Individuals who wish to become an echocardiographer complete two to four years of college training, and they may possibly need licensing or certification. Each region and facility that hires these specialists may differ in what it requires from employees. Generally, the educational requirements increase if echocardiographers perform more complex procedures like transesophageal echocardiology (TEE) or if they work with certain populations like pregnant women and children with heart defects. Echocardiographers also need to have a high comfort level and skill with patients.
Many of the programs to become an echocardiographer are two years in length and are offered at medical technology schools or at junior colleges. There are an increasing number of four-year programs, too, and these are more appropriate to echocardiographers who want to work in more complex areas of this field. In any school, students can expect to learn how to operate sonography equipment, evaluate the structures of the heart, and learn a variety of medical procedures and technology. To choose the best training facilities, students should verify that programs specialize in echocardiography, are offered by accredited schools, and are in good standing with any licensing or registry agencies.
The basic two years of study to become an echocardiographer are likely to especially focus on adult cardiac sonography. People who want to work with different populations or perform more advanced procedures are sometimes better served by a four-year program that gives the opportunity to specialize. Some areas of specialty are TEE and fetal or pediatric echocardiography. A few individuals with only two-year degrees and on-the-job training work in these areas, too.
Where a person lives dictates what steps are needed beyond education to get work. Sometimes a person who wants to become an echocardiographer must obtain a license to practice in the field. Others are encouraged to join registries that certify their skill to a certain level. Echocardiographers can decide which of these steps are necessary as they progress through and finish an education program.
There are numerous places to find work when a person has become an echocardiographer. Large cardiology offices and hospitals hire these employees. Pediatric cardiologists may need specialists who can do TEE, fetal echos, and pediatric echos. Some echocardiographers learn more from the job because they work for doctors who are trained echocardiologists. This means they’ve completed significant studies in echocardiology, in addition to being cardiac specialists.
One other requirement for work in this field is an inherent comfort in interacting with patients. It may take half an hour or longer to perform an echo, and except with TEE, the patient is conscious, talking, and may be nervous. Cultivating excellent people skills is important to help put patients at their ease.