Sonogram technicians use medical technology involving sound waves to take pictures of patients' internal organs. Doctors then review these photographs in order to potentially diagnose and treat patients' health conditions such as heart disease or cancer. Sonogram technicians will also perform ultrasounds on pregnant women to monitor the growth of the fetus and catch any potentially serious health problems as early in the pregnancy as possible. Sonogram technicians can work in a number of different settings including clinics, hospitals, and physician offices. Individuals who are looking to become sonogram technicians will need to seek education at the post secondary level including associate and bachelor's degrees. Certificate degree options are also available for individuals who are not interested in pursuing a full degree.
Associate Degrees for Ultrasound Technicians
By participating in an associate degree program, students will learn the basics of ultrasound technology and how to capture images that can then be analyzed successfully by doctors. Key core courses that students can expect to participate in include human anatomy and physiology I & II, patient care, physics, ultrasound scanning, abdominal sonography, sectional anatomy, vascular imaging, and clinical education. Most programs will also provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through real world lab procedures. Students can typically graduate with their degree in just two years by completing 60-credit hours of study. In order to qualify for this level of program the applicant must have a high school diploma or its GED equivalent. Earning an associate degree will prepare graduates to work as ultrasound technicians. Employment can be pursued at any medical facility in which ultrasounds are administered. Annual tuition averages around $9,810 for this level of program.
Bachelor's Degrees for Ultrasound Technicians
Individuals who have earned a bachelor's degree may have greater opportunity to hold above entry-level positions such as supervisory roles. Over the course of four years, students will participate in 120-credit hours of study comprising of classes like general biology, computers in medicine, medical genetics, human cross sectional anatomy, language of medicine, ultrasound physics, and gynecological sonography. Students can also expect to participate in an externship, which will give them an additional experience beyond the restrictions of a classroom. Individuals who are interested in entering a bachelor's program will need to have a high school diploma or GED. If the applicant has earned over 24 credits at another institution they will need to provide their college transcripts. Average tuition for a four-year program ranges from $29,220 to $38,024.
Certificate Degrees for Ultrasound Technicans
Students can earn their certificate degree in ultrasonography in a year or less. A certificate degree is an alternative to an associate or bachelor's degree; through condensed study, certificate programs cover foundational materials for ultrasound technician students. The classes that will help to equip students with the knowledge of key industry fundamentals include sonography physics, sectional anatomy, abdominal sonography, pelvic sonography, technical impressions, sonographic patterns of organs, and obstetric sonography. Though certificate programs are shorter in nature than other degree levels, participating students may still be able to gain clinical experience. In order to qualify for a certificate degree program, applicants must either have a high school diploma or GED and be over 18 years of age. Upon graduation, individuals may go on to be hired at hospitals, private clinics, and women's healthcare facilities among other options. Certificate degree programs can most often be found at community or technical schools where the total cost of education averages between $5,000 and $25,000.
Accreditation of Ultrasound Technician Programs
Finding an accredited program is an important part of the college research and application process. Accreditation is important because it helps to ensure students that they are participating in programs that are being held to high educational standards. Attending an accredited school will also make transferring college credits much easier if the student plans to do so in the future because most institutions only accept transfer credits from other programs if they are accredited. Many employers also like to hire employees who have an accredited education on their resume because it gives them confidence in their candidates' knowledge and skills.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the predominant accrediting body for ultrasound technician programs. CAAHEP's mission involves reviewing key program elements the ensure the utmost quality of education is being given to all students involved. Individuals interested in attending a CAAHEP accredited program can search for programs by state directly on the organization's website.
Professional Certification for Ultrasound Technicians
Ultrasound technicians are not legally required to be certified but certification may be a bonus for ultrasound technicians in the hiring process. Employers may look at certified candidates as having the level of knowledge and training necessary to succeed within their positions, therefore more employment opportunities are open to those who decide to become certified. Individuals who have earned a degree from an accredited program will be eligible to seek certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Once individuals have successfully passed the ARRT exam, they will become certified ultrasound technicians. Certification renewal through ARRT must take place every 10 years. Professionals can also become certified under the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). This organization offers exams for both midwife sonography and sonography instrumentation.
Specialties Within the Field of Ultrasound Technology
There are several different areas of ultrasonography in which an individual can specialize. If prospective ultrasound technicians have specific interests, they should look for programs that include classes that will support their goals to work in those specialized areas within the field.
Abdomen/Small Parts: These type of sonographers take pictures of abdominal organs such as kidneys and livers.
OB/GYN: When people think of ultrasonography this is perhaps what most people think of. This is where sonographers evaluate the growth of a fetus to ensure that they are on track with the normal growth rate.
Vascular: During a vascular ultrasound a patients blood vessels are pictured and examined to determine blood flow complications.
Neurosonography (Brain): This is where sonographers capture images of the brain. This is often how tumors and brain hemorrhages are detected.
Echocardiography (Cardiac): Cardiac sonographers work with patients to evaluate their heart and its functions.
- Accreditation. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.caahep.org/Content.aspx?ID=23.
- Certification. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Accessed November 4, 2016. https://www.arrt.org/certification/sonography.
- Certification. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Accessed November 5, 2016. http://www.ardms.org/Pages/default.aspx.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292032.htm.
- Ultrasound Specialties. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed November 4, 2016. https://www.rit.edu/healthsciences/undergraduate-programs/diagnostic-medical-sonography/ultrasound-specialties.
- Ecpi University. Accessed September 28, 2016. https://www.ecpi.edu/programs/sonography-associate-degree.
- Associate Degree Program. Pima Medical Institute. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://pmi.edu/programs/associate/diagnostic-medical-sonography.
- Associate in Arts Degree. Bellevue College. Accessed September 28, 2016. https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/programs/degrees/proftech/dutec/#dut-aa.
- B.S. Medical Sonography Program. Misericordia University. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://www.misericordia.edu/page.cfm?p=1810.
- Certificate Program. Sanford-Brown. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://www.sanfordbrown.edu/areas-of-study/allied-health-diagnostic/diagnostic-medical-sonography/certificate-program-in-diagnostic-medical-sonography.
- Continuing Qualification Requirements. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Accessed November 5, 2016. https://www.arrt.org/Registration/CQR.
- Courses. Pima Medical Institute. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://pmi.edu/programs/associate/diagnostic-medical-sonography/learnmore.
- Curriculum. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed September 28, 2016. https://www.rit.edu/healthsciences/undergraduate-programs/diagnostic-medical-sonography/bachelor-science.
- Medical Sonography Associate Degree. Virginia College. Accessed November 3, 2016. https://www.vc.edu/associates-degrees/diagnostic-medical-sonography/.
- Tuition and Fees. Gateway Community College. Accessed September 28, 2016. http://www.gatewaycc.edu/tuition.
- Tuition and Fees. Rochester Institute Technology. Accessed September 28, 2016. https://www.rit.edu/fa/sfs/billing/tuitionandfees/1617/undergraduate.