Where Do Ultrasound Technicians Work?

Ultrasound technicians can practice in a variety of settings. More than half of all ultrasonographers work in hospitals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other ultrasound technicians are employed in the offices of physicians, medical laboratories, diagnostic laboratories, mobile imaging units, and veterinary clinics.

Where an ultrasound technician works can directly correlate with his or her field of specialty. These specialties include echocardiography, which relates to heart health, gastroenterology, which examines the solid organs in the abdomen, neurology, which deals with the brain and spinal cord, ophthalmology, which uses sonar to examine the eyes, obstetrics, which correlates with female reproductive health, and musculoskeletal sonography, which looks at the tendons, muscles, and bones. For example, ultrasound technicians who specialize in neurology would most likely work in a hospital or medical laboratory because typically, only complex patient conditions would require a neurological ultrasound reading. On the other hand, an ultrasound technician who is specialized in obstetrics could work in a hospital, physician’s office, or mobile imaging unit because most patients who receive obstetric ultrasounds are simply checking on their baby’s development, which can be handled without too much fuss in practically any setting as long as the ultrasound technician is well trained.

Ultrasonographers can also work in mobile imaging units, which are large trucks that carry equipment like MRI and ultrasound machines. These mobile imaging units travel from hospital to hospital, providing patients in rural areas with the chance to use the advanced medical technology tools. Most rural hospitals simply cannot afford to keep imaging machines and staff, therefore having the traveling mobile unit come once every several days keeps costs down because the technology is shared between hospitals. In addition, it provides a valuable service to patients. The equipment in a mobile imaging unit must be constantly inspected, as the jostling of travel can affect the calibration of the sensitive instruments. Ultrasound technicians often look after their own equipment, and therefore must be well-trained to keep up the necessary instrument maintenance.

Veterinary ultrasonographers don’t work with people at all, but with animal patients. Today, there are over 200 board-certified veterinary radiologists, which include ultrasound technicians, according to College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In animal ultrasonography, ultrasounds are performed for the same reasons that an ultrasound would be performed for human patients. For example, a pregnant dog may require an ultrasound reading to check on the development of her puppies. A diagnostic ultrasound reading can also check for things like obstructions in an animal’s digestive tract. In the case of large animals, such as horses or marine mammals, the veterinary ultrasonographer might take the equipment to where the animal is kept. Typically, large animals suffer from stress if they are transported, therefore it is in the best interest of the animals if the veterinary ultrasound technicians travel instead.