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A Guide To Ultrasound Technician Schools & Degree Programs


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Aspiring ultrasound technicians must complete a course of study in the use of diagnostic medical sonography in order to become an ultrasound technician. Diagnostic medical sonography programs are typically offered at community colleges and vocational schools, though some universities will also offer options for individuals interested in studying diagnostic medical sonography.

ultrasound tech

Photo credit: B.K. Dewey

 Choosing an Ultrasound Technician SchoolAccreditationWhile some private for-profit institutions offer non-accredited programs in diagnostic medical sonography, these programs often do not allow individuals to meet state licensing requirements. In addition, most employers will only consider students with degrees or certificates from accredited institutions. Students should look for ultrasound technician programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program.

SpecializationEmployers are also interested in a candidate’s specializations. Ultrasound technicians can specialize in a variety of areas, including gynecologic sonography (a woman’s reproductive organs), neurosonography (brain and nervous system), cardiac sonography (heart), and abdominal (internal organs in the abdominal cavity). Students should consider their areas of specialization in choosing an ultrasound tech school, though most programs offer students the opportunity to study all of the major specialization areas. Students will also need to obtain clinical experience in their specialty in order to obtain certification.

Licensing & CertificationBecoming a licensed or Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) is crucial to landing employment in many jurisdictions. Students need to ensure that their course of study will allow them to meet the requirements necessary to write the ARDMS certification exams .

Here are some of the degree programs and options available to individual interested in pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician.

 Ultrasound Technician Degrees OverviewCertificate in Ultrasound TechnologyFor individuals with a background in allied health, many states only require a post-secondary certificate in ultrasound technology to meet formal education requirements for licensing. However, because these requirements may vary state-to-state, it’s important to check with your local state board for details. In some cases, experienced healthcare workers such as registered nurses may be able to enter the career with some on-the-job training in lieu of additional formal studies.

Certificate programs in ultrasound technology focus primarily on the specific skills needed within the profession, without focusing on the wide base of medical knowledge needed in order to pursue a career as an ultrasound technician. Certificate programs typically last 1 year and assumes prior knowledge of technique related to basic patient care, hospital procedure, medical terminology, and other skills and knowledge possessed by health workers. Students will be given a general introduction to medial sonography and may also be given real-world clinical training.

Associate’s Degree in Diagnostic Medical SonographyAssociate’s degree programs are typically 2 years long. In some jurisdictions, applicants can apply to an ultrasound program after receiving their high school diploma, while some jurisdictions require students have completed a minimum number of pre-requisite college courses (typically lasting 2 years) before they are eligible for admission.

In the first year of study, students are taught basic medical terminology and procedure and given introductory level courses to familiarize them with ultrasound technology and the profession. In the 2nd year of a typical associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography program, the student takes more specialized courses, including hands on clinical training at a hospital in various ultrasound specialties.

A typical course-load for a student in an ultrasound technician program might include the following:

  • Medical terminology
  • Patient care
  • Sonographic scanning
  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiac sonography
  • Vascular sonography

Bachelor’s of Science in Diagnostic Medical SonographyFor individuals looking to further their education, a bachelor’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography takes 4 years to complete. Typically, a student pursuing a bachelor’s of science in DMS will take general undergraduate science courses for the first 2 years of study, before completing a similar educational pathway of specialized courses and clinical training, as those completing an associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography.

In practical terms, getting a Bachelor’s degree isn’t a tremendous benefit if you’re looking to become an ultrasound technician. Individuals entering the profession with a Bachelor’s degree do not typically have a higher starting salary – its more important to employers that candidates possess RDMS certification. However, a Bachelor’s degree may be important for individuals interested in eventually moving to supervisor or manager positions.

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