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Online Ultrasound Technician Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Online degree and certificate programs for ultrasound technology, or diagnostic medical sonography, are fairly rare; however, those interested can find programs available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's levels. Read on for more considerations.

Ultrasound technology can be studied on a variety of different degree levels, depending on your career goals. We will look at some of these levels, as well as program prerequisites, in-person requirements, accreditation standards and credentialing requirements, to help you make a decision on a school.

How to Select an Online Ultrasound Technician School

Some public and private colleges offer diagnostic medical sonography programs online. Most of these programs are offered in a hybrid format, in which students take the bulk of their coursework online, but attend some in-person sessions. Students should weigh the award level and program delivery with the prerequisites, accreditation and credentialing factors.

Level of Award

Certificate programs are generally designed for professionals already working in a healthcare position who want to improve career opportunities. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are for those new to the field as well as for professional sonographers who want to gain additional credentials or specialty training in order to advance their careers.

Prerequisites

When researching program options, it is important to ask for details about the application process, since prerequisites can be very specific, especially when entering a specialty like ultrasound technology.

Accreditation

Prospective students should also look for programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Credentialing

State licensure is not required for ultrasound technicians, but students should be aware that most employers prefer to hire those who are credentialed through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Both certificate and degree holders can apply to take the registry exam. There are also specific exams for specialties, including breast, abdominal, obstetric and cardiovascular sonography. Continuing education is required to remain credentialed.

Program Delivery

Since many ultrasound technology skills require hands-on practice using equipment and interacting with patients and physicians, most online programs are taught in a hybrid format. Online portions are usually presented through a learning management software system, such as ANGEL or Blackboard. On-site learning requirements are for labs and clinical practice that take place at local schools and healthcare facilities.

Lists of Online Ultrasound Technician Programs

Online Certificate of Completion in Diagnostic Ultrasound

Certificate programs take about one year to complete, and may be taken alone or in order to transfer to a bachelor's program. Students work closely with faculty and classmates via online lectures and seminars, e-mail and live chat and complete local practicum and lab assignments. Graduates are prepared to sit for the ARDMS credentialing exam and seek employment doing general sonography. Coursework includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Echocardiography
  • Neurosonology

Online Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

An associate's degree program helps students to master general ultrasound skills. Students choose one or two of the specialty areas, such as abdominal or obstetric ultrasound technology, to study further. While much of the curriculum is similar to that for a certificate, students should expect additional on-site clinical work. Such experience is invaluable not only in increasing employability, but in helping students determine what healthcare settings and type of sonography practice they might prefer. Coursework includes:

  • Physics
  • Ultrasound physics and instrumentation
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Ethics

Online Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

A bachelor's degree program offers the greatest opportunity for specialization. Students learn advanced ultrasound techniques, and may elect to learn complex procedures in areas such as neurosonography, which deals with ultrasound examination of the brain and spinal cord. Ultrasound bachelor's degree programs include at least two terms of clinical work at a local healthcare facility.

When researching programs, it is important to find out whether students must be ARDMS-registered in obstetric or abdominal ultrasound specialties in order to graduate. As with other online ultrasound programs, students participate in classes through live lectures, discussions and e-mail. Coursework covers areas like:

  • Applications of abdominal sonography
  • Patient care
  • Contemporary issues in healthcare
  • Medical imaging

Schools with Online Programs in Ultrasound Technology

Washburn University offers a Diagnostic Medical Sonography certificate program which students can complete partially online. All the coursework can be completed at a distance over a computer, while clinical experiences are generally arranged to be near a student's place of residence. To qualify for this program, students must already possess at least an associate's degree in a hands-on healthcare field, like radiology technology or respiratory therapy. They also must have taken courses in a college math subject, physics, communication, human anatomy and physiology, and medical terminology and passed with a C grade or better.

The Baptist Health School offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which generally takes five semesters to complete. In addition to completing their general education courses and sonography courses online, students will also have to complete a 1,344 hour clinical experience at a medical facility to obtain the degree. Applicants must have taken Anatomy & Physiology I as well as college-algebra.

The Oregon Institute of Technology offers an online Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, open only to Registered Diagnostic Sonographers in Abdomen and OB/GYN. Students must also be currently employed and working in a lab that will allow them to complete the program's clinical requirements. The length and requirements vary depending on the student's previous experience and education.

There are several options for students interested in pursuing an online degree ultrasound technology. Depending on a student's aspirations and how long they want to study, there is likely a program that will suit their specific needs and help them meet their goals.

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