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Are you considering a career in ultrasound tech? This field is expected to grow significantly during the coming years as a result of advances in technology and the aging population.
Wages for sonographers are good: $20 to $30/hour in Quebec and $36.82 to $45.27/hour in other parts of Canada. Read on to learn more about this career and the various programs that can give you a strong start.
Ultrasound Tech FAQ
1. What Is Ultrasound Technology?
Ultrasound technology, otherwise known as sonography, is the practice of using sonographic equipment to take images of patients’ internal organs. These images are then presented to other members of the medical team for analysis.
Relevant areas of expertise include obstetrics and gynecology, abdomen and superficial structures, and vascular sonographic studies.
2. What Attributes Make One Successful in This Career?
To be able to produce quality sonographic images, an individual must have knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and the use of sonographic equipment. He or she must be able to work well in a clinical environment as part of a medical team.
Excellent interpersonal skills are a must. Operating the equipment requires excellent hand-eye coordination.
3. How Does One Become an Ultrasound Technician?
To become an ultrasound technician, you must complete an accredited program and earn a diploma or certificate. Most of these programs require a bachelor’s degree or three-year degree with sonography work experience; however a few programs will take high school grads.
After completing the program, you must take certification exams offered by Sonography Canada or Canadian Clinical Skills Assessment (CCSA). After passing, you will have the title Canadian Generalist Sonographer and/or American Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.
4. How Are Programs Accredited?
Accreditations Canada is the organization that provides accreditation for programs that lead to a career in ultrasound tech.
5. What Are the Admissions Requirements?
Ultrasound technology programs are quite challenging, both to get into and to complete. Admissions are competitive and prospective students usually must demonstrate a record of academic success. There are often English language requirements.
Some schools only admit residents of certain regions of Canada. Many two-year programs require a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year institution.
6. What Kinds of Jobs Are Available for Ultrasound Technicians?
Graduates of an ultrasound tech program usually work in hospitals and medical clinics. In Canada, there are three types of specialties: generalist sonographers, cardiac sonographers, and vascular sonographers.
With training in this field, you can become a diagnostic medical sonographer, a sonography educator, a medical technical salesperson, an application specialist, a medical researcher, or a manager or supervisor in related fields.
7. How Much Do Ultrasound Technicians Make?
In Canada, ultrasound technicians make between $46,000 and $80,000 annually.
How We Reviewed
When we considered the programs that can lead to a career as an ultrasound tech, we took into account the length of the program, the cost, and the quality of instruction. We noted how much hands-on experience students receive, and how much time they spend in a clinical environment.
Finally, we took into account whether credits earned in the program can transfer to other institutions and/or provide a prerequisite for earning other degrees.
Overall Price Range
The cost of the program varies according to the institution, the program length, and whether graduates earn a diploma, certificate, or Bachelor’s degree. They range from just under $10,000 to over $40,000.
What We Reviewed
- Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
- Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
- British Columbia Institute of Technology
- Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology
- College of the North Atlantic
- Dalhousie School of Health Sciences
- Algonquin College
- Cambrian College
- Canadian National Institute of Health
- The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
The sonography program at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has a heavy emphasis on hands-on training. In addition to traditional lectures and classroom time, students participate in the clinical rotations at Alberta hospitals.
The course load is heavy, and training is often scheduled during nights and weekends. Students get experience on state-of-the-art equipment and receive information to prepare them for work in the major ultrasound technology specialties.
Students who complete the sonography program successfully receive a diploma. They are eligible to take the certification exams offered by Sonography Canada and American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). After passing, graduates may become a member of several professional organizations.
The program is 2.5 years in length and takes place on the main campus.
- Comprehensive program
- Lots of hands-on training
- Opportunities to train in Alberta hospitals
- Experience on sophisticated equipment
- Heavy course load
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
This ultrasound tech program will prepare you for all aspects of a career in sonography. Students in the program also study basic anatomy and patient care. Over the course of the program, they spend about half of their time in the lab, where they can practice on scanning equipment and become comfortable with the skills needed to be an ultrasound tech.
Practicum rotations allow students to get hands-on experience.
Graduates of the 2.5 year program are awarded SAIT Diagnostic Medical Sonography diploma and may take the certification exams. They can choose to work towards a Vascular Sonography credential if they wish to continue their schooling. Transfer opportunities are available to several different universities in Canada.
- Employment rate of graduates is 100%
- Participation in practicum rotations
- Lots of lab time
- Admissions are very competitive
British Columbia Institute of Technology
This ultrasound tech program is taught from a philosophy of teamwork and problem-solving. It is 22 months long and includes 33 weeks of hands-on experience in hospitals and clinics located in British Columbia.
After graduating, you may take the Sonography Canada Generalist examinations (SC Examinations). You also have the opportunity to take the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography specialty examinations (ARDMS Examinations) in Abdomen and Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Many opportunities for continuing education are available to BCIT grads, including involvement in Sonography Canada.
- Program is shorter than some others
- Comprehensive training in general sonography
- Participation in clinical rotations
- Program only accepts residents of British Columbia
Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology
This ultrasound tech program provides theoretical and clinical instruction on the Notre Dame campus. Sub-topics explored include obstetrics and gynecology, abdomen and superficial structures, and vascular sonographic studies.
All instruction is specifically designed to prepare students for the Sonography Canada registration exam. Among other lab activities, students will perform ultrasounds on each other.
Graduates of the program are awarded a diploma and permitted to take the certification exams.
- Comprehensive instruction and clinical experience
- Beautiful Notre Dame campus
- Program only open to Manitoba residents
College of the North Atlantic
This is a 13-month program designed for students that have already earned a diploma from an accredited program specializing in Medical Radiation Technology (Medical Radiography, Radiation Therapy or Nuclear Medicine).
Prospective students must also be registered with the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT).
The program covers all information necessary to work as an ultrasound tech. Graduates can sit for their certification exams. Those who wish to go on to earn a Bachelor of Technology degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland or a Bachelor of Science (Post Diploma, Human Science) from Athabasca University may do so.
- Program is shorter than many others
- Designed for students who already have relevant educational experience
- Program transferability
- Prior educational experience is required
Dalhousie School of Health Sciences
The School of Health and Sciences at Dalhousie offers two pathways to any student who wishes to build a career as an ultrasound tech. There is a 4-year option by which students earn a Bachelor of Health Science. Alternatively, students may choose to receive a diploma after completing the third year.
During the fourth year, students work full time at a health care center during the months from May to June.
- Graduate with a Bachelor of Heath Science
- Experience working full time in a clinic
- Many foundational and specialized topics covered
- Cost is significantly higher than programs that do not culminate in a Bachelor of Health Sciences
The ultrasound technology program at Algonquin College is committed to giving students all the knowledge and practice they need to create images and follow diagnostic procedures using sonographic equipment. The teaching is based on the view that the quality of sonographic images is determined by the competence of the ultrasound technician.
The program includes 2 600-hour placements in a clinical environment.
Graduates of the 2-year program earn an Ontario College Graduate Certificate and are eligible to take the exams offered by Sonography Canada and/or the American Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
- 600 hours of clinical training
- Program is less expensive than some others
- Possibility that other programs might have more current material
- Books and materials for the program are more expensive than some others
This program delivers all the information and training you need to sit for the Sonography Canada certification exam. Graduates can go on to find employment as sonographers in hospitals, clinics, and private industry. Hands-on instruction includes opportunities to work in three different hospitals and access to Cambrian’s labs.
Cambrian is one of only four schools in Ontario to offer an ultrasound technology program.
- Preparation for entry level ultrasound tech positions
- Cambrian works with many affiliate hospitals
- Limited space in the program
- Graduation requires completion of three years of study
- Significantly greater cost than 2-year program
Canadian National Institute of Health
This program prepares students for the certification exams by providing classroom instruction and practicums in highly regarded medical establishments. CNIH boasts 20,000 feet of newly renovated, state-of-the-art facilities that are available to students.
The program is 5 semesters long and culminates in a diploma.
- Emphasis on mentorship, counseling, and other means of supporting students
- New facilities
- CNIH is located near inexpensive housing
- Program is longer than 2 years
The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences
The curriculum of the sonography program at Michener was carefully based on the Sonography Canada National Competency Profile (NCP). Students who complete the program can sit for the Sonography Canada credentialling exams.
Michener recognizes that sonography is changing as the technology develops and is committed to staying current with its instruction.
This program requires 2 years to complete. After graduating, students who wish to can go on to specialize in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Imaging Informatics. Graduates also have the opportunity to apply for advanced standing at Ryerson University or to the Bachelor’s degree in Applied Sciences (Medical Imaging) or Master’s degree in Applied Sciences (Medical Ultrasound) via Charles Sturt University’s distance education.
- The program is only 2 years
- Opportunities to go on to earn more advanced degrees
- Cost is higher than some other 2-year programs
The program you ultimately choose will depend on some factors that are personal to you, including where you live and what prior educational experience you have. However, certain programs stand out as being exceptional.
If you are an undergraduate and you are certain that you want to work in ultrasound technology, consider attending the Dalhousie School of Health Sciences. You will graduate with an impressive degree and get an in-depth education during your undergraduate time.
If you are looking for a 2-year program, consider Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology. This program will give you all the tools needed to pursue an ultrasound technology career and has the advantage of being on the Notre Dame campus.
For the Experienced
If you already have some relevant experience and prefer to complete your program in 13 months, College of the North Atlantic offers a good option for you. There, you can prepare to take the registration exams and graduate in much less time than if you were starting from scratch.