|Program Levels||Associate or bachelor's degree|
|Field(s) of Study||Diagnostic medical sonography|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Some online programs may be available; typically hybrid|
|Program Length||2 years for associate's degrees; 4 years for bachelor's degrees|
|Licensure/Certification||Licensure varies by state - confirm your selected program meets state requirements; voluntary certification available|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||24% growth|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$68,970 (for ultrasound technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers typically hold at least an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. Some of these degrees include an Associate's of Applied Science, Associate's of Science, Bachelor's of Science and Bachelor's of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Entirely online degree programs in medical sonography are available, but relatively rare, because this field requires clinical work experience. Some states require sonographers to be professionally licensed, so when choosing a program, check the licensing requirements in your state and look for programs that count toward licensure.
Associate's Degree for Ultrasound Technicians
Most online associate's degree programs for ultrasound technicians emphasize ultrasound procedures, sonographic instrumentation and medical terminology. A 2-year online program in diagnostic medical sonography can result in an Associate of Applied Science or an Associate of Science degree. Some online programs also offer certificates in diagnostic medical sonography.
Distance education programs resulting in an associate's degree for ultrasound technicians are typically presented in a combination of on-campus and online classes. In many cases, program requirements include a clinical experience at a local hospital, imaging center or clinic. An online associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography generally takes two years to complete.
Program coursework for online associate's degree programs for ultrasound technicians generally includes introductory courses in sonographic instrumentation and procedures, such as those used for vascular, cardiovascular, abdominal and gynecological purposes. Additional courses might include medical terminology, sectional anatomy, pathophysiology, sonographic physics and imaging ethics. A clinical practicum might also be part of the curriculum.
Introductory or foundation courses typically offer study in the history and theories of sonography. Ultrasound uses, medical terminology, and legal and ethical issues in the field might also be discussed.
Instrumentation courses focus on the operation and maintenance of ultrasound equipment. How equipment is used for different ultrasound procedures and the function of instrumentation components are likely to be addressed.
The anatomy of several areas of the body most commonly subject to ultrasound procedures is addressed in these courses. Body areas include the pelvis, thorax, abdomen and nervous system. Some courses might use ultrasound images for illustration.
Bachelor's Degree for Ultrasound Technicians
An online bachelor's degree program for ultrasound technicians generally provides students with advanced courses in many of the topics covered in a 2-year program. Students can choose to pursue a degree in diagnostic medical sonography, radiologic sciences or radiation sciences. A 4-year online program in these areas of study most commonly results in a Bachelor of Science degree. In some cases, an associate's degree is required to enroll in an online bachelor's degree program.
Online bachelor's degree programs for ultrasound technicians can be conducted entirely online, or in a combination of live instruction and Web-based classes. Some schools require completion of clinical labs, while others offer only non-clinical programs. Most programs will take four years to complete.
The curriculum of an online bachelor's degree program for ultrasound technicians will typically address intermediate and advanced sonographic procedures, instrumentation, physics, anatomy and patient care. Courses might also be taken in pharmacology, pathology, and current health care trends and issues.
Courses in specific ultrasound procedures comprise a large portion of the curriculum of an online bachelor's degree program in medical sonography or radiologic sciences. Students learn procedures and principles of abdominal, vascular, obstetrical, gynecological and breast sonography.
Likewise, physics courses in an online bachelor's degree program for ultrasound technicians address ultrasound physics, Doppler physics, ultrasound principles and basic equipment. Parameters, ultrasound transducer and the effects of medical imaging on the human body are other topics of discussion.
Courses in patient care focus on teaching students how to physically and mentally comfort patients during medical imaging exams. Patient care theories and techniques are discussed.
Graduate Career Information
Graduates of an online bachelor's degree program for ultrasound technicians might qualify for more advanced positions in the field. They might also choose an area of specialization, such as cardiovascular technician or obstetric sonographer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries will vary depending on specialization and employer type. Annual median wages can range between $48,720 for the lowest-earning 10% and $97,390 for the highest-earning 10%, as reported in May 2015.
Graduates of an online associate's degree program in diagnostic medical sonography are prepared for entry-level positions at hospitals or diagnostic imaging centers. According to the BLS, job growth for ultrasound technicians was expected to be 24%, much faster than the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024. The BLS further reported that the yearly median salary for ultrasound technicians was just over $68,970 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates of an online bachelor's degree program can pursue voluntary certification for diagnostic medical sonographers. Certifying organizations include the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Continuing education requirements might apply in order to maintain certification.
Upon completion of an online associate's degree program, graduates can pursue a bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography or a related area. Continuing education might also include training sessions held by the manufacturing companies of imaging machines and instrumentation.
Degrees in diagnostic medical sonography are rarely online because most courses for this field of study require clinical experience. Students may obtain an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in sonography with the option of continuing their education and obtaining other licenses and certifications.