The Alaska State Ultrasound Society
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What is Diagnostic Medical Sonography?

Diagnostic medical sonography uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of body systems such as liver, heart, and fetuses. However, there are many specialties within diagnostic medical sonography- below are some common categories:

General Sonography – includes evaluation of organs and blood vessels including abdominal structures, thyroid and other soft tissue.

Obstetric Sonography – obstetric ultrasound studies the womb and the fetuses all throughout their development; including all anatomy, specialized fetal heart, biophysical profile analysis, 3D/4D studies, and much more!

Gynecology Sonography – gynecologic studies evaluate the female reproductive organs

Breast Sonography – specialized examination of breast and axilla tissue for diagnosis of lumps/abnormalities

Echocardiography – study of the heart to include heart muscles, valves, and major blood vessels

Vascular Sonography – examination of blood vessels such as those in the neck, arm, and legs

Musculoskeletal Sonography – analysis of joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles

Pediatric Sonography – ultrasound evaluation specialty of children, infants, and neonates

Interventional Sonography – interventional procedures that are guided by ultrasound such as biopsies and aspirations

How to become a sonographer:

To become a registered sonographer in the United States, a Diagnostic Medical Sonography program must be completed. These in-depth programs range from one to four years and prerequisites to enter the programs vary. Most Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs will include a didactic portion and an externship training portion. The didactic portion will include intense studying of ultrasound properties, anatomical landmarks, scanning skills, pathology, and patient care. The externship provides a certain length of time working with a registered sonographer full time, to gain experience scanning patients and learning pathology.

After the program is complete, certification is necessary. The most recognized certifying organization is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which requires prerequisites to attempt the registry examinations. Other certifying organizations include the American registry of Radiology, and Cardiovascular Credentialing International.

Sonography as a career:

A registered sonographer can find their careers in many settings, such as hospitals, clinics, private physicians’ offices, public health facilities, research laboratories, and much more.

The most common duties of a sonographer are to obtain patient history, perform sonographic examinations, use critical thinking to justify the findings, provide descriptions of the exam, and collaborate with physicians and health care team members about the findings.

Depending on location, the salary of a sonographer generally ranges from $59,110 to $84,300 with a median salary of $71, 410. Salary is subjective to location, hours, sonographer certifications, and more.

An important note about a career in sonography is Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders and Sonography (WRMSDs). It is estimated that up to 90% of working sonographers experience pain related to injuries affecting their muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. Sonography is physically demanding and proper ergonomics should always be practiced when possible.

Sonographer’s work closely with health care providers and their patients to offer a unique and valuable way to visualize internal anatomy to further help their patients. Sonography is a rewarding career for those who are passionate about helping others.

Written By Rebecca Magro

Additional Resources

For information about ultrasound schools, please see our “Ultrasound Schools” tab

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography:

American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine:

American Society of Echocardiography:

Cardiovascular Credentialing International:

Society for Vascular Ultrasound:

Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography:


AIUM, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Career Information (2010).

SDMS, Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders and Sonography

US News, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary