An ultrasound technician uses sound waves to take pictures of a patient’s’ internal organs, blood flow, and tissues so physicians can make a proper diagnosis or monitor a condition. If this is a career you are interested in, it might surprise you to learn you can enter the workforce in as little as two years, unless you already have a degree in another field. In this case, you can become an ultrasound technician within twelve to eighteen months.
Ultrasound Technician Education
Associate Degree Programs
This is the most common degree earned by ultrasound technicians because it only takes two years to complete. You can find programs at community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools.
Bachelor Degree Programs
Students enrolled in a bachelor degree program receive a more in-depth education as it lasts four years as opposed to two. These programs may also include training in other areas of medical imaging such as echocardiography and radiologic imaging such as x-rays. This degree will allow you more job opportunities and a higher salary than if you obtain an associate degree.
No matter what degree you choose, make sure the school has accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Not only does this mean the school meets quality standards, but it also makes it easier if you decide to take the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification exam. As for the courses, the curriculum varies from school to school, though some of the most common classes are:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Abdominal Ultrasonography
- Cross-Sectional Anatomy
- Imaging Principles
- Introduction to Basic Health Care
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Medical Terminology
- Obstetrical and Gynecological Ultrasonography
- Patient Care
- Physics and Instrumentation
- Small Parts Ultrasonography
- Vascular and Doppler Ultrasonography
All accredited programs require students to participate in a clinical component. This gives students supervised hands-on training in an actual medical facility such as a hospital. They perform tasks such as patient exams, taking patients’ medical history, and sterilizing equipment. Typically, the school selects the site for clinical training and students may be required to spend thirty minutes or more traveling to get there. A drug test is likely required before starting the clinical portion of your education.
Sonography Diploma Programs
If you already have an associate or bachelor’s degree and would like to become an ultrasound technician, you can enroll in a sonography diploma program that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health and Education Programs. This option allows you to take classes that are all mainly geared toward ultrasound technology. As mentioned earlier, it will take you twelve to eighteen months to complete a program depending on how it’s structured, what prior clinical experience you have, and what type of degree you already hold.
The curriculum depends on what specialty you choose: Cardiac, General, or Vascular.
If you choose the general specialty, you will take classes such as:
- Acoustic Physics and Instrumentation
- Anatomy, Physiology, and Imaging of Abdomen
- Law and Ethics in Medical Imaging
- Medical Management and Supervision
- Sectional Anatomy
- Small Parts
You’ll take the general courses along with:
- Cardiac Pathophysiology
- Cross-Sectional and Three-Dimensional Anatomy
- Gynecologic Ultrasound
- Principles of Cardiovascular Technology
- Principles of Vascular Ultrasound
- Ultrasound Physics and Instrumentation
You’ll take classes required for the general specialty as well as:
- Abdominal Ultrasound
- Principles of Cardiovascular Technology
- Principles of the Breast, Thyroid, and Superficial Structures
- Vascular Pathophysiology
- Vascular Technology
It’s important to note that several accredited schools have a sizeable wait list since most only accept 12 to 25 students each year. If you end up on such a list, don’t be tempted to enroll in a school that is not accredited. This option requires you to work at least twelve months before you are eligible to take the certification exam. Even though it’s optional, most employers will only hire those who have the credential, and some won’t even consider hiring ultrasound technicians who didn’t attend an accredited program.
If you would like to learn more about the educational requirements for ultrasound technicians, please don’t hesitate to contact us.