Diagnostic Medical Sonography Programs
Welcome to the most complete directory on the Web of Sonography Technician programs. It contains all the nationally accredited programs, from 294 schools across the country. You can scroll down to see the school listings.
Diagnostic medical sonographers help diagnose illnesses in their patients by using equipment that creates images of their patients’ tissue. In diagnostic medical sonography programs, you’ll learn to operate the machinery that creates these images. Read on to find out what else is expected of sonography technicians and how to become a diagnostic medical sonographer, from education to licensure. Use the search bar on the right to search for a program in your state or check out our list of schools below to learn more about the lucrative diagnostic medical sonography programs near you.
What is Diagnostic Medical Sonography?
Diagnostic medical sonography is a type of medical imaging that uses high-frequency sound waves, also known as ultrasound, to create images of organs, tissues, and blood flow. A common example is the technology that allows expectant parents to see the first images of their unborn child.
Sonography images are ordered by a doctor and obtained by a sonographer who uses a device called a transducer. A transducer emits sounds too high for human ears to detect, which are then used when the waves bounce off the organs to generate visual images.
From abdomen to breast and vascular to cardiac, sonography takes on different specializations based on body parts. Sonographers also work in a variety of work settings, often due to their specialization. However, most diagnostic medical sonographers who work full-time in hospital or institutional settings are expected to cover graveyard and weekend shifts, sometimes on call.
How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer is easy – just follow these six simple steps:
- Pick an educational path – An associate or bachelor’s degree is typically required of sonographers. However, students that graduate with a degree in a related field (such as nursing or respiratory therapy) can pursue a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography and learn on the job. Make sure your program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
- Choose a specialization – In your degree program, you will want to choose an area of specialization, such as abdominal sonography, obstetrics/gynecology, vascular sonography, or echocardiography.
- Complete your clinical hours – No matter which educational option you choose, you will receive the supervised clinical experience you need to excel in the field of medicine. Use this time to develop and strengthen your people skills and learn to interact with patients, as you will work directly with them daily.
- Get certified – Most employers require their sonographers to become certified in a specialty. You can become certified with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in areas including radiation therapy, radiography, nuclear medicine technology, sonography, and magnetic resonance imaging. Or, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certification such as the registered diagnostic medical sonographer, registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, registered vascular technologist, or registered in musculoskeletal. You may be able to become certified in more than one specialty.
- Find out if your state requires licensure – Only a few states require sonographers to obtain a license. While requirements vary, professional certification from an accredited program is often all that’s needed to become licensed in your state.
- Stay up to date – Your certification may need to be renewed annually, and many sonographers must also complete 24 continuing education credits every few years to stay certified. So, make sure you stay up to date on the latest tech and best practices in medical sonography.
Education Requirements for Sonography Programs
If you plan to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in sonography, you will want to look at community colleges and universities, both on campus and online programs, to weigh your options. Each school will have different requirements for admission for their sonography programs, but you may need the following:
- High school diploma/GED
- Transcripts for all education
- Standardized test scores
- Statement of purpose and letters of reference
To begin an entry-level career, an ultrasound associate degree will get you in the door. An associate is the most commonly held degree by sonographers in the field.
Types of Diagnostic Medical Sonography Degrees
Associate degree programs in sonography provide training in the maintenance and use of ultrasound equipment. You will also receive basic medical training in skills such as checking breathing, pulse, respiration, venipuncture, and initiating CPR. Other classes include training in anatomy and physiology, logic and critical thinking, math, science, and verbal communication skills. On average, associate degrees take two years to complete, and most programs are only offered in-person due to the hands-on experience needed to work imaging equipment and the off-campus clinical hours needed for graduation.
If you want to specialize in a sonography career or plan to continue your education in medical school, a bachelor’s degree or four-year education is another option. Many sonography bachelor’s students are already registered sonographers working in their field and have often already completed an associate degree or certificate program. Some schools may even offer bachelor completion courses online if you have already completed the clinical and lab experience that many programs require. You may also find flexible class schedules, which makes this an easy field to advance and grow in.
The coursework in a four-year school delves deeper into biology, physics, lab equipment, medical terminology and patient interaction in the field of ultrasound. More importantly, a bachelor’s degree allows you to specialize in a specific area of diagnostic medical sonography, such as vascular, echocardiography, or general (usually including abdominal, obstetrics, and gynecology). Thus, bachelor’s degrees also require hands-on clinical experiences or internships that you wouldn’t need in an associate or certificate program.
Another option is a certification program, which can vary depending on the school and program offered. Generally, certificate programs take between 12 and 24 months. Some are more introductory, but all provide students with the skills they need to find entry-level employment in the field. Others may be more ideal for sonographers working in the field who want to specialize or engage in continuous professional development, common in any tech career.
A certificate in diagnostic medical sonography, for example, can allow you to begin entry-level work and consists of both hands-on learning in both lab and clinical settings. You’ll learn ultrasound basics for examining and understanding body systems, learn how to work ultrasound equipment, and take courses in biology and physics. Programs are often hard to find online unless you’re already practicing.
How to Get Licensed as a Sonographer
According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT), licensing requirements vary from state to state but generally include an associate or bachelor’s degree, a certificate in your chosen specialty, and passing one or more certification exams.
To get licensed as a sonogram technician, you first need to get an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiological technology from an accredited university or college. You must have completed your degree within the three years prior to getting your license. The AART requires you to specialize in sonography in order to qualify for your sonography technician license.
You will also be required to complete a clinical rotation in a medical setting where you can practice the skills you’ve learned throughout your training. This is an excellent way to get real world experience and confidence for when you start working as a sonographer.
Lastly, you will need to pass a criminal background check. After all these requirements have been met, you must pass the examination administered by the AART, at which point you can apply for your license.
After receiving your license, you will have to maintain ongoing registration and meet the continuing education requirements every two years. Remember, these requirements may change from state to state, but a license is required to practice. Be sure to check your state’s requirements to make sure you check off all of the boxes!
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Jobs
In addition to the SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation) examination, you can pursue these specialty certifications in ultrasound:
- Fetal Echocardiography
- Obstetrics & gynecology
- Pediatric Sonography
Earning these certifications can qualify you for the corresponding specific jobs in the field.
ARDMS also offers a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) certification. In this field, you can take exams in these specialty areas:
- Adult echocardiography
- Fetal echocardiography
- Pediatric echocardiography
Just make sure the diagnostic medical sonographer education requirements of your program match the ARDMS exam.
No matter which specialization you choose, it’s a great time to become a diagnostic medical sonographer. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for sonographers is expected to grow 17 percent from 2016-2026; much faster than the national average. The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $71,410 in May 2017.
Where do Sonographers Work?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that 79% of ultrasound workers are employed in hospitals. The rest typically work in labs or offices of physicians. No matter which kind of setting you work in, you will be on your feet quite a bit. If you would rather sit at a desk, then this isn’t the best path in healthcare for you. However, you might be more suited for billing and coding or an administrative medical assisting role.
Some sonography technicians advance up the career ladder by becoming administrators in charge of medical imaging departments. Others choose to become educators, training a new generation of technicians. Another career path open to sonography technicians is working in the sales and marketing of new ultrasound equipment.
Traits and Characteristics of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Ultrasound jobs are great for those who want to be active, but not physically strained during the day. You’ll be on your feet a great deal. You might have to position patients, which requires some strength and balance. It’s important to discuss any health concerns you have about standing for long periods of time before you enroll at a sonography school.
If you would rather sit at a desk, then this isn’t the best path in healthcare for you. However, you might be more suited for billing and coding or an administrative medical assisting role.
It’s beneficial to be flexible if you choose to become a sonographer. Your schedule will vary depending on the setting you work in but be forewarned that since hospitals run round the clock, you might have an ever-changing schedule that includes working some nights, weekends, and holidays, either in person or being on-call. Some workers enjoy less structured work schedules and prefer the unexpected nature of hospital work. If you would rather work a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule, look for jobs in physicians’ offices, labs, or outpatient care.
There are some personal characteristics that contribute to helping sonographers succeed in their day-to-day responsibilities.This is a detail-oriented job that requires strong patient-history- taking skills. In addition to depending on your accurate use of medical imaging equipment, physicians and patients will rely on you to communicate information throughout the entire process. This means you’ll have to be on top of your game, so pay close attention to your mentors during your clinical training!
Your experiences with patients and your specialization will also dictate your day-to-day work life. For instance, pediatric sonographers will spend their days monitoring infants and children. Obstetric, gynecologic, and breast sonographers focus on women’s health issues and thus work primarily with adult women. Students with an interest in analyzing muscles, tendons, and ligaments can pursue musculoskeletal sonography. Some schools also offer vascular technologist programs. This ultrasound training helps students develop the skills to monitor blood flow and blood vessels.
How to Choose a Sonography School
The first thing to check for when comparing diagnostic medical sonography schools is to make sure the program is approved by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). This organization is the largest and most widely respected authority on sonography education and training standards. If you want to know how to become a sonographer, their website is another great place to start.
Once you are confident the program curriculum aligns with the exam requirements you need, ask about the clinical portion of your education. Some diagnostic medical sonography programs only focus on certain areas of sonography while others may offer a full spectrum of options.
If you already have your associate degree or work as a certified practitioner you can look into bachelor’s programs. Completing an undergraduate degree would position you for more jobs and higher salary levels in this field of healthcare.
Sonography School Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid
Before you enroll in any ultrasound program, make sure you understand all your financial obligations. Most schools offer a mix of federal and private loan options and there are also scholarship and loan forgiveness programs available. A few of these options include:
Sharps Scholarship Program – Open to all US and Canadian citizens studying health-related fields at accredited universities, this scholarship offers an opportunity to win $750-$1,500. Applicants must submit an essay via email before June 30 each year.
Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarship – Created by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), this $4,000 scholarship is annually awarded to five entry-level sonography students. Applicants must be from a minority group and apply by November 1 of each year.
The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Educational Foundation – This $2,500 annual scholarship was designed to support current ultrasound technician and diagnostic medical sonography students who are enrolled in a school accredited by the CAAHEP. Applicants must be SDMS members and apply before December 31 for spring and summer semesters, or June 30 for fall and winter semesters.
Perkins Loan Cancellation – Also available to licensed medical technicians and medical assistants, this student loan forgiveness program allows you to pay off part of your student debt in exchange for five years of service. You must be certified and working in the healthcare field already to apply. Contact your school’s Accounting or Billing Department for the required forms.
Ultrasound Technician Schools Scholarship – We offer our own $1000 scholarship twice a year to those interested in pursuing an education in diagnostic medical imaging. If you are ready to take the first step towards beginning your career you can apply for our scholarship here.
Each school should have their own ways of helping students with financial planning. Making sure your class schedule and clinical training fit with your personal and work responsibilities will be key to your success in school. We also recommend speaking with your family and friends about your career goals. Having their support and understanding while you work hard to complete your education can keep you motivated.
If you want to quickly review your options for diagnostic medical sonography accredited schools, you can either choose your state or preferred specialty in the search boxes on this page. We also encourage students to consider all sorts of career paths in sonography, and related areas, such as MRI and radiology.
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