The coursework of diagnostic medical sonography programs centers around topics such as ultrasound physics, human anatomy, pathology, ultrasound instrumentation and imaging techniques. Internships and laboratory experiences allow students to gain hands-on skills. Prerequisites vary depending on which program is being pursued, with all requiring CPR certification, associate's requiring current immunizations, and a bachelor's requiring a physical examination.
Sonographers can become registered by satisfying experience and educational requirements and passing an examination. Among the career outcomes for credentialed graduates are registered vascular technology and registered diagnostic cardiac sonography. Some online courses may be available in some schools.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Certificate
Students enrolled in a certificate program learn to use sonography equipment to view parts of the human body and capture images that can assist physicians in the diagnosis of patient conditions. Certificate programs are most often completed by individuals already employed in the health care field who wish to make themselves more marketable. Although certificate programs are not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs, the programs still prepare students to take the certification exam administered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Programs at this level typically include coursework in the following topics:
- Human anatomy
- Patient care
- Ultrasound physics
- Medical terminology
- Patient Care
Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Accredited associate's degree programs teach students to perform diagnostic ultrasound examinations and evaluate the quality of sonographic images. Students practice their scanning skills in campus labs and gain clinical experience during a required internship with a local medical center. Graduates of sonography college programs may sit for the ARDMS exams.
In addition to the required core curriculum, students may customize their education by choosing to concentrate in obstetric, gynecological, abdominal or vascular sonography. General course requirements include:
- Human diseases
- Cross sectional imaging techniques
- Ultrasound instrumentation
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Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
A bachelor's degree program in sonography includes a comprehensive general education in addition to industry specific coursework. Students must complete internships at local imaging centers to gain real-world, clinical experience in performing obstetric, abdominal, cardiac, vascular, gynecological and pediatric sonography examinations. Upon successful completion of an accredited 4-year sonography college program, graduates may take the ARDMS exams. Graduates may also become registered vascular technologists (RVT) and registered diagnostic cardiac sonographers (RDCS).
Bachelor's degree programs require students to take courses in general sonography practices as well as sonography specialties like obstetric, vascular, gynecological and pediatric imaging. Course topics include:
- Sectional anatomy
- Ultrasound instrumentation
- Health care systems
- Basic patient care
Popular Career Options
In addition to working as general diagnostic medical sonographers, students who choose to specialize can work as:
- Breast sonographers
- Abdominal sonographers
- Gynecological and obstetric sonographers
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although sonography is an occupation with no preferred level of education, employers tend to hire registered sonographers who have received training through accredited programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers will increase by about 24% for the years 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the mean annual wage for sonographers was $70,880.
Students who have completed a certificate in sonography typically choose to seek employment in the field right away. Sonographers who choose to become registered are required to complete a certain number of continuing education credit hours in order stay up to date with technological advances in the field and to maintain their registration. Individuals may also choose to pursue higher levels of education in sonography or a related health care field.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in the field of sonography are strongly encouraged to sit for the ARDMS exams to become a registered diagnostic medical sonographer. In order to maintain registration, practicing professionals must complete a certain number of continuing education requirements in order to stay apprised of technological advances in the field.
Students who want to be sonographers can obtain a certificate, associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. To become registered sonographers, students should take the ARDMS exam upon completion of their program.