Cardiac sonographers perform echocardiogram tests to diagnose health problems linked to the heart and vascular system. These imaging technicians are highly specialized and earn an interesting salary given that you can start working in this field with an associate’s degree.
Cardiac sonographers are technicians who are trained in using imaging equipment to diagnose health conditions related to the heart and blood vessels. This is a healthcare field that requires you to complete a relatively short specialized program, and there is a high demand for this specialization.
What Is The Average Salary Of A Cardiac Sonographer?
The average cardiac sonographer salary is $65,000 a year. The salary for this profession ranges from $50,000 to $94,000 a year.
The average salary of a cardiac sonographer varies from one state to another, and some employers offer higher salaries than others. Cardiac sonographers also tend to earn less towards the beginning of their career and typically see their salary increase as they gain more experience.
Here are a few examples of what specialized sonographers earn in different states:
- The average cardiac sonographer salary in New York is $82,000 a year.
- The average salary for these professionals is $77,000 a year in Maryland.
- Cardiac sonographers earn an average salary of $75,000 a year in Arizona.
- This average salary is lower in South Dakota at $70,000 a year.
- In Michigan, cardiac sonographers earn $66,000 a year on average.
These yearly salaries translate to an hourly salary of $30 to $40.
This is a profession that is in high demand. Employment is projected to increase by 22 percent before 2024.
What Do Cardiac Sonographers Do?
Cardiac sonographers use imaging equipment to diagnose health conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. They can see the chambers and valves of the heart as well as the circulatory system to find problems.
A cardiac sonographer would, for instance, help diagnose a condition such as a blood vessel malformation, a blood clot, or a blockage. These imaging technicians also study a patient’s heartbeat to determine if there is leakage or another program with the heart valves.
These imaging techniques are often used to monitor how a patient’s heart condition is progressing and to decide on the best treatment method. A cardiac sonographer would also look for the source of a symptom such as a heart murmur that has been noticed by a physician.
This job requires advanced knowledge of the human heart and vascular system, which is why these sonographers specialize in cardiac and vascular imaging.
Cardiac sonographers receive specialized training to use ultrasound equipment and perform tests known echocardiography. These tests consist in using ultrasound waves to map the inside of the heart and get a better idea of how well a patient’s heart is functioning.
Working as a cardiac sonographer is similar to working as an ultrasound technician or specializing in another imaging technique, but cardiac sonographers receive specialized training to detect and monitor symptoms linked to heart and blood vessel problems.
Cardiac sonographers possess advanced technical skills to properly use ultrasound equipment and also have a thorough medical knowledge of the heart and circulatory system. They also receive training to interact with the patients during the diagnosis process.
Cardiac sonographers are members of a larger team of healthcare professionals. Patients are typically referred to an imaging department by a physician, and the results of an echocardiogram are analyzed by a physician or specialist to decide on the best treatment plan for the patient.
Where Do Cardiac Sonographers Work?
Cardiac sonographers typically work in hospitals, clinics, and radiology practices. In rural areas, these specialized sonographers sometimes travel between different clinics that belong to the same healthcare network.
These specialized sonographers are part of a team regardless of the setting they work in. They have to communicate with the doctor or specialist that referred a patient to the imaging department.
Sonographers sometimes have to work with other imaging specialists since several tests might be needed to properly diagnose a health problem that a patient is experiencing.
A patient who suffers from a chronic heart condition will interact with the same team of healthcare professionals during their treatment, including a cardiac sonographer. Even though imaging technicians don’t make decisions regarding the treatment plan of a patient, they still play a central role in monitoring the progression of the symptoms that a patient is experiencing.
A majority of hospitals and clinics use computer-based systems to share the results of imaging tests. Cardiac sonographers often capture images and data using ultrasound waves and are responsible for sharing this information over the hospital or clinic computer system.
Cardiac sonographers have flexible hours and often work in a fast-paced environment.
How To Become A Cardiac Sonographer
You can become a cardiac sonographer by completing a specialized program. Some schools offer associate’s while others offer bachelor’s to train you to use imaging equipment.
You should look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. If you complete a program that is accredited by this organization, you will be able to obtain your certification without completing a residency program.
The schools that are accredited by the CAAHEP offer two or four-year programs where you will gain hands-on experience with performing echocardiograms and using other imaging equipment.
You can also complete a different educational program and pass a certification exam. Keep in mind that you will need to complete a residency or fellowship program before you can pass the exam if you didn’t study with a program accredited by the CAAHEP.
You can complete a wide range of educational programs that aren’t accredited by the CAAHEP. You can study to become a radiologic technician, a therapist, or even a nurse before deciding that you would rather become a cardiac sonographer. You can also complete the equivalent of a bachelor’s outside of the U.S. or Canada.
Once you have completed a bachelor’s or another training program that isn’t accredited by the CAAHEP, you will have to complete a residency program to gain experience with vascular ultrasounds.
You should be able to take the certification exam after completing a one-year residency program. However, you can also take the exam if you have a high school diploma and have completed a two-year residency program and can prove that you worked on 3,200 cases where you performed vascular ultrasounds.
The requirements for becoming a cardiac sonographer are very flexible. However, choosing to study with a program accredited by the CAAHEP might be easier since other options mean that you will have to get accepted into a residency program without having any experience with imaging techniques.
Once you have completed a program accredited by the CAAHEP or met other requirements, you can pass the diagnostic cardiac sonographer exam. You can then start working as a licensed cardiac sonographer, or choose to pursue a specialization.
There are different specializations to consider, including adult echocardiography, fetal echocardiography, or pediatric echocardiography. You can earn a higher salary if you specialize in fetal or pediatric echocardiography, but keep in mind that you might need to be flexible with relocating to find work since not all hospitals and clinics offer these specialized imaging services.
Other Similar Career Options To Consider
There are similar career options in imaging departments that you should consider. The salaries are comparable to the average cardiac sonographer salary, and you can typically work as an imaging technician after completing a residency program and passing an exam.
If you are currently comparing different residency or fellowship programs, it might be a good idea to broaden your options and look at residency programs that would allow you to gain experience with other imaging techniques.
You could consider careers in cardiac electrophysiology or vascular study. These careers are similar to what a cardiac sonographer does but use different imaging methods and equipment.
Depending on where you are located and on the experience you have, it might be easier to find a residency program that would help you gain experience with a different imaging technique.
Working as an ultrasound technician is another career option you should consider. You will need to complete a specialized program as well as a residency program to become an ultrasound technician. Your work environment will be very similar to the environment in which a cardiac sonographer works but you will diagnose conditions that aren’t linked to heart or vascular problems.
Specializing in another imaging technique could be an interesting career option for you. You should look into becoming an X-ray imaging technician, a mammography technician, or a radiography technician. An MRI technician or radiologic technician typically earn $58,000 a year.
If you want to earn a higher salary and don’t mind completing additional education requirements, you should consider studying to become a radiologic nurse or a radiologist. Radiologic nurses need to obtain an NR certification before specializing in radiology, while radiologists are doctors who have chosen to specialize in this area.
Becoming a cardiac sonographer is an interesting career option if you want to work in the healthcare field. This profession is in demand, and you could start working within a couple of years if you can get into an accredited program.