Diagnostic medical sonography, or ultrasound technology, is a medical technology by which sound waves are turned into visual images for the purposes of medical diagnosis. Typically, ultrasound programs offering online courses will have clinical and laboratory components that students will be expected to complete in person. Ultrasound programs at the certificate and associate's degree levels are often designed to prepare students to take field-specific national credentialing exams.
Courses offered via distance learning may be available in asynchronous formats, allowing students to login and complete studies at their own pace. Others may be synchronous, requiring students to participate online in live class sessions. Students typically access course content through a virtual instructional platform, such as Blackboard. In addition to accessing and submitting assignments, students can communicate with instructors and peers and review supplementary course materials, which often include instructional videos and lecture notes.
Certificates typically take about 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on the specialty the student chooses. These basic ultrasound specialties include general (abdomen, obstetrics and gynecology) and cardiovascular (vascular and echocardiography, or the heart). Along with learning how to operate technical equipment, students in an online ultrasound certificate-level program likely will take classes in basic human anatomy, physiology and pathology.
Associate's Degree Programs
Often offered as an Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, students in this type of program complete theoretical and practical courses in ultrasound technology, similar to a certificate program. In addition, though, students also complete general education and foundational courses in biology, psychology, composition, humanities and college algebra. Programs at this level may be offered on a selective admissions basis.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Bachelor's degree programs can be found either entirely online or primarily online with the integration of clinical components. However, these types of programs are designed as degree completion options for existing ultrasound technology or related professionals, such as radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists or radiologic technologists. In addition to a few major courses, students typically complete classes in general education subjects. Degree options may include the following:
- Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Sciences
The career outlook in the ultrasound field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), is expected to grow much faster than the average for all careers between the years 2014 and 2024. Ultrasound technicians can find work in clinics, hospitals and laboratories. In addition, job opportunities can also be found in education, administration or research.
In most cases, sonographers work under the direct supervision of physicians when providing care to patients. They play crucial roles in both inpatient and outpatient environments. Ultrasound careers offer a challenging blend of hands-on patient care with the mastery of sophisticated technologies.
Sonographers are expected to explain to the patient, in layman's terms, about the ultrasound procedure, help promote healthy lifestyles, speak and behave in an ethical manner, and exhibit compassionate and empathetic communication abilities with fellow staff members and patients.
Online ultrasound training programs can be found in the form of certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs. Certificate and associate's programs may require some lab work, however some bachelor's programs are taught fully online.