Author: Samantha Callis, MHA, RDMS, RDCS, RVT
If you are considering a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer, you may also be researching options for potential career growth. We will explore some of the career paths sonographers may take.
Broadening Scanning Specialties
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. For example, a sonographer who went to school to learn general ultrasound may be registered in the abdomen and OB/GYN specialties.
The sonographer may want to pursue training and certification in vascular technology if they work in a department that offers multi-specialty imaging. A sonographer working in OB/GYN may want to obtain further training in fetal cardiac sonography. Diversification of your skill set can help you become a more well-rounded professional and make you a stronger candidate for specialized positions.
Obtaining additional specialty training is often done through on-the-job training at an employing organization, and less frequently, through certificate or other degree programs.
Sonography Department Leadership
Lead sonographer, chief sonographer, supervising sonographer, and technical director are common job titles for a sonographer who leads the department through day-to-day activities, quality assurance/improvement, continuing education, and employee evaluation.
Candidates for these positions are usually technologists with vast experience as well as organizational leadership skills. Lead sonographers may voluntarily or are required to have formal education in health administration, business administration, organizational leadership, etc. Lead sonographers frequently perform technical procedures alongside staff sonographers and may require dedicated time to complete administrative tasks like department accreditation, scheduling, quality assurance, and financial activities.
Department Manager or Director
Managerial or director roles have some similarities to a lead sonographer but may carry a solely administrative role. Individuals in these roles often oversee one or more departments and teams of employees. Clinical experience as well as business operations skills are necessary to contribute to the profitability of an imaging department and overall success of the organization. Common advanced degrees in these individuals include a bachelors or master’s degree in health, business, or public administration.
After obtaining the necessary skills and training to become a sonographer, teaching sonography students may be something of interest. This can occur in several ways—clinical instructorship, staff sonographer, university/college instructor, etc. If becoming an instructor or professor in sonography is something you desire, you will almost certainly need additional skills.
A breadth of sonographic clinical experience, certifications in the necessary specialty areas, and a degree in education or other related field is necessary to work in higher education. Some jobs (depending on their institutional accreditation) may require a bachelor’s degree, but most commonly a master’s degree or higher is necessary for work in higher education.
Teaching is only one part of working in higher education. Professors are responsible for teaching didactic, laboratory, and clinical courses as well as Participating in scholarly activities like research and publication, community/institutional service, and committee participation for shared institutional governance are common duties of a professional in the higher education sector.
An ultrasound applications specialist is one who educates sonographers and providers on different or new ultrasound equipment. Applications specialists often work directly for ultrasound equipment vendors. Popular vendors include companies like Philips, General Electric, Samsung, etc. When a sonography department needs new equipment, demo units are used to help the staff use various equipment options prior to a purchase being made.
Applications specialists are the individuals who provide this education via hands-on and remote experiences. A clinical background, ability to understand state of the art, rapidly changing equipment, and the ability to also be an educator for novice to professional users is required of these individuals.
Diagnostic imaging and sonographers can play a pivotal role in medical research. Diagnostic ultrasound may be required for based on the needs of researchers and various types of study designs. These can occur in large academic facilities, private research firms, universities, and private practices. Sonographers may also have an additional role in clinical research coordination. Administrative tasks such as participant recruitment, screening, regulatory compliance and follow up are possibilities for sonographers working in dedicated research positions.
Ultrasound System Sales
Sonographers may take an interest in working for various vendors to supply healthcare facilities with ultrasound equipment that meets their needs and specifications. Formal education and experience in sales and corporate business industries is often required for these positions. Clinical experience as a sonographer can enhance the understanding of a department’s needs for diagnostic imaging applications in these roles.
Sonographers may choose to increase their clinical skillset by working towards a different clinical career. Becoming an advanced provider (physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, physical therapist) is an option for sonographers interested in a second clinical career. Additional course work will more than likely be required to fulfill the prerequisites to apply for various professional programs like medical school, dentistry, physical therapy.
Prerequisites for these programs are often grounded in natural sciences such as chemistry, physics, and biology. Sonographers interested in a second career in nursing need to complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing and obtain additional licensure as a registered nurse to be eligible for many nurse practitioner programs.
In summary, sonographers have many options for career growth and expansion within and outside of the sonography field. When considering career planning or any changes it is important to consider the financial and time related costs associated with pursuing other career paths that require further formal education. Consulting and networking with colleagues in fields or job roles that interest you is a great way to start researching potential career paths.