Heart of the matter: Careers in cardiac sonography

women students at ultrasound machine

Looking for a career with heart? Think about the possibilities in cardiac sonography or echocardiography.

Cardiac sonographers use ultrasound to obtain images of the heart, called an echocardiogram. These images can help a doctor to diagnose any blockages or abnormalities in the heart or in the arteries around the heart. Cardiac sonographers may perform one of several kinds of echocardiograms, including a stress echo, a contrast-enhanced echo, or a trans-esophageal echo. They may go into the operating room during open-heart surgery to assist. They may also learn other procedures, such as EKG, stress testing, or perform Holter monitor procedures to test the heart.

“Echocardiography is playing a key role in guiding the assessment and management of critically ill patients during the pandemic. Recommendations from national and international societies are being updated to guide the use of CV imaging during this pandemic,” said Lindsay Mercer, program director. “To limit exposure and exam time, handheld ultrasound is now playing a key role in the diagnosis and management of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and potential future pandemics. Jackson College is pleased to announce that students will have access to similar handheld ultrasound technology to support online learning.”

Cardiac sonographers may perform one of several kinds of echocardiograms, including a stress echo, a contrast-enhanced echo, or a trans-esophageal echo. They may go into the operating room during open-heart surgery to assist. They may also learn other procedures, such as EKG, stress testing, or perform Holter monitor procedures to test the heart.

Cardiac sonographers must be able to combine both technical skills in working with equipment and computers along with a caring bedside manner, as they work with patients who may be weak, in pain, or frightened. A caring attitude will help as they work with patients, and good communication skills will be necessary for interacting with patients, doctors and other medical staff. Because they are taking two-dimensional images that represent a three-dimensional heart, they will also need good spatial recognition skills, something that can often be found in students who enjoy video games and have developed good hand-eye coordination.

About the Program

Jackson College offers an associate degree in cardiac sonography, which is a two-year program. The first year consists of prerequisites, and students apply for a “second-admit” to the cardiac program for the second year. Cardiac sonography is an online program, with all classwork available online with in-person labs. JC’s cardiac sonography program is a CAAHEP-accredited program, which means it meets the standards and guidelines of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Employment opportunities for echocardiographers are booming right now. Job field growth is estimated at 14 percent, a rate much higher than most job sectors in the country.

An associate degree is necessary to start working in the field, and students are strongly urged to pursue certification by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) to gain the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) credential.

To learn more, contact Lindsay Mercer, program director.