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Diagnostic Medical Sonography

The Inside Scoop


If you're thinking about a career in ultrasound, the Inside Scoop may be able to help you get a more detailed understanding of what sonography is all about. And hopefully help you decide if this is the right career path for you. At Montgomery College we strive to provide a comprehensive and thorough education to ready our sonographers of the future for this progressive medical imaging modality. The DMS Program is not a traditional program, it encompasses blended learning, the deliberate connection of educational technology with face-to-face instruction/scanning to enhance and personalize a deep and meaningful curriculum.

1: Profession: What do sonographers do?

2: Earning potential: What can you realistically expect to earn?

3: Work environments: Take a glimpse into the world of sonography?

4: Physical demands: What are the physical demands of being a sonographer?

5: Legal aspects: What are some legal issues surrounding the ultrasound profession?

6: What it means to be a Sonographer

7: Interested in Medical Sonography, but don’t know much about it?

8: Ever wonder if a career in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is right for you?  

9: Things You Need to Know to be a Successful Sonographer!

10: Who Wants to be a Sonographer

1. Definition of the Profession

Diagnostic medical sonography is a multi-specialty profession comprised of abdominal sonography, breast sonography, cardiac sonography, obstetrics/gynecology sonography, pediatric sonography, phlebology sonography, vascular technology/sonography, and other emerging clinical areas. These diverse areas all use ultrasound as a primary technology in their daily work.

The diagnostic medical sonographer is an individual who provides patient care services using ultrasound and related diagnostic procedures. The diagnostic medical sonographer must be educationally prepared and clinically competent as a prerequisite to professional practice. Demonstration and maintenance of competency through certification by a nationally recognized sonography credentialing organization is the standard of practice in sonography, and maintenance of certification in all areas of practice is endorsed.

The diagnostic medical sonographer:

• Functions as a delegated agent of the physician; and

• Does not practice independently.

Diagnostic medical sonographers are committed to enhanced patient care and continuous quality improvement that increases knowledge and technical competence. Diagnostic medical sonographers use independent, professional, ethical judgment, and critical thinking to safely perform diagnostic sonographic procedures.

A fundamental approach to the safe use of diagnostic medical ultrasound is to apply elements of the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (“ALARA”) Principle including lowest output power and the shortest scan time consistent with acquiring the required diagnostic information. The diagnostic medical sonographer uses proper patient positioning, tools, devices, equipment adjustment, and ergonomically correct scanning techniques to promote patient comfort and prevent compromised data acquisition or musculoskeletal injury to the diagnostic medical sonographer. (

A diagnostic medical sonographer must be competent in any sonographic procedure they perform. Certification by a sonography credentialing organization that is accredited by National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the American National Standards Institute - International Organization for Standardization (ANSI – ISO) represents “standard of practice” in diagnostic sonography.

Despite the commonality of ultrasound technology across the field of sonography, the bodies of knowledge, technical skills, and competencies of sonographers in different areas of sonography specialization are markedly different. If performing procedures in any of the following primary areas of sonography specialization, a diagnostic medical sonographer must demonstrate competence in the specialty area(s) through appropriate education, training, and certification:

1. Abdominal Sonography

2. Obstetrical/Gynecological Sonography

3. Cardiac Sonography

4. Vascular Technology/Sonography

If the diagnostic medical sonographer specializes or regularly performs procedures in secondary area(s) of specialization (e.g., breast sonography, fetal cardiac sonography, musculoskeletal sonography, pediatric sonography, phlebology sonography, etc.), the diagnostic medical sonographer should demonstrate competence through certification in the area(s) of practice by a nationally recognized sonography credentialing organization. Employers and accrediting organizations should require maintenance of diagnostic medical sonographer certification in all areas of practice.

Inside the Scoop image

Ultrasound is a very "hands on" modality. More than other radiology methods, ultrasound images depend on the technique of the person doing the study.  Learning proper technique requires many hours spent scanning in class, in open skills enhancement scan lab, and during clinical hours.

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2. Earning Potential for Sonographers

Sonographers receive variable rates of compensation depending on geographic area, level of experience, type of employment (per diem, shift differential, full-time part time, or temporary) and type of employer (hospital, specialty clinic, government center, or out-patient center).

The SDMS Salary & Benefits Reports provide in-depth salary and benefits data for the profession including compensation for sonographers by credential, bonuses and salary increases, benefits provided, hours worked per week, and the average number of scans performed in a typical workday.

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3. Work Environments

Sonography is a dynamic profession that has grown significantly over the past 50 years. With rapidly developing new technologies and increased use of diagnostic ultrasound procedures, growth is projected to continue in the future with employment opportunities for qualified sonographers in both urban and rural areas nationwide. Sonographers and vascular technologists can choose to work in clinics, hospitals, private practice physician offices, public health facilities, laboratories, and other medical settings performing examinations in their areas of specialization. Career advancement opportunities exist in education, administration, research, and in commercial companies as education/application specialists, sales representatives, and technical advisors, etc.

More information about a career in Sonography can be found at Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (

Since most sonographic work is in clinical settings, we thought we would offer some input as to what these environments are like:

Hospitals: In a hospital setting the level of commitment that is expected of hospital workers is quite high. The overall attitude is that patients' needs come first, especially in emergency situations. If a patient comes in to the emergency room at three in the morning needing a sonogram exam, you might very well get a call in the middle of the night.

Even without emergency situations, hospitals have high personnel needs because they are open all the time. Sometimes hospital employees are required to work different days each week, or even different shifts each day. So, why would anybody do it? For one thing, hospital work is a great way to get a really broad base of experience. Also, sonographers may be compensated for being on call, and on days when they're not called in.

Outpatient Clinics and Doctor's Offices: An outpatient clinic operates similar to a doctor’s office, except it is larger. Compared to the hospital setting, outpatient clinics or doctor’s office have more fixed schedules, usually Monday through Friday. Patients are scheduled to come in during regular daytime hours and, if there is bad weather they can choose to close and direct patients to the hospital. Patients who come to clinics are generally much healthier than hospitalized patients. For one thing, they are able to walk or get around in a wheelchair. In contrast, hospital patients are often very ill and are confined to a hospital bed or stretcher.

So, why would anybody not choose to work in an outpatient clinic? There are several reasons. For one thing, some people might find that a clinic is too quiet or boring compared to a hospital. Another potential problem with clinical settings is that, because of the relatively small personnel groups, individual workers are much more dependent on having good coworker relations.

In general, each work environment offers its own advantages and disadvantages. As student in Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program at Montgomery College, you will experience a variety of work environments as part of your clinical training. By the time you finish, you will know what your individual preferences are.

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4. Physical Demands of Sonography

One thing students might not realize about sonography is that it is quite physically demanding. In fact, there are specific physical standards that one must be able to fulfill in order to do the work. For example, vision must be adequate to distinguish fine shades of gray on a computer screen. Sonographers also need to be physically strong in order to help patients move around if they are not fully mobile on their own. Read the Technical Standards of physical fitness published by Montgomery College for more information about physical requirements.

Because of the physically demanding nature of sonography, work-related injuries can be a problem for sonographers. In fact, injuries are the number one reason sonographers eventually retire. Fortunately equipment manufacturers are incorporating ergonomic design into sonographic equipment, and managers are recognizing the need for exercise and relaxation to improve job performance. Take a look at the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography web pages on ergonomic issues and exercises at

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5. Legal Aspects of Being a Sonographer

Everyone has heard stories about malpractice lawsuits. Although the incidence of lawsuits brought against sonographers is relatively low compared to physicians, it is a risk that students need to be addressed.
A sonographer who makes a mistake can potentially cause serious harm to a patient. Therefore it is important to get good training and document anatomy and pathology with skill.  It is also important to keep up to date with changes in technology and maintain their level of training. Malpractice insurance is available for sonographers and is relatively inexpensive. Find out more about liability insurance at the SDMS website. 

The good news is that sonographers can reduce the risk of lawsuits by maintaining good standards of practice and keeping up their level of training. The other good news is that malpractice insurance is readily available for sonographers and is relatively inexpensive. 

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6: What it means to be a Sonographer? Take a look at what our DMS Students say.


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7: Interested in Medical Sonography, but don’t know much about it? Take a look at what our DMS Students say.


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8: Ever wonder if a career in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is right for you? Take a look at what our DMS Students say.


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9: Things You Need to Know to be a Successful Sonographer! Take a look at what our DMS Students say.


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10: Who Wants to be a Sonographer? Take a look at what our DMS Students say.


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