Professional certification is not necessarily required to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer, but it's generally preferred by employers. Credentials in this field can be earned from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) as well as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Eligibility requirements vary, but in general candidates must have completed at least an approved associate's degree program and clinical experience in a healthcare facility (www.arrt.org).
Obtaining certification typically requires a computerized exam that must be taken at an approved testing center. Although the examination can't be completed online, candidates can submit their application materials virtually. In addition, a number of schools offer accredited online or hybrid training programs in sonography that are designed to prepare students for the occupation and certification requirements. Students may need to complete in-person clinical experiences
Diploma and advanced certificates are also available.
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Online Training Programs
Diagnostic sonography programs prepare students to perform high frequency ultrasound exams, which produce 2- and 3-dimensional images of bodily regions, such as the abdomen or heart. Distance learning training in this field is offered by community or technical colleges as well as four-year institutions.
While some programs are totally online, those providing initial training in sonography are often in a hybrid format; these combine virtual and on-campus instruction as well as clinical experiences. The online components are available through a school's virtual classroom, which allows students to access lectures and assignments at a time that fits their schedules.
Sonography Certificate Programs
Some online certificate programs are designed specifically for students who already have an allied health sciences degree. In addition to completing an on-site clinical rotation in an approved hospital or clinic, distance learners typically complete distance learning classes in the following subjects:
- Ultrasound and sonography procedures
- Small-parts sonography
- Sonography specializations, such as cardiac sonography
Sonography Diploma Programs
Hybrid diploma programs in sonography train students for ultrasound diagnostic positions in hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. Prerequisites may include previous experience in radiology, nursing, respiratory therapy, physical therapy or a bachelor's degree. Diploma coursework often includes physics, abdominal sonography, anatomy, venous duplex techniques, medical sonography, and more. Several sonography courses may be online. An online student must typically also complete a clinical rotation.
Advanced Sonography Certificate Programs
Current diagnostic medical sonography professionals may earn advanced certificates in vascular technology or cardiovascular sonography online. Prerequisites for these year-long programs typically include an Associate of Science or Bachelor of Science degree in medical sonography or ARDMS certification. Some advanced certificate programs qualify graduates to sit for specialty exams, such as the vascular technology or adult echocardiography exams offered by the ARDMS (www.ardms.org). Online coursework may include topics such as the following:
- Arterial principles and procedures
- Venous principles and procedures
- Advanced sonography practices
- Cerebrovascular procedures
Students in online sonography certification programs must be present for exams and clinical practicums. Classes prepare students to execute relevant procedures, properly utilize technology and keep patients safe.