Ultrasound technicians perform important diagnostic tests required for doctors to have a better picture of what is going on inside your body. The job falls under the radiology department with the x-ray, MRI and CT technicians, each requiring different education, using different equipment for different types of tests. The ultrasound equipment uses sound waves to scan internal areas and create an image that doctors use to diagnose what is happening.
Training Requirements to Become an Ultrasound Technician in Alabama
Once you decide to become an ultrasound technician, you have a few different options for your training. You may attend a school to receive a certificate in one of the areas of sonography. Depending on which area you choose to study, the training will take 12 months to complete. Some future sonographers will go to a college that offers an Associate’s Degree in ultrasound technology. The degree will take two years to finish and will offer you the chance to learn and practice in more areas of sonography. If you decide upon a Bachelor’s Degree, it will require four years of study at a college or university. In most cases, this degree will include working in all the different areas of sonography, giving you the opportunity to choose which areas you prefer.
Depending on the school, you may be able to take some of the required classes online. You must be willing to put in the time and do the studying if you choose to do this because you will also be required to attend classes for practical, hands-on training. Some programs will end with an externship where you work for a specified number of hours under the supervision of other technicians and a doctor in a hospital or clinic.
Licensing and Certification
While there are no licensing requirements to work as an ultrasound technician in Alabama at this time, this can, and probably will change within the next decade. It is also not required to obtain certification to work in the field, however, many employers will only hire people who have been certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or are willing and able to take the examination to become certified within a certain amount of time after being hired.
Once you finish your schooling, you may register to take the certification examination in the area you studied or the area of your choice. The Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) examination is required for a basic certification in the field. Once you have passed this exam, you may, and should, choose from one of three areas to receive credentials.
Specialty Areas and Their Credentials
After the general the SPI examination, you may choose to test for the credential to become one of three specialists, the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS), or the Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT). The RDMS credential requires five different exams be passed, the RDCS has three exams, and the RVT has only one exam. Once you take your first exam, to include the SPI, you must take the next exam, whether within your preferred credential, or to start a credential, within five years.
It is a good idea to continue to take the exams and receive different credentials to give yourself more job opportunities. Once you have a credential, you will need to complete 30 hours of approved continuing education every three years to maintain the credential. While the more credentials you have, the more continuing education you will need, it provides you with better jobs and will make you more valuable to employers.
Becoming an ultrasound technician in Alabama is a good way to work in the medical field. You may start by going to a certificate program so you can work, and then go back to school part time to further your education if you choose. The need for qualified, certified sonographers is still growing, you would be entering a job field that promises you work, unlike other medical fields that have no openings available for new graduates.