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Undergraduate Sonography Programs: Degree Options by Level

Aspiring sonographers can enroll in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in diagnostic medical sonography. These programs may be useful for students with no experience who want to get into the field as well as students who want to advance their skills.

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Essential Information

Diagnostic medical sonographers utilize ultrasound equipment to capture images of organs, tissues, and fluids within the human body. Diagnostic medical sonography bachelor's and associate's degree programs consist of lectures, laboratory components, and clinical practicums; bachelor's degree programs may require more general education coursework.

Admittance requires a high school diploma with prerequisite coursework in high school algebra and biology. Other requirements include documentation of a recent physical exam, a personal statement essay, and an in-person interview. Prospective students will be required to submit to a criminal background check before being admitted into the clinical phase of the program. Completion of either program allows students to sit for the initial Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer examination. Graduates may sit for other specialty certification exams as well.


Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Students in this program take coursework in areas like physiology, human diseases, medical ethics, and ultrasound instrumentation. Concentrations are available in abdominal OB/GYN, echocardiography, and vascular or cardiac medical sonography. In the final semester, students complete a clinical internship where they receive hands-on training from medical staff and work directly with patients and ultrasound equipment. The curriculum may also include these courses:

  • Clinical ultrasound
  • Anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Vascular ultrasound

Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Designed for both non-certified students and registered sonographers, a bachelor's degree program offers advanced instruction in health science and ultrasound imaging. Students choose from one of four concentration areas, including adult or pediatric echocardiography, general abdominal OB/GYN, and vascular sonography. Students study ultrasound physics, radiologic science, and imaging science. Classes also train students to use diagnostic imaging equipment, maintain accurate medical records, communicate with medical staff, and examine patients. In the final stages of the program, students complete a clinical internship at a participating medical facility. Additional areas of study include:

  • Patient care
  • Gynecologic sonography
  • Cardiac sonography
  • Neonatal sonography
  • Pathology

Popular Career Options

Graduates go on to work in physician's offices, hospitals, emergency clinics, and other medical facilities. Graduates who chose a concentration area may have more specific career options. Popular career choices for graduates include:

  • OB/GYN sonographer
  • Vascular sonographer
  • Abdominal sonographer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers held an estimated 61,250 jobs in the United States in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the number of jobs would increase by 26% from 2014-2024. The median salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,970 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Graduates are eligible to sit for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) examination, which results in national certification as a diagnostic medical sonographer. The ARDMS also offers Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer and Registered Vascular Technologist credentials. Bachelor's degree holders may choose to further their education through master's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography or vascular ultrasound.

Undergraduate training programs for aspiring sonographers are offered at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. While both program types can provide entry-level training, some bachelor's degree programs are designed for professional sonographers seeking training in a specialty area.

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