Ultrasound Technician: Milestone Map
Earning your credentials as an ultrasound technician may be the first in many achievements during your academic and professional career. Below is a map that highlights some of the milestones one could accomplish during their career.
Took physics and advanced algebra classes.
Took classes in obstetrics and gynecological sonography.
Worked at a pregnancy center as an ultrasound technician.
Earned certification in obstetrics and gynecological ultrasound.
Scored job promotion at private practice
Assisted in research for peer-reviewed article about common fetal diseases.
Ultrasound Tech Schools: The Online Experience
Earning your ultrasound technician degree online is a great option for those who desire flexibility in their academic schedule. While online programs are less common, many schools are beginning to offer at least a portion of the required classes online.
Online ultrasound technician programs require a mix of classroom and clinical time if you are pursuing your associate degree. Due to the nature of the skills needed as a practicing technician, hands-on experience in a clinic, hospital, or specialist’s office is a vital part of the curriculum. Some schools offer bachelor’s degree programs entirely online if you are already a certified sonographer. Because prior work experience can count toward the clinical requirements, students can complete the classroom components online while continuing to work in your field.
When preparing to begin an online ultrasound technician program, consider how well you are able to manage your time in order to complete online assignments, as well as your availability for in-person labs and clinical requirements. Research what online or on-campus resources are available for students in the program so you can connect with peers and instructors for any additional support you may need. Reliable access to the internet is also important to ensure you can participate in online discussions, log in to any university portals, and submit assignments.
Ultrasound Technician Online Program Types
The type of program you decide to pursue depends on the time available for you to dedicate to your education, and how you would like your professional career to advance. Most employers require an associate degree as the minimum education level when hiring ultrasound technicians. While there are additional opportunities for those who want to earn their bachelor’s degree, one can begin building a successful career with two years of school versus four.
- Certificate Programs
One-year training programs are available to earn an ultrasound technologist or diagnostic medical sonography certificate. Some employers do accept this as sufficient education to work as an ultrasound tech, but this option is generally recommended to those already working in the health field who are seeking to increase their skillset and marketability. Certificate programs usually focus on an advanced understanding of specific areas of study such as cardiovascular or obstetrics.
Associate degrees are the most prevalent degrees in this field and make up the majority of the 150 accredited ultrasound tech programs nationwide. This type of degree is the one that most employers require, especially for entry-level positions. Some colleges and universities only require a high school diploma as a prerequisite but others may prefer students to have taken a few introductory credits related to biology, medical terminology or physics. Be sure you understand the prerequisites required before you apply to an online school. The types of classes you can expect to take include anatomy, physiology, patient care, and medical ethics. In addition to online coursework, students should also be prepared to dedicate time in-person for labs and clinical requirements.
Bachelor’s degree programs in medical sonography are less common that associate degree programs, however a four-year degree can be worthwhile for some. Those with a more advanced degree may find advantages down the road as they pursue career improvements or seek to expand their skills outside the diagnostic environment. If your professional goals include moving into a director role or becoming an educator of diagnostic medical sonography, or if you are thinking of going to medical school down the road, then a four-year degree may be your best option. These programs are generally open to those who have already completed an associate degree. Admission requirements do vary and some schools may allow you to start from scratch or consider the completion of another two-year allied health program sufficient.
Common Online Courses: Ultrasound Technician
When comparing both online and traditional schools, similar coursework will be found among ultrasound technician programs. These will include a combination of math and science classes, courses focused on specializations such as vascular or abdominal sonography, as well as a humanities curriculum. Below is an overview of common courses you can expect to take during your academic career.
Human Anatomy & Physiology
This course is a comprehensive study of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Curriculum in this class focuses on all major systems as they relate to health, disease, and healthcare.
Ultrasound Physics & Instrumentation
Students will learn concepts of ultrasound physics, frequency, velocity, image optimization, and more. They will also learn how these concepts are applies to instrumentation controls, digital signal and image processing, and image quality.
During this class, students will examine the fundamentals of word analysis, specific to terms used to identify body systems, and emphasize the spelling, pronunciation, and definition of common medical terms.
This course covers general disease mechanisms with an emphasis on the disease processes within the body.
Principals of Communication
Since ultrasound technicians work closely with patients, physicians, and other medical staff, good communication skills are vital to your success. Most programs require a basic communication course that emphasizes the skills necessary to communicate effectively in a variety of situations including interpersonal communication, small group communication, and public speaking.
Choosing an Ultrasound Technician Program
With a variety of degree options and specializations available, it can be difficult to choose the right school for you. Here are some things to consider during your search for an online ultrasound technician program:
- Make sure the schools you are considering have earned accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP).
- Does the program meet the standards of the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?
- Determine which certificate or degree makes the most sense for you in terms of the time you have to dedicate to your education and how you would like your career to advance. And remember, you can always go back later for additional certifications or a more advanced degree.
- Understand the necessary pre-requisites required by the programs you are considering, including GPA and whether credits you have already earned will transfer.
- Does the program allow you to specialize in a particular area of sonography such as vascular, cardiac, or obstetrics?
- Are there in-person elements to the program, such as labs or clinical rotations, and will these be feasible with your schedule?
- Find out if the school offers additional resources such as support services or career counseling.
- Ensure you qualify for financial aid and that the school accepts the aid you will be receiving.
Accreditation for Ultrasound Tech Programs
Graduation from an accredited program is one of the first things a potential employer will look at when considering a candidate for a position. An institution’s accreditation ensures that certain standards have been met in terms of administration, resources, faculty, and facilities. Accreditation among health-related disciplines is also an assurance that a qualified workforce is providing healthcare services.
The first thing to look for when you begin comparing online ultrasound technician programs is that they are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The CAAHEP is the largest programmatic accreditor in the health sciences field. Through their 23 review committees, the CAAHEP currently accredits more than 2,000 educational programs in 28 health science professions.
Online Enrollment Timeline: Ultrasound Technician
As you consider a career as an ultrasound technician and research online schools offering this program, it can be helpful to outline the necessary steps leading up to when you will begin classes. Making a list of key dates will ensure that you are prepared and don’t miss any deadlines. The following list maps out a few of those necessary steps to starting an associate degree in ultrasound tech.
||Time Before Program Start Date
Apply to online colleges
| Step 2
Apply for financial aid
Register for classes
Graduate from high school
Earn CPR certification
Before your classes begin and while you are working toward your degree, there are additional things you can do to prepare for classes and your career.
- Take math and science classes in high school, especially advanced algebra, physics, and biology. This will not only better prepare you for your college curriculum, but also ensures that you have a strong interest and aptitude in these subjects.
- While in school, seek job opportunities in a healthcare organization so you can become familiar with the work environment you may experience upon graduation.
- Take additional communication or business classes to better prepare for the non-clinical aspects of the profession.
- As you near graduation, research and begin studying for certification exams such as those offered by the ARDMS.
- Consider specialized certification courses you can take post-graduation.
- Join a professional organization such as the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) which will allow you to network with other professionals and stay abreast of continuing education opportunities and other resources.
- Maintain your Basic Life Support certification since most employers will require this of prospective candidates.
Ultrasound Technician: Specializations
Ultrasound technicians work closely with patients and physicians in a variety of health organizations—from hospitals to private practice—which means your work environment will vary depending on where you seek and find employment. Those who work in a hospital setting may experience varied hours and be asked to cover on-call shifts. Technicians working in private practices will work a more traditional and consistent schedule.
Successful ultrasound technicians are detail oriented, have excellent hand-eye coordination, and strong interpersonal and communication skills. They also have an aptitude for understanding complex machinery and computerized instruments. The projected job growth for diagnostic medical sonographers is 26 percent, much faster than the national average.
Graduates with a degree in ultrasound technology may go on to work as diagnostic medical sonographers, specializing in areas like abdominal, fetal echocardiography, or neurosonography. Most diagnostic imaging professionals have at least one certification but many have multiple certifications. Other careers for graduates of online ultrasound technician programs include vascular technologist or cardiac sonographer.
||National Median Annual Salary (2014)
||Minimum Education & Licensure
||Ultrasound technicians, or diagnostic medical sonographers, specialize in creating images of the body’s organs and tissues that physicians use to make a diagnosis.
||Associate or bachelor’s degree and certification from the ARDMS
|Registered Vascular Technologist
||Vascular technologists create images of blood vessels and collect data that helps physicians diagnose disorder affecting blood flow.
||Associate or bachelor’s degree and certification in vascular sonography
|Cardiac Sonographer (Echocardiography)
||Cardiac sonographers monitor the cardiac systems of patients to identify any abnormalities that may be present.
||Associate or bachelor’s degree and certification from ARDMS or the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014)
Ultrasound Technician Licenses & Certifications
Upon graduation from an accredited program, additional professional certifications are available to ultrasound technicians. While these certifications may not be required by prospective employers, they can set you apart from other candidates.
Most common in the field of sonography is certification with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The ARDMS certification is recognized internationally and the organization offers examinations and awards credentials in the following:
Additionally, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers certification in sonography, vascular sonography, and breast sonography. The exams consist of questions about patient care, physical principles of ultrasound, and relevant sonographic procedures and competencies for each certification.
To add an additional level of communication, protection, and record keeping, some states (including Oregon, New Mexico, West Virginia, and New Jersey) have begun to license sonographers. In lieu of independent licensing requirements, most states recognize the criteria set forth by ARDMS and/or ARRT
Similar Online Vocational Programs
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