An ultrasound tech, formally known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, uses advanced imaging technology to help detect certain medical conditions, such as pregnancy or cancer. While pay and job growth are solid for this profession, base pay varies by work setting and geographic location.
Despite modest educational requirements, ultrasound techs earned a solid average annual salary of $66,360 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay will likely remain steady as the BLS projected a 44 percent growth in demand for techs from 2010 to 2020. The top 10 percent of sonographers earned at or above $91,070. The bottom 10 percent earned at or below $44,990.
Though it is a smaller employment setting, academic institutions had the highest earning potential for techs, according to the BLS, with average pay of $74,940. Outpatient care centers were also paid above average salaries of $72,200. The largest employers of ultrasound techs in 2012 were hospitals and doctor's offices. Pay in these settings was right near the average, at just below $67,000 per year. In medical labs, techs averaged $64,340.
Geography also plays a role in ultrasound tech base pay. The cost of living in some areas and demand for techs contribute to the variance. California had the highest demand for techs, which combined with its high cost of living, contributed to an average salary of $84,220 per year, according to the BLS. Oregon had much lower employment demand, but average pay of $81,010. Washington, Massachusetts and Connecticut were the next three top-paying states for techs, all just below $80,000 a year.
Educational standards and state licensing requirements vary for sonography. The BLS indicates that only a few states require sonography licensing. However, employers prefer to hire certified techs. Additionally, many employers prefer at least an associate degree in sonography from an accredited institution, though you can also earn a bachelor's. If you have prior nursing experience or other significant health care background, a one-year college certification program might even work for an employer.
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