Pros and Cons of a Career in Vascular Sonography
Vascular sonographers use noninvasive ultrasound technology to create images of patients' veins in order to check vein health and blood flow. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a vascular sonographer is right for you.
|Pros of a Being a Vascular Sonographer|
|High growth field (39% projected employment increase from 2012-2022)*|
|1-2 years of education required*|
|Can work in multiple types of healthcare facilities*|
|Potential for research opportunities**|
|Cons of a Being a Vascular Sonographer|
|Possible night, weekend or holiday hours*|
|May need to help move or lift patients**|
|Very close patient contact during procedures**|
|Employer may require certification*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **The Society for Vascular Ultrasound
Essential Career Info
Sonography is the use of high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal bodily structures. Safer, cheaper and more versatile than X-rays, sonograms are used in diagnosing a variety of health problems. As a vascular sonographer, you place a transducer directly on the patient's skin above the area to be viewed and then capture specific images for use by physicians and their teams. You may work in a room dedicated to sonography, or you might go directly to the patient, particularly because many vascular sonographers perform their work after surgeries in order to ensure proper recovery. Some vascular sonographers work standard day-time hours, but you may be on-call or have some night shifts to help with emergencies.
Salary Info and Job Prospects
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that cardiovascular technologists and technicians, a group that includes vascular sonographers, made a mean annual wage of about $55,000 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a 39% increase in employment for cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the decade from 2012-2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. This is due to the cost-effectiveness of noninvasive procedures and the increased need for diagnostic imaging for an aging population. Sonography procedures are increasingly performed outside of hospital settings like doctors' offices and diagnostic labs as the healthcare industry shifts toward more outpatient care.
Education and Training Requirements
Although some vascular sonographers are trained on the job, many attend training programs at community colleges and hospitals. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits cardiovascular technology programs with noninvasive vascular concentrations at the diploma, certificate, associate's and bachelor's levels. While an associate's degree program is the most common path, you can start working as a vascular sonographer after completing a 1-year certificate or diploma program. The curriculum in these programs combines classroom learning with supervised clinical experience, and you may learn multiple noninvasive diagnostic techniques in addition to sonography.
What Employers are Looking for
Although you don't have to be certified to work as a vascular sonographer, many employers prefer to hire employees who are certified or who are eligible to seek certification within one year of hire. Read these summaries of job postings open in April 2012 to get an idea of what employers are looking for.
- A hospital in Maryland is looking to hire a vascular sonographer to work weekday shifts with on-call hours. They want someone with an associate's degree from an ultrasound program, at least one year of experience and they prefer a candidate with certification.
- A hospital in Oklahoma is searching for a sonographer who has completed a training program, has one year of experience and has a certification in vascular sonography. This position also requires the candidate to be proficient in other areas of sonography.
- A clinic in North Carolina is looking for a vascular sonographer who has an associate's degree, one year of experience and preferably a certification. They want someone who could also perform multiple cardiovascular technology procedures.
How to Stand out in the Field
Though no states require vascular sonographers to be registered, licensed or certified, certification is becoming the standard in the field. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certifications in multiple specializations, including vascular sonography. To be eligible to take the Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) certification exam, you must have completed a CAAHEP-accredited training program. Before taking the RVT exam, you must also take the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation general exam.
In addition to the ARDMS certifications, the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians offers the Registered Technologist (RT) designation in vascular sonography. In order to be eligible to take the RT exam, you must have completed an accredited training program. Certifications are usually maintained by completion of continuing education hours every couple of years.
Other Careers to Consider
If you are interested in a diagnostic career in healthcare but aren't sure about the close patient interaction required of a vascular sonographer, you may want to consider a career as a medical lab technician. Medical lab technicians run tests on samples of patients' blood, tissue and other specimens to check for disease or abnormalities. You could begin work in a medical lab after completing a 2-year associate's degree program in medical lab technology. The BLS reported in May 2011 that medical and clinical lab technicians made a median annual wage of about $37,000 and have a projected employment increase of 15% in the decade from 2010-2020.
If you'd like to work closely with patients but you aren't sure about the sonography technology, consider a career as a nurse. After completing a diploma, associate's or bachelor's nursing program and passing the national licensing exam, you could begin working as a nurse in a variety of specializations and hospital departments. Employment for registered nurses is projected to increase by 26% from 2010-2020. The BLS reported in May 2011 that registered nurses made a median annual wage of about $66,000.