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Nurse Sonographer Degree and Certificate Programs

Discover the many education paths that aspiring nurse sonographers may pursue, including undergraduate degree and postgraduate certificate programs. Get information on coursework, prerequisites and career paths.

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Essential Information

Nurses can study to become sonographers by completing certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography. Although a nursing degree or certification is not required to become a sonographic or ultrasound technician, many sonography programs require a minimum of health care or nursing related education before enrolling. Candidates for the degree programs may need to have prerequisites such as certification as a nurse aid or have completed advanced science or math courses, while those seeking a certificate will need an undergraduate degree.

The curriculum for associate's, bachelor's and postgraduate certificate programs in sonography typically involves laboratory clinical work, as well as classroom training. Certification in a specialty area of sonography, such as in the breast or abdomen, is attainable through a professional sonography organization upon completion of a training program.

Associate's Degree Programs in Sonography

Students looking for a career in sonography might consider an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. In this program, sonography technicians train to use advanced diagnostic imaging equipment. They take digital and ultrasonic images of the body, which allow doctors to detect disease and injury. Students can elect to concentrate in a particular area of sonography, such as abdominal, vascular, obstetric or gynecological.

Education Prerequisites

Although each school has its own prerequisites, some associate's degree programs in sonography require students to have a minimum amount of college-level coursework, including physics, anatomy and mathematics, before applying. Some schools require students to have a nurse aid certification.

Program Coursework

Students in a sonography associate's degree program are introduced to equipment, terminology and contemporary practices and procedures in the industry. Classes take place in the laboratory and in the classroom. Course topics include:

  • Echocardiography
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Vascular sonography
  • Human anatomy
  • Digital imaging protocol

Career Options

Associate's degree graduates in sonography are often equipped for entry-level positions in the industry. Such positions might include:

  • Obstetrics sonography technician
  • Abdominal sonography technician
  • Vascular sonography technician

Continuing Education

Students may choose to continue their education at the bachelor's level. In addition to formal education, graduates may choose to obtain a professional credential in sonography from a certifying association such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). ARDMS grants qualified individuals the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) credential, which can be obtained in certain areas, such abdomen, breast or nervous system. Many credentialing organizations require sonographers to complete continuing education courses or a recertification exam for certification maintenance.

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Sonography

A Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree gives students comprehensive background in the fundamental practices and principles of sonography. Students gain valuable hands-on experience in using state-of-the-art equipment and learn to interact with patients. Degree programs emphasize job skills, the evolution of sonography in the medical field and current policies and procedures. The goal of a bachelor's degree program is to prepare students for employment in the medical field as sonographic technicians.

Educational Prerequisites

Students wishing to pursue a bachelor's degree in sonography typically must complete coursework in anatomy, physiology, physics and mathematics before being accepted into the sonography program. These courses may be taken in the first two years of the bachelor's program.

Program Coursework

Undergraduate courses in sonography include technical and theoretical concepts. Courses in health care policy and practice are also part of the curriculum. Courses include:

  • OB/GYN sonography
  • Breast sonography
  • Physics and sonography
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical ethics
  • Leadership in health care

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to a 2010 report by the U. S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS), 61% of diagnostic medical sonographers worked in hospitals, and as of 2012, they earned a median annual salary of $65,860 ( The same BLS report attributed the advancing age of the population and advancement in medical technology to a projected 44% rise in employment of diagnostic medical sonographers from 2010-2020.

Certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Certificate programs in diagnostic medical sonography are designed for students who have completed a degree in a health-related field, completed a radiography certificate program or who are licensed medical professionals, such as nurses or doctors. These programs may last up to one year and can be general or focus on a specialized area of sonography, such as vascular or cardiac sonography.

Education Prerequisites

An associate's or bachelor's degree in biology or a related field is typically the minimum acceptable education for a sonography certificate program. Some schools will admit students who are concurrently completing a related degree program.

Program Coursework

Program requirements range from 30-45 credit hours in both theoretical and laboratory coursework. A clinical practicum is completed near the end of the program. Courses include:

  • Sectional anatomy
  • Acoustical physics
  • Pediatric sonography
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Foundations of sonography

Career Information

For those currently in a health-related occupation, education and certification in sonography may provide opportunities for advancement. In addition, sonographers may choose to become certified in more than one type of sonography to improve job prospects.

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