Although sonography is a hands-on profession, distance education programs for both associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees are available. The theoretical and didactic portions of the curriculum are delivered through online classroom portals, while the clinical practicums are completed at a local medical clinic through arrangements between the clinic, student and school. Associate's degree programs cover fundamentals of sonography and allow students to specialize in an area of sonography like obstetrical, neurological or vascular sonography. Online sonography bachelor's degree programs offer further specializations with advanced training and introduce management concepts for professional advancement.
Associate's Degree in Sonography
Online programs are available that lead to an Associate in Applied Science in General Sonography, Vascular Sonography or Cardiac Sonography. The general sonography specialization prepares students to work in abdominal and OB/GYN sonography, while the vascular and cardiac specialties prepare graduates in those areas.
In order to be considered for the program, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED. In addition, certain general education and sonography-related courses must be completed before admission to the program. These may include written and oral communication, biology, psychology, humanities, mathematics, ethics, computer science and medical terminology.
Program Information and Requirements
An associate's degree program takes two years to complete, and the didactic portion of the program is delivered entirely online. Depending on the school, students may be required to attend a campus orientation program. Clinical components of the program can be completed at approved facilities near the student's home. Students receive lectures and assignments by way of a course management system, such as Blackboard or WebCT. Communication takes place in chat rooms, on discussion boards or via e-mail.
Technical requirements include a computer with Internet access that is equipped with latest browsers and operating systems. Some courses may require a sound card, and computers must contain a CD-ROM drive and be enabled to handle cookies.
Common Associate's-Level Sonography Courses
In addition to the general education and general sonography-related courses that are required for the programs, students must complete core sonography courses that focus on a specific area in the field.
This course introduces students to cardiac, vascular and neurosonography. Breast, musculoskeletal and prostate scanning are explored as well. Students are able to view pictures on their computers and instructional videos teach students sonographic techniques.
This course focuses on cross-sectional anatomy and the sonographic scanning of the abdomen. Students are introduced to how physiologic and pathologic changes in diseases and trauma can affect the interpretation of sonographic results.
This course provides instruction in the diagnostic testing of arterial systems of the patient's extremities. Subjects include color Doppler imaging (CDI), duplex sonography and segmental pressures. Students are able to discuss their findings and questions with instructors and other students through instant messenger.
Subjects in this course include Doppler and 2-D imaging, pressures and hemodynamic functions, and normal values of anatomic structures. Students use these investigative and imaging techniques to learn normal and abnormal anatomy and physiology of the heart.
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Bachelor's Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
A bachelor's degree program is designed to build on the information and skills acquired in the associate's program and prepares the graduate for additional responsibility in a hospital or clinic. Graduates are qualified for leadership and supervisory roles in the areas of diagnostic medical sonography.
Similar to the associate's degree program, students are able to take courses online, but must complete clinical training in local medical facilities. Students also have the options of focusing in the areas of general, vascular or cardiac sonography.
Program Information and Requirements
Courses use a combination of delivery methods, including media, online discussions rooms, chat rooms and e-mail. These resources allow students to participate in a virtual classroom with instructors and classmates. Generally, a course management system such as Blackboard is utilized.
Technical requirements include a computer with Internet access and an up-to-date browser. The computer should also have Adobe Acrobat Reader, Macromedia Flash, Quicktime. Windows Media Player, Real Player, and speakers or headphones are often advised.
Common Bachelor's-Level Sonography Courses
This program offers advanced sonography-level training, and some courses may prepare students for management opportunities in healthcare facilities.
Advanced Sectional Anatomy
Emphasizing sagittal, oblique, coronal and axial planes, students learn the recognition, location and identification of normal human anatomy in a variety of computer-generated images.
In this leadership course, the multifaceted role of the professional sonographer in the healthcare field is examined. Students learn about effective communication with patients, recruiting and retaining quality medical teams, mentoring and coaching.
Ethics and Law
Personal and contract law are among the areas of focus in this course that studies methods of ethically dealing with governmental and civilian agencies. The course examines the stand points of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
The focal point of this course is how certain changes in behavior and composition of the population have affected the nature of healthcare. Among the areas examined are the aging population, demographic change, new medical technology, dietary habits, smoking, exercise, workplace violence and alcohol abuse.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for sonographers are expected to increase by 24% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS showed that the median salary for a sonographer at $68,970 per year.
Continuing Education Information
The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offer certification for sonographers through an examination.
Membership in a professional organization such as the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography is extremely advantageous. It provides career information, exposure to workshops, professional journals, professional development courses, as well as opportunities to fulfill continuing education requirements in order to maintain certification.
Online programs in sonography are typically available in a hybrid format; coursework can be completed online, but completion of an in-person practicum is necessary. These programs prepare students for work as sonographers, not only teaching sonography techniques but management and ethics as well.