Tips on Finding the Right Ultrasound Technician Schools

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If you’re interested in pursuing a career working as an ultrasound technician, you will be interested in ultraasound technician schools and how to find a good one. Here’s what you need to know.

What Do Ultrasound Technician Schools Entail?

student in an ultrasound technician school

Many ultrasound techs receive their education and training through programs offering an associate’s degree, with opportunities of getting a Bachelor’s degree or certificate program also available. Many employers prefer to hire ultrasound technicians who have successfully passed their certification exams available by completing courses offered by ultrasound technician schools.

There is a demand for these ultrasound technicians (commonly referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers) who operate specially designed equipment that uses sound waves through echoing that create images of internal structures of the body such as tumors and fetal growth. As an ultrasound technician, you will work closely with expectant mothers and doctors seeking to discover information such as gender, abnormalities, and aid in the diagnosis of other medical conditions.

Training and Duties of the Ultrasound Tech?

ultrasound technician showing result of the test

The ultrasound technician performs a diagnostic imaging procedure similar to taking an X-ray or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in that the sonogram uses sound waves reflecting the images of the internal parts of the patient’s body. For example, 4D ultrasound makes it possible to view a live, real-time video of the activity of a fetus inside the womb.

While performing the exam, the ultrasound technician operates the equipment and looks for abnormalities and problem areas while making sure the image is readable and clear enough for the physician and staff to assess the situation and diagnose the condition accurately. Reputable ultrasound technician schools teach students other key functions such as how to take measurements, do specific calculations and judge the results.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Ultrasound technician schools offer formal or military training to become an ultrasound technician. Many students opt for the most common training and get an Associate’s Degree. There are also a Bachelor’s Degree and 1-year certificate programs available. Many of these programs are available at universities, community or 2-year colleges, and technical/vocation schools.

Classes usually include courses on human anatomy, obstetrics, ultrasound equipment, and pathophysiology. Students must also complete courses on clinical education; a requirement of the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) to take the registration exam needed for certification.

Facts Regarding Certification

Some states in the U.S. require that ultrasound technicians pass certification as part of their licensing process. However, certification in this field is voluntary. Certification provides the ultrasound technician with an official assessment of skills and training that employers look for when hiring. The ARDMS certification exam offers certification in specialty areas including breast, abdomen and vascular (blood vessels) ultrasound techniques. Once a tech is certified, they must keep their certification active by taking specific classes in continuing education.

Qualities of Top Schools

It is important that you take the time to research each school and the curriculum they offer when considering a career in sonography. There are certificate programs for students who have previously completed their medical education and have their medical degree, or licensed medical personnel seeking to expand their resume. Certificate programs are available via vocational schools, medical training facilities, and community colleges. The following tips will help you find the right ultrasound technician schools.

Certificate Curriculum

Make sure the program comprises courses in basic physiology, pathology and anatomy courses. They should also cover the principles of sonography, OB/GYN ultrasound, vascular sonography, abdominal ultrasound, instrumentation and classes in medical ethics. Students must take part in clinical rotations and classroom practicums as part of their certification criteria.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

ultrasound technicians preparing for an ultrasound test

This degree equips the ultrasound student with the education and training required for working an entry-level sonography job. Most AAS degrees take approximately 2 years to complete at a vocational school, community college, university or medical training institute.

AAS Curriculum

AAS degree programs have specific classes the student must take and pass to get certified including anatomy, patient care, medical ethics, physiology, and pathology. Students should also look for schools offering sonography classes that focus on the ultrasound machine’s instrumentation and effective sonography techniques. Specialized classes in abdominal ultrasound and gynecological ultrasound should also be available. Your education as an ultrasound technician requires classroom studies, lab work and clinical education taking place in a local medical facility or hospital.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

This is a 4-year program offered by a college or university that prepares students for both entry- and mid-level ultrasound positions. Courses comprise pathology, anatomy, physiology, and medical ethics. Students learn how to address the principles and techniques for abdominal, vascular and pelvic sonographic exams and take part interning in hospitals and medical clinics. Classes can include:

  • Sectional anatomy
  • Physics of ultrasound
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Vascular sonography
  • Obstetrical and gynecological sonography        

Master’s Degree Programs

The Master’s Degree in diagnostic medical sonography is the perfect way to enhance your resume opening the door to more career opportunities. Individuals seeking administrative positions, consultants for private industries, academic or commercial researchers and teachers can achieve future career goals by earning a Master’s Degree-and can usually finish the program in 15 months or fewer depending on prerequisite courses. Classes comprise topics that include:

  • Healthcare trends
  • Ethics
  • Research methods
  • Epidemiology
  • Writing on medical topics
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Special issues connected with cardiac, pediatric or vascular sonography
  • Applied clinical training

Diploma Programs

The diploma programs are optional for any student who has previously earned their Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in an area that is or may not be related to medical imaging. They might require students who don’t have an Allied Health degree or a degree in medical imaging to complete additional prerequisite classes.

The diploma sonography program can typically be completed in18 months or less.  It’s a good idea to assess how the diploma program can enhance your career options as students already have their degree, the program focuses on sonography training and specialty classes if they choose either vascular or cardiac fields. Diploma courses include:

  • Principles of sonography
  • Imaging of the abdomen
  • Obstetrical and gynecological areas
  • Cross-sectional imaging
  • Ultrasound instrumentation
  • Ethics and legal issues
  • Medical management

Tips to Pick Top Schools

Accreditation, certification and career placement are at the top of the list when researching ultrasound technician schools. Always verify the school’s accreditation. This ensures that the school meets the minimum educational and clinical standards set by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

If the sonography school does not have its accreditation, students who graduate will not meet the eligibility requirements to become nationally certified. You can check whether your school is accredited by checking with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Certification Success Rate

Certification is not mandatory for diagnostic medical sonographers. However, many employers require the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. To earn this credential, students must pass 2 exams. You can usually read the school’s certification stats online as they keep records reflecting the school’s success rate. This provides proof of their ability to prepare students for sonography careers.

Career Placement Success

Complete assessment of each school’s sonography program includes the success of its graduates. Many ultrasound technician schools will furnish data and stats regarding the number of graduates working in the field of sonography and the various jobs they involved in. Interested students should investigate the school’s career placement procedures and opportunities as most sonography schools help their graduates with career placement. Some services offered are:

  • Resume development
  • Job postings
  • Career Fairs
  • Sharing openings in local hospitals and medical centers

Environment, Location, Facilities, and Tuition

Some ultrasound technicians schools offer online courses enabling students to attend lectures, take assignments and tests via online classes. However, due to the hands-on nature of the profession, the experience is necessary for most sonography certificate and degree programs. Therefore, students must take part in and complete their clinical rotations in person whether in a hospital or clinic environment.

There are hybrid programs that offer a combination of both online and classroom learning. These hybrid programs make it possible for ultrasound technician schools to promote student interaction with online classes. Hybrid programs also require students to take part in clinical rotations at local medical facilities.

Traditional Classroom Programs

Check for accreditation before assuming the online school meets the brief. Many ultrasound technician schools that offer online sonography degrees are not accredited since most learning takes place in the actual classroom. The classroom-based programs feature scenarios such as live lectures, small discussion groups and lab work. These besides clinical rotations at local medical clinics and hospitals must be in person.

Assess The School’s Training Equipment And Facilities

Touring the school and observing its facilities in person is a wise endeavor. You’ll be able to see and ask questions about the precise ultrasound machines you’ll be learning on. Inquire as to the age of the equipment and how often the machines and imaging equipment are replaced. Students should seek schools that have the most current equipment and find out if they expire. Be sure to find out all you can relating to additional training objects such as ultrasound training simulators and test mannequins.

Final Thoughts

Consider the cost of your education. Ultrasound technician schools can vary depending on the degree you’re seeking and whether the school is public or private. The tuition for a 1-year sonography school is about $4,000, while a bachelor’s degree program is around $30,000. Research school scholarship opportunities, financial aid and what grants might be available.

Find out if your school offers scholarships, partial or full tuition or financial aid to students. Be prepared to prove your financial status to qualify. Always inquire about additional costs. Some ultrasound technician schools include books and necessary materials; some don’t. There might also be lab, uniforms or equipment fees to consider. Consider all expenses, tuition, and fees before you enroll in a sonography program.

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