Sonographers, commonly known as ultrasound technicians, are a vital part of the growing health care industry. Sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of a patient's organs and other tissues to aid in medical diagnosis and treatment. Ultrasound technicians perform these tests using sophisticated ultrasound machines.
Ultrasound technology is a powerful diagnostic tool with a wide variety of applications. Doctors request ultrasound imagery to diagnose cancer, heart disease, and more. Career prospects for ultrasound technicians are especially high, especially for those registered with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Texas Ultrasound Technician Schools
To become an ultrasound technician in Texas, you must graduate from a program with either Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accreditation or recognition by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The following five schools offer training programs in the field:
- Alvin Community College: This school in Alvin offers students a choice between earning a certificate or an associate degree through its CAAHEP-accredited program. Each program starts once per year, and financial aid is available.
- Houston Community College System: Graduates of this CAAHEP-accredited, ARRT-recognized program receive a certificate in General Sonography. Coursework includes high-risk obstetrics, Doppler physics, and instrumentation.
- Lone Star College-Cy Fair: This Cypress area school boasted a 100 percent job placement rate for its 2014 graduates. Students can choose between an associate degree or a certificate track.
- San Jacinto College: This Pasadena school offers an associate degree in General Sonography. The program has CAAHEP accreditation, and teaches student about patient care, physiology, echocardiography, and more.
- Lamar Institute of Technology: This school in Beaumont offers two certificate and associate degree programs: General Sonography and Cardiac Sonography.
Upon completion, graduates typically seek ARDMS certification, which helps qualify them to work in the mobile units Texas uses to address health care shortages in rural areas.
What to Expect from Texas Sonography Programs
Ultrasound technology programs help prepare graduates for a career as a sonographer by using cutting-edge technology in the classroom, the same equipment used on the job. While curriculum will vary by program, common courses at the associate degree level include:
- Introduction to Sonography
- Sonography of High-Risk Obstetrics
- Vascular Technology Applications
- Doppler Physics
- Principles of Vascular Technology
Students pursuing a certificate in the field can expect to take courses such as:
- Sonographic Sectional Anatomy
- Sonography of Superficial Structures
- Cardiovascular Concepts
Some schools offer students the chance to specialize in a particular area of sonography. For example, students may choose to pursue a degree or certification in general sonography, or specialize in cardiac or vascular sonography. Generally, all programs will provide graduates with a solid foundation in patient care, as well as computers and other technical skills.
Texas Ultrasound Technician Licensing and Certification
There is no licensing requirement for ultrasound technicians in the state of Texas. However, obtaining ARDMS certification is strongly recommended, as many facilities require it.
To apply, you must have a Clinical Verification (CV) Form and sit for an ARDMS specialty examination. Specialty exams include:
- Adult Echocardiography
- Fetal Echocardiography
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Pediatric Sonography
- Vascular Technology
Each certification requires successful completion of both the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam and a specialty exam, and there are four certificates available.
Applicants must submit transcripts from their sonography program or a CME certificate of completion, as well as the completed application and processing fee. An incomplete application will be returned, but the processing fee is forfeited. ARDMS also has a five-year rule requiring a physics and instrumentation exam, along with a specialty exam.
Resources for Ultrasound Technicians in Texas
The ARDMS website offers a variety of resources for ultrasound techs, such as:
In addition, the site has an amazing amount of information, including educational articles and job information for prospective sonography students and professional technicians.
Fast Facts for Sonographers in Texas
The 4,350 diagnostic medical sonographers in Texas earn an average annual salary of $65,720. That's slightly below the national average salary of $67,530.
The highest concentration of sonographers in Texas is in San Antonia, where there are 0.81 sonographers in every 1,000 jobs in that metropolitan area. The lowest concentration of sonographers in Texas is in Beaumont, where there are 0.28 sonographers for every 1,000 workers. The concentration is also low in El Paso and Houston, where there are 0.33 sonographers for every 1,000 workers.
Here's a breakdown of the number of sonographers in Texas metropolitan areas, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014:
- Abilene: 90
- Amarillo: 70
- Austin: 400
- Brownsville: 70
- Corpus Christi: 110
- Dallas-Forth Worth: 1,380
- Dallas-Plano-Irving: 1,000
- El Paso: 100
- Forth Worth-Arlington: 390
- Houston: 960
- Killeen: 100
- Lubbock: 70
- McAllen: 100
- San Antonio: 750
Sonographer Salary in Texas
While the average salary for sonographers in Texas is 2 percent lower than the national average, there are many metropolitan areas on the state where the average salaries for sonographers outpace the national average. In the Dallas-Plano-Irving metropolitan area, the average salary of $68,590 is 2 percent higher than the national average. In Dallas-Forth Worth, the average salary is slightly lower but still 1 percent higher than the national average wage.Nationally, the highest salaries for medical diagnostic sonographers are paid in medical and diagnostic labs.
We wanted to know more about what it takes to become a medical sonographer in the state of Texas, so we sat down with Donald Kerns, JD, CAE, Chief Executive Officer/ Executive Director for the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography/SDMS Foundation.
What are the advantages of studying to become a medical sonographer?
The U.S. News and World Reports ranked Diagnostic Medical Sonography as 12th in "The 25 Best Jobs of 2015."
What kind of education should I get?
The Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography believes that individuals entering the Diagnostic Medical Sonography profession should graduate from an educational program that is programmatically accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) or the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology (JRC-CVT).
How can I find a program in Texas?
You can find contact information for individual sonography educational programs in Texas at the CAAHEP website (select "Diagnostic Medical Sonography" and "TX" from the drop down menus; you can also select "Cardiovascular Technology" and one of the echocardiography concentrations listed to find accredited programs focused on cardiac sonography only). You can also review existing career resources on our website. In particular, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupations Handbook and the O*Net OnLine - Occupation Description links provide a great deal of additional information about the profession and career outlook.
If I'm still in high school, what kind of courses should I make sure to take if I want to be a sonographer?
Here is a link to the National Education Curriculum for Sonography (see NEC Part I - Introduction, which describes the Common Curriculum for sonography). This section highlights the topics that a sonography student should expect to study. Therefore, a high school student might take similar courses (where available) to help prepare for a sonography career. Also, any volunteer or internship opportunities that allow the high school student to interact with patients and health care professionals may be helpful. High school students can also contact local sonography educational programs to learn more about the profession and the entrance requirements for the program.