Cardiovascular Sonography Technology Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Read job descriptions and learn about salary, education and training requirements and career prospects to decide if a cardiovascular sonography career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Cardiovascular Sonography Career

Cardiovascular sonography is a technology used to investigate a patient's heart and the blood vessels associated with it. Below is a chart that points out some of the characteristics of careers in cardiovascular sonography, radiologic technology and diagnostic medical sonography.

Cardiovascular Sonographer Radiologic Technologist Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Career Overview Under the direction of a physician, a cardiovascular sonographer performs interventional and non-interventional diagnostic examinations of the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Radiologic technologists use x-rays to perform diagnostic imaging examinations and the administration of radiation therapy. Supervised by a physician, a diagnostic medical sonographer uses ultrasound to produce images of a patient's internal structures and organs.
Education Requirements Associate's or bachelor's degree Certificate or associate's degree Certificate or associate's degree
Program Length 2-4 years 6 months-2 years 1-2 years
Certification and Licensing Certification preferred Certification or licensure required by most states Certification preferred, licensure required in some states
Experience Required None; entry-level None; entry-level None; entry-level
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Much faster than average (30%)* Faster than average (21%)* Much faster than average (46%)*
Mean Salary (2014) $55,210* $57,510* $68,390*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cardiovascular Sonographers

According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), cardiovascular sonographers can perform non-invasive and invasive diagnostic examinations and therapeutic procedures. They may be called on to conduct cardiac catheterization, echocardiography, ultrasound and cardiac electrophysiology procedures.

Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that earning an associate's degree is the most common method to become qualified as a cardiovascular sonographer. The CAAHEP accredits programs that can lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular sonography. If you're already employed in another healthcare occupation, you may be able to complete a 1-year certificate program to qualify in cardiovascular sonography. Although it's not required, you may find that most employers prefer to hire cardiovascular sonographers who have been certified or registered. Once you graduate from an accredited program, you may be eligible to sit for a certification or registration examination offered by Cardiovascular Certification International (CCI) or the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

Below are examples of what some employers were looking for in December 2012:

  • A Veterans Administration medical services system in California wanted to hire a cardiovascular technologist. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology and be certified in any state or U.S. territory. They were also to be certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), hold a valid tuberculosis vaccination card and be qualified to perform cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology procedures.
  • A not-for-profit healthcare system in Indiana was looking for a cardiovascular technologist. Candidates were to hold a high school diploma or GED and be graduates of an accredited ultrasound echo program. Candidates were to have at least two years of work experience in echo and vascular technology. They were also to hold certification as a Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS) from CCI and Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) from ARDMS.
  • A Tennessee hospital was seeking a cardiovascular technician. Candidates were to have graduated from an accredited school of cardiovascular technology and be proficient in all invasive cardiac catheterization procedures. The employer preferred that candidates have two years of work experience at a cardiac catheterization laboratory. Candidates were to be qualified in ACLS and Basic Life Support (BLS) and to hold Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) and Registered Technologist (R.T.) certifications.

Standing Out

The BLS mentions that one of the best ways to stand out from the pack and to increase your employment and advancement possibilities is to obtain multiple certifications. Being qualified in non-invasive and invasive procedures can stand in testimony to your commitment to the profession. The BLS also mentions that some insurance providers, such as Medicare, will only pay for procedures that are performed by certified technologists. A bachelor's degree may also increase your marketability.

Radiologic Technologist

Through the use of x-ray, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment, radiologic technologists conduct diagnostic examinations. Radiologic technologists may be required to be on their feet for extended periods of time, and there is a risk of exposure to radiation. As noted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), you may be able to specialize in radiation therapy. Primarily as a treatment for cancer, radiation therapists and medical dosimetrists apply high doses of radiation to a targeted area of a patient's body.

Requirements

The BLS mentions that while you can qualify to become a radiologic technologist by earning a 6-12 month certificate or a bachelor's degree, the most common education credential in the field is an associate's degree. Most states require radiologic technologists to be licensed or certified. In most cases, to qualify for licensure you must have completed a program that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Licensure calls for you to be certified. Your state may have its own certification exam, but many states use the examination from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Certification is renewable every two years upon the completion of continuing education units.

Here are a few employers who were looking for radiologic technologists in December 2012:

  • A medical equipment concern in Indiana wanted to hire a radiologic technologist to help evaluate and develop imaging protocols and equipment. Candidates were to be graduates of an associate's degree program, be registered by ARRT and ARDMS and hold state licensure. They were to be qualified in multiple modalities and have accumulated at least five years of hospital-based work experience in radiology.
  • A Pennsylvania healthcare provider was seeking a radiologic technologist. Candidates were to have graduated from an approved school of radiologic technology with a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree. They were also to be registered with ARRT and have 1-2 years of qualifying clinical work experience.
  • A hospital in Tennessee sought to hire a radiologic technologist. Candidates were to have completed a 2-year, JRCERT-accredited radiography program. They were to be registered or within three months of becoming registered by ARRT. Candidates were also to obtain Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification within six months of being hired.

Standing Out

According to the BLS, though radiologic technology career opportunities are expected to increase over the next decade, your chances for employment can be enhanced if you become certified in more than one modality. Among the various certifications available to you are cardiac or vascular interventional radiography, MRI, CT, mammography, vascular sonography and bone densitometry.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer (DMS) directs high-frequency sound waves toward a targeted area of a patient's body to create computer images of internal organs. These images help physicians assess and monitor a patient's condition, follow the development of a fetus or determine what medical treatments may be appropriate. While cardiac sonographers focus on taking images of the heart and cardiovascular system, diagnostic medical sonographers can focus on other areas, such as the abdominal or musculoskeletal systems.

Requirements

According to the BLS, most diagnostic medical sonographers have graduated from a 2-year program leading to an associate's degree. Some schools may offer a bachelor's degree program. If you're already employed in an allied clinical health service profession such as nursing, you may qualify to pursue a 1-year certificate program in medical sonography. While most employers prefer to hire certified sonographers, only some states require licensure. As a rule, certification is a requirement for licensure. In order to be eligible to sit for ARRT or ARDMS certification or registration examinations, you must have graduated from a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRCDMS) or CAAHEP.

Here's what employers were seeking in December 2012:

  • A hospital in New York was looking for an ultrasound technician/sonographer to work either full- or part-time. Candidates were to have graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited diagnostic medical sonography program and have at least two years of experience in general sonography, concentrating on obstetrical, abdominal and vascular sonography.
  • A women's medical group in California was seeking a diagnostic medical sonographer specializing in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). Candidates were to have graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited diagnostic medical sonography program. They were also to hold active ARDMS certification in OB/GYN and have accumulated at least five years of qualifying work experience.
  • A Minnesota hospital and clinic system wanted to hire a part-time diagnostic sonographer. Candidates were to have graduated from an accredited ultrasound program and have accumulated at least two years of qualifying work experience. They were also to hold ARDMS certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).

Standing Out

The BLS states that one of the most important things you can do to stand out from the crowd as a diagnostic medical sonographer is to become certified in multiple specialties. ARDMS offers a number of different sonography certifications including adult, pediatric and fetal echocardiography, abdominal, musculoskeletal, neurosonology and OB/GYN. Once you become certified, it's important to keep your certification current. You do this by completing continuing education units.

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