Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 7, 2018

Good pay without a four-year degree

Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin is home to one of six nationally accredited diagnostic medical sonography program in Tennessee. Others include Vanderbilt University, South College in Knoxville and Chattanooga State Community College.

Typical of most programs in the state, the competitive program at Vol State is always full. Graduates earn an advanced 16-month technical certificate with most qualifying for an associate degree in health sciences.

Edward Carlton, director of the diagnostic medical sonography program at Vol State, explains why the career is in demand.

“One of the chief reasons is the technological advancements in the field,” Carlton says. “We are able to produce ultrasound machines that can process and obtain much more information than ever before. As a result, we can image anatomical structures and perform procedures we couldn’t just a few years ago.

“I compare the technological improvements in ultrasound machines to the technological improvements to cell phones,” Carlton continues. “Every 4-5 years there are huge leaps in what cell phones are capable to doing, and ultrasound machines are similar.

“A 10-year old phone cannot do video chats, take photographs or surf the web as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as a 1-year old phone. A 10-year old ultrasound machine cannot process information and take sonograms as efficiently as newer machines.

“Because the machines are able to perform better and produce higher-quality images, we can do more with them. Some of the exams that could only be done with X-ray in the past can now be done with ultrasound.”

At the end of Vol State’s 16-month program, graduates qualify to sit for national board exams to become registered diagnostic medical sonographers. Carlton says 100 percent of last year’s graduating class earned this credential before they graduated and 100 percent were employed seven weeks after graduation.

“They earned first-time pass rates of 94 percent on the physics board exam, 100 percent on the abdominal exam, 100 percent on the obstetrics and gynecology exam and 100 percent on the vascular exam.”

Median salaries for sonographers in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis all fall between $65,000 to $68,000 a year.

– Linda Bryant