Vascular ultrasound, also known as vascular sonography, is the use of high-frequency sound waves to generate visual images of blood flow, body tissues and organs for diagnostic uses. Prospective students may choose programs at the certificate, associate's or bachelor's levels, some of which may offer online study opportunities. In addition to studying patient care techniques and neurosonology, aspiring vascular sonographers may be expected to complete internships or clinical practicum components. Certification is not required, but voluntary credentials may be earned by passing related examinations through associations like the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.
Certificate in Vascular Ultrasound
Certificates in vascular ultrasound teach students about the conventional techniques used in ultrasound imaging and the vascular systems. The certificate program is about 40 credit hours and can take between 12-24 months to complete. In addition to on-campus courses, online programs are available for the classroom work; students then have to arrange for clinical work in a local facility.
Certificate programs in vascular ultrasound are not for those who have just completed their high school education. There are specific college course prerequisites, including biology courses, introductory physics and medical terminology.
While coursework teaches students about the basic concepts and techniques involved in vascular ultrasound, students must also complete an internship. Common courses include:
- Caring for ultrasound patients
- Cross-sectional anatomy
- Ethics and medical law
- Medical terminology
Associate Degree in Vascular Ultrasound
Vascular ultrasound associate degree students are able to perform a variety of ultrasound procedures, including intracranial and extracranial procedures. Graduates are eligible to take national certification exams upon completion of the program. Students may also be required to complete a clinical practicum in an area hospital or medical facility.
Students may need to complete certain college courses before they are eligible for the vascular ultrasound program. These courses may include computer basics, English, college algebra, medical terminology and introduction to ultrasound.
Although the focus of the two-year associate's degree program is on ultrasound procedures, courses may teach students to work with patients as well. Common topics in many programs include:
- Cross-sectional anatomy
- Essentials of non-invasive vascular sonography
- Techniques of patient care
- Testing the extremities
- Ultrasound of arteries
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Bachelor's Degree in Vascular Ultrasound
Although associate's degree programs in vascular ultrasound technology are more common, four-year bachelor's degree programs in the field are available. In 2016, 17% of diagnostic medical sonographers reported that a bachelor's degree was required for their job (online.onetcenter.org). Students learn about advanced techniques and principles that can prepare them for management positions.
Students need to complete two years of undergraduate coursework involving general education requirements and prerequisite coursework. While general education requirements include mathematics, communications and English, prerequisite coursework consists of biology, anatomy and physiology, and medical terminology.
Coursework for a bachelor's degree program educates students about health problems in vascular regions and prepares them to manage sonographers and other medical technicians. Courses in the program may address:
- Adult echocardiography
- Distinctive circulatory problems
- Healthcare research and design
- Leadership principles
- Managing a vascular laboratory
Vascular sonographers work in the ultrasound and medical imaging department in various medical facilities. Careers for vascular sonographers are available in:
- Physician's offices
- Medical imaging clinics
- Mobile services
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers, a category that includes vascular sonographers, are expected to experience a 24% growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that the average wage for all diagnostic medical sonographers in 2015 was $34.08 per hour.
Certification and Continuing Education
Although no state has certification requirements for vascular ultrasound technologists, many employers prefer applicants who have earned a voluntary credential. The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) offers a registered vascular technologist (RVT) credential, while a registered vascular sonographer (RVS) designation may be earned through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Graduates with bachelor's degrees from a vascular ultrasound program may continue their education and earn a master's degree. These programs can be completed in two years and prepare graduates for administrative roles in the field.
Vascular ultrasound training is available to those interested at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's levels. Certification in the field is voluntary, but it does provide a competitive edge.