The DMS field encompasses many specialties, and you could choose to be specialized or generalized. Each Ultrasound Tech specialty has its strengths and weaknesses. The saying goes, “You can learn a little about a lot of things or a lot about a few things”. As a generalized DMS technologist, you could work in hospitals and imaging clinics where a variety of ultrasound procedures need to be known and practiced with skill and speed. You would be more marketable and have more employment options available as a licensed generalized Sonographer, so you might have more freedom in choosing where to live and work. However, you would have to pass more ARDMS exams to be considered competitive in the field.
The most common ARDMS specialty exams are Abdominal/Small Parts, OB/Gyn, Vascular, and Breast. There is a cardiac specialty as well, but that requires a completely different training program than DMS programs.
It is the golden ticket for Sonographers
Once you have passed a specialized ARDMS exam, you are considered a registered Sonographer in that area. It is the golden ticket for Sonographers. The more specialty exams you pass, the less competition. You might see titles such as Sonographer II on job listings. This refers to the number of ARDMS credentials you have, not including the SPI Physics exam. Sonographer III, for example, means that the Sonographer has three credentials (aka registries) in addition to the SPI Physics exam.
More hospitals and centers are requiring Sonographers to have not only the Abdominal/Small Parts and OB/Gyn specialties, but now are expecting the Vascular (RVT) and Breast specialties as well. The last two specialties have additional requirements such as a certain number of specialty ultrasound exams recorded in a log and the signature of a supervisor already in this specialty. These two specialties are only briefly touched on in most certificate programs, so there will be a great deal more studying needed to pass an exam such as these.
As an ultrasound specialist (vs generalist) there are less jobs and places to find them. Smaller communities may not have a need for a specialized Sonographer. But the good news is that a specialist might get paid more than a generalized Sonographer. An example of a specialist would be a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) who decided to work only in a vascular lab. These Sonographers only examine the cardio-vascular system. There are many intensive types of exams and measuring equipment used to evaluate the vascular system, particularly in the aging population, and it is expected there will be much growth in this field.