Sonographers provide an important service to the public by helping to diagnose medical conditions and ultimately save lives. Find out the steps you’ll need to take to become a sonographer with our helpful guide.

What does a sonographer do?

A sonographer is a healthcare professional who uses ultrasound equipment to detect and diagnose medical conditions. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves which can be turned into moving images. 

Some typical day-to-day tasks can include:

  • Setting up ultrasound equipment
  • Using ultrasound equipment for examinations
  • Talking to patients before, during and after a scan
  • Producing images and making observations
  • Writing reports
  • Making referrals to other healthcare professionals

What skills are needed to become a sonographer?

If you want to be a successful sonographer you’ll need a number of hard and soft skills. These include:

  • Strong knowledge of medicine and healthcare
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • An empathetic and understanding personality 
  • Excellent concentration skills
  • An ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Excellent hand-eye communication
  • An ability to think critically
  • A passion for helping others

What qualifications are needed to become a sonographer?

There are two main ways to become a sonographer in the UK: studying at university or completing an apprenticeship.

Universities offer a number of relevant undergraduate degrees including radiography, nursing, science and health science. You can then go on to complete a postgraduate certificate in medical or clinical ultrasound, which must be recognised by the Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE)(1)

These university courses will offer practical components too, giving you the opportunity to work within a professional setting. 

On the other hand, you could complete an apprenticeship instead. These usually take around 36 months to complete and vacancies can be found on the NHS Jobs(2) website. 

“The personal reward is so key to this role because it humbles you to be there to help someone in their time of worry and uncertainty and this is something so few jobs have.“

Rachel, lead sonographer(3) 

Steps to become a sonographer

To start your journey towards becoming a sonographer, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

Step one: Decide if this is the career for you

Sonographers play an important role within the healthcare industry. If you work in this career, you’ll need to have a real passion for healthcare and a desire to help people. 

If you’re still deciding whether or not this is the career for you, it could be worth completing some free online sonography courses(4)  to get a feel for the subject. 

Step two: Complete a university course or apprenticeship

Most employers will expect you to have formal qualifications before applying for a job. To study at university or to apply for an apprenticeship, you’ll usually need two to three A levels or equivalent, although this can vary depending on the specific course.  

Courses and apprenticeships will equip you with both the practical and theoretical skills you’ll need to become a successful sonographer. For some higher sonography jobs, you may be required to have a number of years experience in the field along with formal qualifications.

Step three: Apply for a job

Sonographers can either work for the NHS or within private clinics. Once you’re ready to search for an open role, you can use the Find a Job service(5) or the NHS Jobs website to find current vacancies. There are often a number of trainee sonographer positions available that require little or no previous working experience in the field. 

How much does a sonographer earn in the UK?

In the UK, sonographers typically earn between £40,056 to £53,218(6) a year. Salaries vary heavily depending on location, but wherever you choose to work, your salary will increase with experience.

Are sonographers in demand in the UK?

Yes, sonographers are currently in high demand across the UK. As technology and science continues to advance, there is always a growing need for sonographers to utilise specialist equipment to help diagnose more conditions.