Schools usually offer either an Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Diagnostic Medical Sonography with specializations available in general, cardiac, or vascular sonography. Admission to some online sonography programs can be competitive, and those with medical work or volunteer experience might have an advantage during the selection process. In these cases, applicants without a medical background might be required to complete prerequisite classes prior to admission.
Although the classroom portion of the coursework can often be completed entirely online, students in most programs are required to complete clinical experiences on site at a school-approved medical facility. In addition, schools may require students to be on campus for hands-on training with sonography equipment and instruments. Programs can ready candidates to apply for certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Associate's Degree in Sonography
The field of diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) includes general, vascular, and cardio sonography. General sonography covers obstetrics/gynecology and the abdomen. Vascular and cardio sonography use ultrasound to identify problems with the heart and lungs. Usually, degree programs are offered either in general sonography or in vascular and cardio sonography. Online degree programs in sonography do not always cover all sonography areas.
Program Information and Requirements
The entire program typically requires 64 to 75 credits, depending on the school and whether a student is studying general, vascular or cardio sonography. Full-time students can usually complete these programs in two years.
Though technical requirements vary by school, students generally need access to an up-to-date computer with Internet connectivity and recent versions of browser, e-mail, and word processing software. Other software may also be required to view PDF documents, slide presentations, or video classes.
Schools with online degree programs typically have students use online course-management software. This software usually keeps students' class lectures, assignments, and correspondence organized and easily accessible. It can also provide a single location for students to send e-mail, participate in online forums, and submit their homework. This coursework list includes classes typical for a general sonography associate's degree program.
Introduction to Sonography
Students learn about the radiological sciences, such as ultrasound, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This class also covers the physics of the field, discussing mechanics, solids, fluids, magnetism, and kinematics.
Level 1 Clinical Experience
Students work under supervision at a medical facility approved by their school. Working with a registered sonographer, students practice basic scanning, analyzing sonogram results, and working with patients.
Normal and Abnormal Abdominal Anatomy
In this course, students learn to recognize the internal organs of the abdomen through sonography. Also discussed are abnormal presentations due to physiology or disease.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 26% growth in sonography jobs from 2014 to 2024, a faster-than-average growth rate for the field. The average salary for a sonographer was $70,880 in May 2015, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). Because jobs vary by geographic location, graduates that consider relocating have more job opportunities. New graduates can look for work in hospitals, physicians' offices, and diagnostic laboratories.
Continuing Education Information
Online associate's degree programs in sonography prepare students to take an exam through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Passing the exam earns the graduate the credential of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS). The RDMS certification can assure potential employers that a sonographer has achieved a certain level of competency in their field. According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (www.sdms.org), in 2009, New Mexico became the first and, at the time, only state to require licensure for sonographers.
If a general sonography degree program graduate wants to learn how to practice vascular or cardio sonography, they may need to earn an additional degree. Bachelor of Science and associate degrees are available in vascular and cardio sonography.
Online sonography associate's degrees are available with minimal in-person requirements, usually limited to clinical work to build practical experience. These programs teach students fundamental topics related to sonography, such as radiology and human anatomy, and prepares students for advanced learning opportunities, such as related undergraduate degrees and professional certification.