Ultrasound Programs: Requirements and Prerequisites

Ultrasound technology uses high frequency sound waves to retrieve images of various structures within the body. Diagnostic ultrasound specialties include abdominal, obstetrical, echocardiography and vascular ultrasound.

Essential Information

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.

  • Program Levels in Ultrasound Degrees: Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees are all available.
  • Prerequisites: GED or high school diploma is required for the associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees; credit from a bachelor's degree can be transferred to a master's degree.
  • Online Availability: Online programs and courses are available.
  • Program Specializations: Abdominal, obstetrical, echocardiography, vascular.

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.

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, obstetric and gynecological ultrasound
  • Ultrasound instruments
  • Cardiac and vascular sonography

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.

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

  • Anatomy and physiology for the ultrasound professional
  • Pathophysiology for ultrasound technology
  • Neurosonography
  • Cross-sectional anatomy for ultrasound
  • Abdominal, vascular, obstetric and gynecological ultrasound
  • Echocardiography

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.

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, adult and pediatric cardiac, superficial organ and gynecological and obstetric ultrasound

Popular Career Options

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

  • Ultrasound technology professor
  • Ultrasound instrumentation research and development professional
  • Echocardiography professor
  • Ultrasound technician
  • Ultrasound equipment sales
  • Urgent care sonography technician

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual salary of $67,530, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics' (www.bls.gov) report in May 2014. 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 46% between 2012-2022.

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