When people think of an ultrasound technician (also called medical diagnostic sonographers or sonographers), they often think about pregnant women and their unborn babies. And while this is true, these technicians also use ultrasound technology to help physicians diagnose conditions such as blood clots, cancer, and heart valve defects.
If you are considering a career as an ultrasound technician, you first need to earn a degree before gaining employment in the field.
Ultrasound Technician Degree
Associate Degree – This is the most common ultrasound technician training program. An associate degree gives students the ability to complete their education in as little as two years.
Bachelor Degree – This is a more intensive program and it usually takes students four years to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Where to Find Programs
Throughout the United States, there are over 150 accredited programs found at community colleges, teaching hospitals, universities, and vocational schools.
Is Accreditation Important?
Yes. Students should only consider enrolling in a program that has accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This means the program has a curriculum that meets standards set by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Attending a non-accredited program makes it harder to sit for the optional certification exam (though most employers will only hire ultrasound technicians with a credential) and to find employment.
What to Ask Before Selecting a Program
- Is the program accredited? Don’t assume that because a program is offered at a community college or university means it holds the proper accreditation.
- How many students are enrolled in the program at one time?
- What are the core subjects? Not all programs offer the same courses or specialties.
- What is the success rates of graduates?
- What type of scholarships or grants are available to students in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program?
Some of the more common courses are:
Abdominal Sonogram – Students generally need to take at least one course that centers on abdominal ultrasounds. They learn about the abdomen’s pathologies and the symptoms that accompany them.
Anatomy and Physiology – Students learn about the various parts of the body and how they interact.
Echocardiography – This is the study of the heart’s anatomy, anatomic variants, and pathophysiology.
Medical Law and Ethics – This course teaches students what their responsibilities are as a healthcare professional and what a client’s rights are as a patient. Students also learn how to handle patients’ sensitive information.
Medical Terminology – This course discusses a variety of subjects that involve medical terminology such as human anatomy, medical devices, diseases, and medicines.
Patient Care – Students learn how to best interact with patients, how to prepare them for the scan, and how to record their medical history.
Ultrasound Basic Physics – During the Ultrasound Basic Physics course, students gain an understanding of how ultrasound technology works.
All accredited programs require students to complete an externship. They work under the direct supervision of an ultrasound technician in an actual medical setting such as a hospital or outpatient facility. During this hands-on training, students can expect to practice their scanning techniques on patients, observe scans, transfer patients from wheelchairs onto the patient table, and maintain supplies.
There are too many accredited schools to list, but here are some to get you started:
- Virginia College at Birmingham – Birmingham, Alabama
- John Hopkins Hospital – Baltimore, Maryland
- Bunker Hill Community College – Boston, Massachusetts
- Grand Valley State University – Grand Rapids, Michigan
- New York Methodist Hospital – Brooklyn, New York
- Southeast Technical Institute – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Alvin Community College – Alvin, Texas
- Bryan College of Health Sciences – Lincoln, Nebraska
- Central New Mexico Community College – Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Orange Coast College – Costa Mesa, California
- Bellevue College – Bellevue, Washington
Selecting the right program takes time and research. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information.