What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers (also known as Ultrasound Technician, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Sonographer, and Ultrasound Technologist) are non-physician technologists who operate ultrasound equipment to produce images of patients’ organs, tissues, and blood flow. As the title indicates, the purpose of obtaining the images is to give doctors information they need to diagnose the cause and extent of illnesses, diseases, and disorders. Sonography, also called ultrasonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce the images. For more on job duties, visit our ultrasound technician job description page.

Work Environment

Sonographers are employed in medical facilities that are generally safe and sterile. They are exposed to blood and other body fluids, which may contain contagious diseases. Safety and sanitation protocols must be followed.

Back strain and other pain can result from lifting and moving patients, as well as heavy equipment. It has been estimated that sonographers are on their feet 80 percent of the time during a typical day.

Work Schedule

Sonographers commonly work full-time schedules of 40 hours per week. Some have evening or weekend shifts, while others are on call. Those who work as contract employees may have irregular hours.

Mean Annual Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary

The average annual diagnostic medical sonographer salary is $67,170. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $45,840 and the top 10% makes over $92,070.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$67,170 per year
$32.29 per hour
Top 10% Salary$92,070 per year
$44.26 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$45,840 per year
$22.04 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201358,250

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Job Outlook and Prospects

The number of jobs in this field is expected to rise 46 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That would be significantly greater than the 14 percent growth rate projected for the average occupation.

The medical establishment is moving away from radiology in favor of ultrasound technology. This method of examining the body is safer for patients, because there is no risk of radiation exposure. Sonography is being used more often to diagnose cardiac and vascular diseases, to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The growing population, especially the rising number of seniors, is also increasing the need for sonographers. The continuing development of new technology is expected to create opportunities in the field, as well.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary: Factors of Influence

Generally speaking, education, experience, and geographic location are the main factors influencing diagnostic medical sonographer salary. An annual salary can range from just over $44,000 to over $92,000, with the average being approximately $67,170. Those who work in outpatient centers or in a doctor’s office will generally earn a slightly higher salary than those working in a hospital or other settings. The impact of the setting is, in fact, one of the principle influences on diagnostic medical sonographer salary.

While a sonographer may prefer working with ultrasound, training in other imaging systems is an excellent way to improve one’s earnings. Specialization is also a method of advancement, with numerous potential areas of focus.

Education and Specialization

Typical education requirements for sonographers are a two-year allied-health degree and completion of a one-year ultrasound technology program. Comprehensive educational programs for sonographers entail one to four years of study, depending upon the the type of degree or certificate being sought. Some specialties require additional training.

Two-year associate’s degree programs in sonography involve anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, patient care, and other courses. One-year programs, which award certificates rather than degrees, are available for professionals who hold degrees in other medical fields.

Students are advised to choose college programs that are recognized by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. They are found at colleges, universities, and vocational and technical schools.

Though most jurisdictions do not require sonographers to be licensed, state registration is mandated by many employers. Proof of having obtained the appropriate education and training, and passage of an exam, are the usual criteria for registration. Professional certification is available from the ARDMS.

Sonographers may specialize in the abdomen, breasts, heart and related blood vessels, joints and soft tissue, brain and spinal cord, obstetrics and gynecology, or vascular tcchnology. Some of these professionals move on to other careers, becoming teachers, researchers, administrators, technical advisers, or sales representatives.


About 60 percent of sonographers are employed in hospitals. Other worksites include clinics, doctors’ offices, public-health operations, diagnostic facilities, outpatient centers, and laboratories. Much depends upon a practitioner’s specialty.

As of May 2012, some of the higher-paying positions were in outpatient clinics. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, and labs were next on the list, in that order, in terms of salary. The largest job growth is expected in outpatient facilities, doctors’ offices, and labs. However, hospitals are projected to continue providing the majority of the positions.


As of May 2012, California led the United States with 5,180 positions for sonographers. They earned mean wages of $84,220 a year, also tops in the nation. Florida, with $58,760 in median pay, offered 4,720 jobs in the field. Next were Texas, 4.370 positions at $64,070; New York, 4,040 jobs at $66,440; and Pennsylvania, 2,610 jobs at $58,240.

Metropolitan areas providing the most employment for sonographers were those encompassing New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

Ranking behind California in median salary were Oregon, $81,010; Washington, $79,980; Massachusetts, $78,450; and Connecticut, $78,430. Eight of the top nine metropolitan areas in terms of sonographer wages were in California.