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When physicians need assistance diagnosing a medical condition or assessing the condition of a patient during a surgical procedure, they often turn to sonographers for support. Sonographers utilize diagnostic imaging equipment to analyze medical conditions and conduct tests. Sonographers are required to take formal education classes and obtain licensing through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) before working for most employers. Below are three steps to obtaining a Sonographer License:
Step 1 – Complete Formal Training
Applicants who would like to become licensed sonographers must first attend formal training. One-year training programs are available, but associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in sonography are favored among most employers. Candidates must attend one of the 176 training programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHED). After completing training, it is wise for aspiring sonographers to consider a clinical work-study under sponsorship of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) or an internship. Applicants are sometimes required to complete a minimum of 800 diagnostic cases and 12 months of hands-on experience before taking the ARDMS exams.
Step 2 – Apply for ARDMS Exams
Once all qualifications are fulfilled, candidates can submit an application on the ARDMS website to take the certification exams. Applicants must complete the online application form, pay the required fee, and mail all required documentation. It can take up to three weeks for a first-time application to be processed. Approved applicants are mailed an Examination-Confirmation Letter listing the accepted examinations and the 90-day window in which he or she must schedule and take the exams. It is recommended that candidates contact the testing vendors immediately to schedule the examinations.
Step 3 – Take Exams for Certification
Applicants should arrive at least 30 minutes early with two current forms of identification to be admitted to the test center. Two examinations are required for sonography certification. The first exam focuses on sonography principles and instrumentation. The second exam covers at least one of the following specialties: pediatric echocardiography, fetal echocardiography, adult echocardiography, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosonology, vascular technology, breast, or abdomen. Once all examinations are passed successfully, aspiring sonographers will receive a certification packet including an official certificate and temporary ARDMS Identification Card within six weeks. The official ARDMS Identification Card will be sent at a later date.
Practice examinations and study materials are available on the ARDMS website. Applicants seeking additional training and experience prior to taking the ARDMS exams can register with the American Society of Neuroimaging and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography for conferences and training seminars. The employment of sonographers is projected to increase faster than the average for other occupations. A growth of 39 percent is anticipated from 2012 to 2022.