial structures like the thyroid and scrotum.

  • Canadian Registered Cardiac Sonographer (CRCS): Qualified in adult cardiac anatomy, function, physiology, and pathology and adult congenital assessment

  • Canadian Registered Vascular Sonographer (CRVS): Qualified in vascular ultrasound imaging and physiologic arterial assessment

Develop your skills.

Diagnostic medical sonographers should have a mix of workplace skills like good communication and empathy, as well as technical skills like operating diagnostic equipment and interpreting ultrasound images correctly. As a result, you should consider developing these skills:

  • Effective communication

  • Active listening

  • Collaboration

  • Empathy and the ability to make patients feel comfortable

  • Knowledge of ultrasound equipment

  • Strong grasp of anatomy

  • Hand-eye coordination

Explore specializations.

Diagnostic medical sonographers have the opportunity to specialize in certain areas, like pediatric cardiac sonography or senior vascular sonography. From maternal-fetal sonography to musculoskeletal, there are quite a few interesting positions in the field. A few interesting positions you may want to pursue as a sonographer may be:

  • Veterinary diagnostic imaging sonographer: Most vet techs get their credential to be able to ultrasound animals and some veterinary clinics and hospitals hire individuals who only specialize in animal ultrasound.

  • Travel sonographer: These sonographers are a sort of “jack of all trades.” You are typically skilled in various specialties of ultrasound to work as a travel sonographer as you’ll be travelling to different health care facilities working with a variety of people.

  • Medical imaging applications specialist: In this role, you are in charge of educating other sonographers on new technologies and equipment in medical imaging. You won’t be working in a traditional health care setting but rather employed by ultrasound equipment manufacturers and distributors.

Consider your career progression.

You can progress your career in sonography by acquiring credentials, earning advanced degrees, specializing in a particular area, or changing industries.

Credentials can open up more opportunities for you as a medical sonographer, especially if you get your credentials in a certain specialty like cardiac sonography. With a specialized credential, you can focus on a certain area of health care and expand your role within a field.

A master’s degree in health science and sonography, or a related field, can open you up to executive-level management positions in medical ultrasound. With a master’s degree in a related field, you may be able to pursue a career as a consultant, educator, ultrasound marketing manager, or chief director of an ultrasound department.

Get started.

To get started as a diagnostic medical sonographer, find an accredited sonography program and consider if you’d like to specialize in a particular area of the human body.

On Coursera, you can find medical courses for all types of health care professions and interests. Consider taking beginner courses like an Anatomy Specialization to help you better understand the body. Choose a more advanced course like Medical Neuroscience if you know you’re interested in neurosonography.

Updated on

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: A Career Guide (2024)


What is the typical career path for a sonographer? ›

There are many educational pathways to becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. After high school, the typical pathway includes: Obtaining either an associate degree or bachelor's degree, with coursework in the sciences and anatomy. Completing a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography.

Is a career in sonography worth it? ›

California Sonography Jobs Pay Well

Ultrasound technicians make an average of $92,660 per year across the state, and positions often come with a full benefits package. When you break it down by local area, California has the only cities in America that average over $100,000 annually.

How long do most diagnostic medical sonographers go to school? ›

Many education paths are available for prospective sonographers, but the most common is a 2-year degree through an accredited sonography training program. Bachelor's degrees are also available, as are 1-year certificate programs in sonography for persons already trained in another healthcare field.

What skills do you need to be a diagnostic medical sonographer? ›

What Skills Do You Need in Medical Diagnostic Sonography?
  • Anatomy and Physiology Knowledge. ...
  • Understanding of Medical Terminology. ...
  • Strong Attention to Detail for Medical Diagnostic Sonography. ...
  • Proficiency with Healthcare Technology. ...
  • Patient Communication and Care for Medical Diagnostic Sonography.
Oct 3, 2023

Do sonographers make 6 figures? ›

Sonographer Salary in California. $79,900 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $135,200 is the 75th percentile.

Is sonography a hard major? ›

Due to the technical nature of these courses, the ultrasound program can be challenging at times. But, you're provided with hands-on training on the equipment you'll use daily, study materials and more to help you succeed.

Is sonography school harder than nursing? ›

Sonography programs require more clinical hours and final exams than a nursing degree.

What are the disadvantages of a sonographer? ›

Medical Sonography Can Be Physically Demanding

You need to position patients, which can require turning them over or lifting them into place. You may push a patient in a wheelchair, help them enter a room and stand or sit. You also may need to push portable ultrasound machines into a patient's room.

What's the hardest part of being a sonographer? ›

Just like any other medical career, there are challenges to being an ultrasound technician, including:
  • Long and varying work hours: Sonographers often work in hospitals and clinics that stay open long hours. ...
  • Difficult patients: Some patients will be struggling with difficult emotional situations.

What is the shortest ultrasound tech program? ›

For students looking for a fast-paced and competitive education in Ultrasound Diagnostics, the one-year program offered at the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics is the fastest way to begin a career as a sonographer.

What is the difference between a sonographer and an ultrasound tech? ›

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.

Should I do radiography or sonography? ›

Key Differences Between Sonography & Radiology

As you can see, the biggest difference between radiology and sonography is the type of medical equipment you'll use. Plus, while an x-ray can diagnose a wide range of medical conditions, ultrasound focuses more on specific body parts and their health.

Do sonographers need to be good at math? ›

Basic arithmetic skills are essential for tasks such as measuring blood flow velocities and calculating cardiac output. Understanding algebraic principles helps the sonography tech in interpreting data and making adjustments during imaging procedures.

Do sonographers need math? ›

If you are interested in a career in sonography, you should take high-school courses in mathematics, biology, physics, anatomy and physiology, and, especially, chemistry.

What type of diagnostic medical sonographer makes the most money? ›

Here are the highest-paying specialties for an ultrasound technician:
  • Vascular sonography.
  • OB/GYN sonography.
  • Cardiac sonography.
  • Pediatric cardiac sonography.
  • Neuro sonography.
Jul 31, 2023

How to move up as a sonographer? ›

Sonographers typically train in two or three specialties formally during their time in a DMS program. Obtaining further knowledge and training to work in a subspecialty or gain other certification to enter another specialty area is a very common form of career advancement.

How do I move up from ultrasound tech? ›

Top 3 Ways to Advance Your Medical Sonography Career
  1. 1 Pick a Specialty. The first way to advance your sonography career is to pick a specialty. ...
  2. 2 Further Your Education. It's been said that one should never stop learning, and that is especially true for diagnostic medial sonographers. ...
  3. Expand Your Role.

How would you describe your career path? ›

A career path is defined as a long-term plan that includes specific steps or tasks that help you advance to a desirable occupation or new role. It typically involves a series of related jobs or roles that provide increasing levels of responsibility, skill development, and possibly higher levels of compensation.

What is the highest paying sonography job? ›

High Paying Sonographer Jobs
  • Electrophysiology Technician. Salary range: $115,000-$151,500 per year. ...
  • Echocardiographer. Salary range: $98,000-$141,000 per year. ...
  • Echo Technologist. ...
  • Echocardiography Technologist. ...
  • Vascular Sonographer. ...
  • Chief Ultrasound Technologist. ...
  • Ultrasound Applications Specialist. ...
  • Polysomnographer.


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