Ultrasound Technician: Schools, Degrees & Certificates

If you are considering an ultrasound technician training but still have doubts, here are five reasons why you should take the first step.

  • Enter the job field in a short time.
    Start working shortly.
    The most popular option among students receiving ultrasound training is a two-year associate degree.
    If you have previous experience in another healthcare position, you may complete a certificate program within a year.
  • Be a part of a cutting-edge career field.
    Mostly, ultrasound is associated with pregnancy.
    However, ultrasound imaging is used in many ways, which brings great job opportunities.
  • Earn a great salary.
    With the ultrasound technician education, you have great earning potential.
    According to the US BLS, the average annual salary is $73,860.
  • Use your skills to help people.
    You can feel good about your job.
    Using your skills and knowledge you can help people, which can be rewarding in more ways than just a paycheck.
  • Lots of job opportunities.
    Careers in healthcare are some of the fastest-growing occupations in the US, including ultrasound careers.
    After you graduate from your program, you are prepared to enter the field that is expected to grow by 19% within the next 10 years, as per the BLS.

Ultrasound Technician: What You’ll Do

Ultrasound technicians are also known as diagnostic medical sonographers.

They are responsible for operating equipment that produces and records images and conducts tests.

The images are later used by physicians for diagnoses.

Most people know the role of an ultrasound technician in relation to pregnancy.

However, sonograms are used for more than that, including examining the brain, muscles, breast tissue, spinal cord, joints, tendons, and organs.

Like with other careers in healthcare, you can choose a specialization within the sonography field.

For instance, cardiac sonographers produce images of the patient’s heart, heart valves, chambers, and vessels.

The vascular sonographer has similar tasks, but the primary focus is on blood flow and vessels.

The job of an ultrasound technician includes more than just producing an image.

They interact with patients while preparing them for procedures.

They also need a keen eye.

Ultrasound technicians should be able to recognize abnormal and normal images.

The duties include analyzing diagnostic information and providing it to the physician.

Typically, ultrasound technicians are employed in physician’s offices, hospitals, and labs.

But first, they need to receive an ultrasound technician education.

What You’ll Study

The prerequisites for an ultrasound tech program include courses in core sciences, such as biology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and physics.

Some programs prefer candidates with experience in healthcare or science but will also accept high school graduates with courses in science and math, as well as those with a background in liberal arts.

The program options are as follows:

  • 1-year certificate or diploma.
  • 2-year associate’s degree.
  • 4-year bachelor’s degree.

Depending on your specialty, programs may cover courses in:

  • Vascular Ultrasound.
  • Sectional Anatomy.
  • Physiology of the Heart.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound & Small Parts.
  • Ultrasound Physics.
  • Medical Terminology.
  • Obstetric and Gynecology Ultrasound.
  • Pathophysiology of the Heart.
  • Physics and Instrumentation.
  • Anatomy of the Heart.

The ultrasound tech program also includes an internship that lasts for 3 to 6 months.

In the internship, you’ll gain supervised hands-on clinical experience.

Ultrasound Technician Schools

Ultrasound technician schools are located throughout the country.

But how to choose the right one that will teach you exactly what you need?

When choosing a college, consider the following factors:

Accreditation:

Search for schools accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), or regional accrediting agencies.

Without accreditation, you won’t be able to earn the certification or apply for federal financial aid.

High-tech facilities:

Ultrasound techs work with state-of-the-art technology and equipment.

So it’s essential to find a school that has high-tech facilities.

After you gain knowledge in the classroom, you need to put your skills in practice.

Make sure to take a tour around the facility of the school to learn what type of access you will have to the campus labs.

Externship opportunities:

One of the best ways to get an understanding of the everyday life of an ultrasound tech is to get out in the field.

The real-life experience is highly valuable.

You’ll have a chance to shadow a sonographer, ask questions, and learn more about the job.

You can’t learn this from any textbook.

Ultrasound Technician School: Degrees

There are several options for ultrasound degrees that you can choose from.

Associate’s Degree

With an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography, you can obtain entry-level positions in the field.

Most programs take from 18 to 24 months to complete.

Besides studying the equipment, ultrasound students also learn about patient care.

Sonographers need strong skills in interacting with a diverse group of patients since they work closely with people all day.

Learning legal, regulatory, and ethical aspects is also essential.

Bachelor’s Degree

Most ultrasound techs have an associate degree, but if you wish to advance your education, you can earn a bachelor’s degree that can offer great rewards.

With additional training, you can improve your problem-solving skills and participate in research and projects.

Some techs that hold bachelor’s degrees can advance in the healthcare field.

If you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree, there are two options that most schools offer.

Degree completion:

These programs are made for current sonographers registered in such organizations as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

Those who have previous college credits can participate in the programs as well.

For most of these programs, you have to be currently employed in the field.

If you haven’t taken general education courses, such as social sciences, college algebra, or English compositions, you’ll have to complete them during ultrasound tech school.

Professional courses usually include:

  • Healthcare management.
  • Breast sonography.
  • Fetal echo, neonatal and pediatric sonography.
  • Healthcare systems.
  • Musculoskeletal sonography.

You’ll be learning in lab settings.

Also, most schools require you to complete an externship in a lab or medical facility.

If you are an associate degree holder, there are options that allow you to complete a bachelor’s degree with a specialization, such as vascular sonography.

In this case, your study will focus on the intricacies of this specific area.

Four-year degree:

If you are only starting and don’t have college credits or a previous degree, you can enroll in a four-year bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography.

Similar to other bachelor’s degrees, you’ll study both general education courses and those specific to your major.

These courses are usually covered within the last two years of the program.

However, the early coursework will prepare you with introductory science to these courses.

Certificates

Future ultrasound technicians can also earn a certificate in the field.

Contrary to other certificates, certificate programs in diagnostic medical sonography are designed for people who already have a college education.

The program duration ranges between 12 and 18 months, based on the school that offers it.

To enroll in a certificate program, you need one of the following:

  • Associate’s degree in the allied health program, such as occupational therapy assistant or registered nurse.
  • Bachelor’s degree in any major.

While the certificate program is shorter than the degree programs, it still includes hands-on experience.

Despite the educational option you pick, in most programs, you will have to take courses in a specific order.

The programs are designed to be based on previous lessons, especially with topics becoming more complex later in the program.

It’s a good time to get started in the field since diagnostic medical sonography field is projected to grow rapidly.


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