How Long Does It Take to Become an Ultrasound Tech?

The length of your education depends on your career goals. To get started in a career as an ultrasound tech, you need a minimum of two years at an accredited allied health educational institution. There are schools available both online and offline that are able to provide you with this associate’s degree in sonography. Afterward, you’ll need to complete at least one year of full-time clinical experience, which means that you’ll be working, but under closer supervision of your superiors to ensure that you’re getting all the hands-on training you need for the job. You can then register with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Your Education Level Affects Your Employability

The job market, however, is getting more and more competitive. Therefore, many students are opting for a longer four-year program in sonography to get their bachelor’s degree in a field such as medical technology or medical imaging. In either case, there are no state or national licensing requirements for ultrasound techs, but many employers prefer to see registration, which requires you to take an exam after completing your training.

Advancement and Specialization

As you’re working in your field as an ultrasound tech, you can decide to advance even beyond a four-year bachelor’s degree education. There are currently no master’s degrees in sonography, but you may want to go on to get your Master of Health Administration, which will qualify you for more advanced management positions. In addition, there are a number of certificate programs available for ultrasound techs who want to specialize. For example, you could get advanced training to become a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, or cardiovascular technician, which would increase your marketability when job-hunting. Specializing means that you’re qualified for positions that pay higher salaries and are more prestigious, so this is a good route after you’ve worked in the field for a few years.

Although most ultrasound techs choose an educational route that lasts two years or four years, the great thing about online education is that you can work at your own pace. So, if you already have a two-year associate’s degree in sonography, for example, you can work on your bachelor’s degree in medical technology or health informatics over the course of three or four additional years as a part-time student, rather than trying to cram your education into two more years. This makes it possible for you to continue to work and even raise a family while going to school.

Is a Two or Four Year Degree Really Worth It?

In general, the education is worth the payoff. When your education is complete, you’ll most likely have student loans, but with a $50,000+ paycheck, it is easy to repay those loans on time or even ahead of schedule. Of course, even if your first job doesn’t come attached to such a high paycheck, this is a great career path simply because there are many jobs available across the country, and the medical field is continually expanding. Some employers will even pay for your schooling if you commit to working there for a certain number of time, so that they benefit from the new knowledge you gain.

How to Maximize Your Profit and Experience While Becoming an Ultrasound Tech

Getting the credentials to be an ultrasound tech doesn’t have to take long, but different educational paths yield different results, and there are ways to plan your program that will yield the best results at the lowest cost and time usage. A few ways you can diminish the financial burden and time cost of school, while still getting a great education are:

  • Take some of your courses online so that you can work while taking classes. This will diminish the debt you need to take on, and you’ll pay less interest in long term loans, for an overall lower cost.
  • Look for paid internships so you aren’t losing money while you get practical experience. If you’re going to spend a year working and learning the trade, you might as well earn some money for it. Areas with high demand for ultrasound technicians are more likely to offer paid internships to students.
  • Complete a full degree, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s, rather than doing the faster, but less comprehensive, one year certificate programs. A degree looks better to employers and will offer you more flexibility for both employment and further education down the road. It is worth taking the time initially, rather than having to make it up later, to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Scholarships, Tax Credits, and GI Benefits that Can Help You Get a Degree

Anyone looking into higher education, for sonography or any other field, should explore the financial aid options available to them. The U.S. government offers numerous scholarships, grants, and tax credits, as well as benefits for members of the armed forces, to help people get a degree and enter the skilled workforce. Some options you can look into include:

  • Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits: These tax breaks can save you two grand or more on income tax while you’re in school. That should cover your textbooks and then some.
  • Perkins and Stafford Loans: These loans are available to most students, though students with the most financial need will get the largest sums. You have to pay the money back, but the interest rate and repayment plans are much better than anything you’ll find at a bank or from a credit card company.
  • Federal Pell Grants: This is money you won’t have to pay back, but you have to prove you need it. Students of online colleges and universities get millions of dollars in Pell grants each year, and students with serious need can get up to $5,550 per school year to offset their tuition and materials costs.

Careers, Earnings, and Other Ultrasound Technician Info

It helps to have a light at the end of your tunnel when you’re in school and it feels like it will be forever before you can get a job and start paying off those student loans. Here are some encouraging facts about the employment and salary scene for well-trained ultrasound technicians.

  • Employment numbers are high for diagnostic medical sonographers, and will keep going up for the next several years, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. An estimated 9,200 more jobs in the field should be created by 2018.
  • Salaries for ultrasound technicians are well above the national median, at $61,800 as of May 2008. Experienced techs in high demand areas can earn even more, though. The top 10% of ultrasound techs earn more than $83,000.
  • Advancement opportunities for ultrasound techs to move into supervisory, managerial, and administrative roles are strong. A dedicated tech can attain some higher level of responsibility and pay after a year or two of high quality work in the trenches.

If you’re looking at how long it takes to become a working, professional ultrasound technician, you have to include job search time in the equation.The graph below indicates how long most people search for a job before either finding one or dropping out of the workforce entirely. The trend depicted is general, and not specific to the relatively high growth field of sonography.

In the end, the benefits of getting a few years of education in sonography far outweigh the losses, and anyone who is serious about advancing in the career should not shortchange themselves by taking too little schooling or avoiding somewhat costly certification or registration fees. If you are ready to get started on your diagnostic medical sonography education now, use the widget below to find a school that can meet your needs.

Top Online Health Services Programs

Herzing University
AS in Medical Assisting
Herzing University — With a 45 year history, Herzing University is an accredited university that offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees as well as diplomas in over 45 different programs. The AS in Medical Assisting program builds on the online diploma program by incorporating the general education requirements required for this level of degree. Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Adventist University of Health Sciences
BS in Radiologic Sciences
Adventist University of Health Sciences — Founded in 1992, the Adventist University of Health Sciences is formerly the Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences, a school focused on privding higher education in the several fields of healthcare. The BS in Health Information Technology program prepares students to become radiologic technicians. Adventist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pima Medical Institute
BS in Radiologic Sciences
AOS in Radiography
Pima Medical Institute — Pima Medical Institute, founded in 1972, is a private, regionally accredited career university offering certificates, associate, and bachelor's degrees for careers in the healthcare industry. The BS in Radiologic Sciences program prepares students to perform the duties and responsibilies of a radiologists. Pima is accredited by organizations in several fields of healthcare including the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

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