Ultrasound Technician Certification Program Requirements

Students interested in becoming ultrasound technicians may pursue an associate's, bachelor's or certificate program. These programs will ultimately teach the skills needed to help take sonograms that doctors can use to diagnose and monitor patients.

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Essential Information

Programs in ultrasound technology also fall under the similar title of diagnostic medical sonography. Degrees in this field are most commonly offered at the associate level. Students learn to operate diagnostic imaging equipment that uses sound waves to take internal photos of patients' bodies. These images are used by physicians to diagnose health conditions, monitor fetal growth or study internal body parts.

Admission to associate's and bachelor's degree programs typically require a high school diploma. Some bachelor's programs and most professional certificate programs require students to hold an associate degree in a relevant field and be certified or eligible for certification by the ARRT. Admission for some programs may also have prerequisite coursework in anatomy, physiology, physics, intermediate algebra and medical terminology or previous certification.

The different ultrasound technology program fields available to students are: Ultrasound Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Ultrasound and Radiologic Science, Medical Imaging Technology. These programs may specialize in abdomen, echocardiography, and vascular ultrasounds. Programs often require the completion of a clinical practicum.

Associate Degree in Diagnostic Ultrasound Technology

Schools may award this degree as an Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts or Associate of Science. Programs typically take two years to complete. During that time, students participate in classroom learning, laboratory training and supervised clinical experiences. Graduates may qualify to sit for certification exams. Some common classes include:

  • Abdominal sonography
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Pathophysiology
  • Gynecological sonography
  • Echocardiography

Bachelor's Degree in Diagnostic Ultrasound Technology

Another route aspiring ultrasound technicians can take is to earn a bachelor's degree. Some school may lists programs as diagnostic ultrasound and radiologic science or medical imaging technology with a concentration in sonography. Similar to associate programs, students learn imaging operations through classroom and practical training. Coursework varies depending on programs, especially if the program requires students to have already earned an associate degree in a related field. Foundational classes in anatomy and physiology are required in addition to biology, physics and math. Course topics may include:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Vascular sonography
  • Ultrasound instrumentation
  • Ultrasound physics
  • Issues in medical imaging technology

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Ultrasound Technician Professional Certificate

Although certificate programs are available for individuals without any experience or training in ultrasound technology, most programs are geared toward those with prior training. Several of these programs focus on specialty areas within the sonography field, such as abdomen, echocardiography or vascular, while others provide a comprehensive foundation to those with training or experience in a different part of the healthcare field. Program curricula vary depending on whether they concentrate on a specific specialty or on general sonography. Clinical training is standard in these programs. Course topics may include:

  • Ultrasound physics
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Instrumentation
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Cardiovascular sonography

Popular Career Options

Ultrasound technicians work in a variety of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, doctors' offices and imaging laboratories. They can specialize in taking images of certain parts of the body. Some of the specialty ultrasound technicians are known as:

  • Breast ultrasound technician
  • Neurosonographer
  • Abdominal sonographer
  • Cardiovascular technologist or technician
  • Vascular technologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Due to the low cost and less-toxic, non-invasive nature of ultrasound technology, this imaging procedure is gaining in popularity and leading to an increased need for ultrasound technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS anticipates a 24% employment increase during 2014-2024 for these professionals, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that ultrasound technicians earned a median salary of $68,970.

Licensure and Certification Information

Some states require ultrasound technicians to obtain licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state, and acquiring professional certification satisfies the requirements in some states, according to the BLS. The BLS also states that professional certification is often preferred by employers, even in states where licensure isn't required. Individuals can earn certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) after completing an ARRT-approved training program, meeting clinical and ethics requirements and passing an exam. Starting in 2015, all candidates will need at least an associate degree to qualify for ARRT certification.

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers various credentials in specialty areas, such as breast, abdomen and vascular technology. Those specializing in abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, neurosonology and/or obstetrics and gynecology can earn the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer credential. Specializing in adult, fetal and/or pediatric echocardiography can qualify an ultrasound technician for the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer credential.

A vascular technology specialty may earn someone the Registered Vascular Technologist credential, and the Registered in Musculoskeletal credential is awarded to qualified applicants specializing in musculoskeletal sonography. Applicants must have sufficient education and clinical experience and pass an exam to earn these credentials.

Students who would like to become ultrasound techs can get an associate degree, bachelor degree, or a certificate. Depending on the specialization or state a student resides in, certain licensing and credentials may be required.

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