What Degree Should an Ultrasound Technician Have?

Are you daunted by the college education required with becoming an ultrasound technician or a medical sonographer? Depending upon your career desires, you may discover that your degree requirements are no heavier than any other degree required by a specialty program. While most ultrasound clinical programs require the completion of an associate or bachelor degree before acceptance, you may learn that you do not need a four-year degree to open the door to a career in your chosen profession.

College Costs and Requirements for Ultrasound Technicians

Your investment in a college education may have a strong impact on your salary upon graduation. While high school graduates with no college education collect an average weekly salary of $583, that figure jumps nearly fifteen percent to $670 for associate degree holders. Many students enroll at two-year colleges for an associate degree, and this choice often is based upon friendly tuition rates and the ability to further an education down the road. Current average public two-year college tuition comes to a little over $2,000, or roughly equal to the average individual tax refund, according to the IRS. The above numbers are based on general statistics, not data that pertains specifically to ultrasound technicians.

In comparison, a public four-year college asks for nearly $5,500 annual tuition and private four-year university annual tuition can top $21,000. Fortunately, your choice of becoming an ultrasound technician or diagnostic medical sonographer (DMS) can help. Many community colleges offer associate degrees in diagnostic medical sonography, and some employers prefer candidates registered through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

Through ARDMS, you can learn more about the credentials you need for your career and the examinations you’ll need to take to achieve that goal. You can learn that the least demanding prerequisite is a two-year allied health education program that is patient-care related. Allied health occupations include, but are not limited to:

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Technologist
  • Respiratory, Occupational or Physical Therapist
  • Registered Nurse

In addition, the ARDMS asks for twelve months of full-time clinical ultrasound/vascular experience. If you use your DMS program for the educational requirement, you still have to document an additional twelve months of clinical ultrasound/vascular experience earned outside the two-year program.

Registry and Accredited Certification for Sonographers

On the other hand, you can graduate from a program accredited by an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), United States Department of Education (USDOE) or Canadian Medical Association (CMA), that specifically conducts programmatic accreditation for diagnostic medical sonography/ diagnostic cardiac sonography/vascular technology. In this case, no additional experience is required.

Classes You’ll Take in Ultrasound Technician Programs

Ultrasound technicians need both the technical knowhow of operating imaging machinery and interpreting ultrasound images, and the less precise skill of helping patients feel comfortable and helping them understand the information that is derived from the tests they undergo. There are courses in medical assisting and sonography programs to address both the technical and more interpersonal aspects of the work. Some of the courses you’ll take on the way to becoming a medical assistant or ultrasound tech could include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology: Learning the parts of the body and how they interact is crucial for any career in the medical field, especially for ultrasound technicians who need to be able to identify internal organs and even abnormalities from the blurry images generated by an ultrasound.
  • Medical Law & Ethics: Know your responsibilities as a medical worker, and your client’s rights as a patient. This class will help you know how to handle patients’ sensitive information and other crucial patient relations skills.
  • Ultrasound Basic Physics: This course will help you understand how ultrasound technology works, and will give you a more complete idea of what you are doing when you scan a person with an ultrasound. You will come out with a better picture of the diagnostic capabilities of ultrasound machinery.
  • Practical Experience: You’ll probably need at least a year of working in an actual hospital or clinic before you’ll really be considered for great ultrasound tech jobs.

Once you begin your career with these minimum prerequisites, you always can go on to obtain a higher degree later. The most that the ARDMS requires from their candidates is a bachelor’s degree (any major) or foreign degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. or Canada, along with twelve months of full-time clinical ultrasound/vascular experience.

Procedures You Need to Master as an Ultrasound Technician/Technologist

As an ultrasound technician, you will likely be part of a rotating staff in a clinic or floor of a hospital, and you will need to work smoothly in various roles. Some of the responsibilities held by ultrasound technicians include:

  • Preparing patients to be scanned. Explaining the process of administering an ultrasound scan, and describing the type of results that can be obtained.
  • Scanning patients and summarizing the results. Some diagnostic medical sonographers can diagnose abnormalities detected through ultrasound, but some can only operate the machinery, and must wait for a doctor to see the images and make a diagnosis.
  • Keeping records of scans performs and results achieved. Ultrasound technicians may be required to write down the results of various procedures and deliver them to the record-keepers and medical coders at the clinic/hospital.

Job Opportunities and Wages for Ultrasound Technicians

As a general rule, statistics show that people with more education earn more money, and since employment for diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to jump around 20% in the next decade, it is a good bet that there will still be well paid jobs available if you go to college now and come out ready to be an ultrasound tech in a couple of years.The chart below indicates median weekly wages across all careers, by education level. Associate’s and bachelor’s degrees are the most common degree levels held by ultrasound techs, and it is safe to say that someone with a bachelor’s degree will eventually earn a higher salary.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $61,980 as of May, 2008, and there were around 60,000 jobs in the industry. Positions for medical assistants and other support staff in medical facilities are all expected to grow faster than the national average job growth until at least 2018.

So, what are you waiting for? The sooner you begin your educational career, the sooner you can gain employment as an ultrasound technician. It’s up to you to blaze your trail to a high-paying job in this field.

Top Online Health Services Programs

There are multiple educational paths that students can take to become an ultrasound technician or diagnostic medical sonographer. The schools below do not offer ultrasound-specific training, but they do offer medical assisting and other healthcare programs that are closely related. You can request information by clicking on any of the links below.

DeVry University
AS in Health IT
DeVry University — For over 80 years, DeVry University has focused on relevant areas of study, offering associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs and specializations that cover 34 different career fields. Earn your associate degree in Health Information Technology from DeVry University, and prepare to be an HIT leader in contemporary hospitals, physicians' offices, medical clinics, and more. DeVry 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.

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