Ultrasound Technician Training Programs and Requirements

Ultrasound technicians are trained to use sound wave technology to capture images of human tissue and organs, which are used to diagnose and monitor a number of medical conditions. Accredited training programs in ultrasound technology usually combine classroom, laboratory and clinical instruction.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

Ultrasound technicians, also referred to as sonographers, develop skills in operating and managing ultrasound equipment. This allows them to perform ultrasound procedures that can create valuable medical images. Employers generally prefer to hire registered ultrasound technicians who have graduated from accredited training programs and passed the exam given by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS).

Ultrasound technicians must be familiar with medical terminology, human anatomy and patient assessment. To ease patients' nerves during technical procedures, technicians must possess excellent communication skills. They also need to develop an eye for quality imagery and have heightened skills in image evaluation and selection.

Formal Education

Aspiring ultrasound technicians can receive formal training through degree programs offered at technical schools, colleges and universities. As of 2008, more than 150 ultrasound technology programs had Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accreditation. Although a bachelor's degree option is available, 2-year associate's degree programs are the most common choice of aspiring ultrasound technicians. Formal education programs usually require candidates to have high school diplomas with coursework in health, basic sciences and mathematics.

Associate of Science in Ultrasound Technology

Through an accredited associate degree program, students learn to use noninvasive medical imaging technology to obtain images used for determining medical conditions and treatments. Ultrasound technician training programs consist of in-class lectures, hands-on practice labs and a number of clinical hours completed at local health care facilities. Classroom lecture topics include acoustic principles, basic physics, anatomy, medical ethics and patient care techniques. Courses in ultrasound specialties, such as obstetrics, vascular technology and abdominal scanning, are also available.

Bachelor of Science

Typically requiring four years of study, a bachelor's degree program in ultrasound technology provides in-depth coursework in the many ultrasound specialties and prepares graduates for more advanced positions in the field, such as shift supervisors, administrators or researchers. Through classroom instruction and a required clinical internship, students acquire the knowledge needed to perform abdominal, obstetric, small-part and gynecological ultrasound procedures. During the clinical internship portion of an undergraduate program, degree candidates work alongside physicians, certified sonographers and other health care professionals to develop, apply and sharpen their ultrasound skills.

Job Experience

For entry-level positions in ultrasound technology, the hands-on clinical hours included in formal training programs are considered sufficient experience by most employers. However, upper-level job opportunities in management and administration typically require at least five years of ultrasound experience.

Licenses and Certifications

Although ultrasound technicians are not currently required to be licensed, employers do prefer to hire candidates with professional credentials from a nationally recognized certifying body, such as ARDMS. Other certifying bodies include the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and Cardiovascular Credentialing International. Certification provides an objective measure of a technician's level of understanding and skill mastery.

Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)

To obtain the RDMS designation, candidates must pass a certifying exam administered by ARDMS. Candidates can become registered in a variety of ultrasound specialties, such as breast, nervous system or abdominal imaging, by passing the corresponding exam. Ultrasound technicians who achieve certification must complete a prescribed number of continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.

Workshops and Seminars

Annual conferences and workshops focusing on the ultrasound field are offered nationwide. Lasting several days in duration, these conferences provide professional development opportunities in a number of areas, including diagnostic accuracy, technological advances, ultrasound techniques and instrumentation enhancements. These events bring together medical practitioners and ultrasound technicians from around the world, and of all specialties and experience levels. The most well-known conventions include those sponsored by the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

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