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Ultrasound Programs: Requirements and Prerequisites

Get information on associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography, or ultrasound technology. Learn about the prerequisites, curriculum and career options in this field.

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Essential Information

Ultrasound technology uses high frequency sound waves to retrieve images of various structures within the body. Diagnostic ultrasound specialties include abdomen, obstetrics, echocardiography and vascular ultrasound. The most prevalent ultrasound programs are associate's and bachelor's degree programs, with the associate's degree program being the most popular. Master's degree programs are not common .

At the associate's degree level, students learn the fundamentals of performing ultrasound procedures, such as operating the equipment, positioning the patient and preparing results to present to the physician. Students learn to perform various types of ultrasound imaging. Bachelor's degree programs may start at the beginning, but many are designed for ultrasound technologists seeking advanced knowledge and the opportunity to move into management.

Master's degree programs allow ultrasound technologists to pursue an area of specialization such as abdominal or obstetric imagining. Master's programs also have a research component.

Associate's Degree in Ultrasound

An ultrasound associate's degree program prepares students to provide patient care while performing ultrasound procedures and capturing the best possible images. Students then present the ultrasound data to the treating physician. Upon successfully completing this ultrasound program, students can take the American Registry in Diagnostic Medical Sonography certification examination.

Educational Prerequisites

Prior to enrolling in an associate's degree ultrasound tech program, students must have a high school diploma or GED. Students are also required to completed high school or college coursework in science, algebra and physics.

Program Coursework

Associate's degree ultrasound programs typically contain the following courses:

  • Diagnostic medical ultrasound
  • Ethics, legal issues and patient care in ultrasound professions
  • Cross-sectional anatomy in sonography
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Obstetric and gynecological ultrasound
  • Ultrasound instruments
  • Cardiac sonography
  • Vascular sonography

Popular Career Options

Upon completing an associate's degree program in ultrasound, students are qualified for the following positions:

  • Ultrasound technician
  • Ultrasound equipment sales
  • Urgent care sonography technician

Bachelor's Degree in Ultrasound Technology

A bachelor's degree in ultrasound technology program prepares students for a more advanced position in hospital, clinic or private practice ultrasound laboratories. Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree in ultrasound program take more advanced classes and learn additional ultrasound techniques. Students in this type of program are also prepared to take on managerial roles in ultrasound technology.

Educational Prerequisites

Students must have a high school diploma or GED in order to enroll in a bachelor's degree program. Those students who have already earned an associate's degree in ultrasound technology may be able to transfer credits from that program to the bachelor's degree program.

Program Coursework

Bachelor 's degrees in ultrasound curricula typically contain the following courses:

  • Anatomy and physiology for the ultrasound professional
  • Medical terminology
  • Pathophysiology for ultrasound technology
  • Neurosonography
  • Cross-sectional anatomy for ultrasound
  • Diagnostic medical ultrasound foundations
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Echocardiography
  • Obstetric and gynecological ultrasound

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual salary of $65,860, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics' ( report in May 2012. This source also indicates graduates are most likely to find employment in hospitals, doctors' offices, medical labs, outpatient care centers and colleges. Job growth is believed to be favorable but will vary according to the sonographers' specializations and locations. According to the BLS, jobs for diagnostic medical sonographers will grow by 44% between 2010-2020.

Master's Degree in Ultrasound

Currently, the University of Missouri Health Systems' School of Health Professions has the only master's degree in diagnostic medical ultrasound technology in the United States. Students may choose to specialize in abdomen, obstetric and gynecological, echocardiography or vascular technology ultrasound. In addition to advanced courses, the master's degree in ultrasound technology program includes research courses.

Educational Prerequisites

In addition to having a high school diploma or GED, students must have a background in subjects like algebra, psychology, biology, physics, anatomy and chemistry. Students who have already earned a bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical ultrasound may be able to transfer credits from that program to the master's degree program.

Program Coursework

Students beginning a master's degree program in diagnostic medical ultrasound program can expect to take classes such as:

  • Diagnostic medical ultrasound principles
  • Sectional anatomy in ultrasound
  • Cardiac principles in ultrasound
  • Diagnostic medical ultrasound research procedures
  • Pathological imaging
  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Adult cardiac ultrasound
  • Pediatric cardiac ultrasound
  • Superficial organ ultrasound imaging
  • Gynecological and obstetric ultrasound

Popular Career Options

Upon graduating from a master's degree ultrasound program, students may wish to pursue the following careers:

  • Ultrasound technology professor
  • Ultrasound instrumentation research and development professional
  • Echocardiography professor
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Popular Schools

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    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Washington University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
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      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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        • Athletic Trainer
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        • Ultrasound and Sonography Technologies
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics