How to Become an Ultrasound Technician in Alaska

The medical field of Sonography is continually growing. The outlook for careers in sonography are expected to increase by 44 percent between now and the end of the decade. An ultrasound technician in Alaska uses equipment that emits high frequency sound waves that bounce off internal organs and structures in the human body. The bouncing waves create an image so a doctor can see inside the body. It is used extensively in obstetrics and gynecology, but is also very useful for watching and observing the digestive system, the cardio-vascular system and for diagnosing problems within the musculoskeletal system. Doctors use the images to detect tumors in all parts of the body, and can determine the extent of damage done to the brain after a stroke.

Is any prior education or training required?
All ultrasound technicians attended some type of program to learn how to operate the equipment. Since the machines are computer-based, a solid knowledge of computer use is required and taught in the programs. Students will also need a good understanding of medical terminology and human anatomy. Anyone currently working in a healthcare career may attend a 12 month program and go on to take the certification examination offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

Those wishing to become an ultrasound technician in Alaska who are not currently involved in a healthcare career will need to attend either a 2-year or 4-year college to obtain an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Once training is complete, the graduate can begin to work as a sonograph technician. However, it will be easier to get a job in the field if he or she has taken the exams and been certified. Five different credentials that can be earned by taking the appropriate examinations after taking the certification exams. Ultrasound technicians that have a 4-year degree or higher, continuing their education to obtain a Master’s or even Doctorate Degree in sonography can become supervisors, instructors or go on to run the different training programs offered at colleges and universities.

Are ultrasound technicians required to be certified?
There is no requirement for any type of license or certification, although credentialed sonographers will have a higher salary than those who do not. There is no need to recertify to maintain a credential as long as 30 hours of continuing education are taken every three years.

Job outlook for ultrasound technicians in Alaska
The opportunities for ultrasound technicians in Alaska are growing faster than students are graduating from school. The state offers the 5th highest salary rates for sonographers in the U.S.
The job is not very high stress, and most technicians do not leave the field, they only add more credentials if they want a change of pace.

Areas of Specialization
While in training, students will have the opportunity to learn how to perform ultrasounds on various body parts. Students may choose to specialize in a specific area of sonography as their training progresses. While everyone who finishes the program can work in any area, there are five different credentials that can be earned through examinations. The Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) specializes in breast, ob/gyn, abdomen, nerves and fetal cardiac sonagraphy.

The Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) has also specialized in fetal cardiac sonography, but also in adult and pediatric echocardiography. To earn the credential for a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT), the sonographer must have passed the exam for vascular sonography.

There is also an exam for musculoskeletal sonography for the technician to gain the credential to be Registered in Musculoskeletal (RMSK) and one for physicians to gain credentials in vascular interpretation (RPVI).