Although not required for employment, ultrasound certification is preferred by most employers of diagnostic medical sonographers. It is however expected that states may soon require that sonographers hold licensure. Certification can be obtained through a national certification agency such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) which oversees examinations and awards credentials in diagnostic, medical, vascular, and cardiac sonography. With more than 80,000 individuals receiving certification, the ARDMS certification is globally recognized and is the most popular choice for sonographers. ARDMS certification is also the most widely accepted type of certification within the medical community.
The ARDMS is a non-profit organization established in 1975 that awards certifications within vascular, cardiac, and general diagnostic medical sonography. Individuals possessing certification from the ARDMS maintain professional standards recognized by the medical community, although the organization does not validate daily job performance of these individuals. Consisting of three key groups, the ARDMS has a board of directors that determine the policies of the organization, the examination development task force that compose the examinations, and professional staff that administer programs and assist applicants.
The ARDMS (ardms.org) is accredited by several prestigious organizations, including the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The NCCA is part of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA), which establishes quality standards for certifying organizations.
ARDMS credentials are offered in five different types of certification, and these certifications are based upon the specialization being pursued; you may only need to complete one major exam, while in other instances you may need a general exam plus a specialty exam. Among the five different credentials, include:
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)
This is for those who are seeking certification in the abdomen, breast, obstetrics and gynecology, fetal echocardiography, or neurosonology sonography. The neurosonology specialization is being discontinued in 2015, but is being replaced by pediatric sonography.
- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)
This certification is for individuals who seek certification in cardiac sonograms, such as adult, fetal, and pediatric.
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
Vascular sonography certification specializes in the system of blood vessels found throughout the body.
- Registered Musculoskeletal
This recent addition to the ARDMS involves taking ultrasounds of the soft tissues and joints, including the tendons and muscles.
- Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI)
This certification is only available to physicians and is the highest existing standard that demonstrates excellence in incorporating ultrasound into diagnosing and treating vascular diseases.
ARDMS required examinations vary by credential sought and also according to the specialty you plan to pursue.
|Credential Earned||Required Examination||Specialty Exams|
|RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer)||SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation Examination)||– Abdomen (AB)|
– Breast (BR)
– Fetal Echocardiography (FE)
– Neurosonology (NE)
– Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN)
– Pediatric Sonography (PS)
|RDCS (Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer)||SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation Examination)||– Adult Echocardiography (AE)|
– Fetal Echocardiography (FE)
– Pediatric Echocardiography (PE)
|RVT (Registered Vascular Technologist)||SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation Examination)||– Vascular Technology (VT)|
|RMSK (Registered in Musculoskeletal)||MSK (Musculoskeletal Sonography Exam)|
|RPVI (Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation)||PVI (Physician’s Vascular Interpretation Exam)|
Prerequisites for ARDMS certification examinations are typically determined based upon the credential sought and level of education obtained from an accredited institution. The most common prerequisite for the general Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) examination is a single two-year allied health education program focusing on patient care. Individuals may also need at least 12 months of full-time clinical ultrasound or vascular experience.
Preparing for the Exam
To prepare for ARDMS examinations, candidates can utilize practice examinations that simulate the actual testing environment. This allows individuals to become familiar with selecting answers with either the mouse or keyboard, scrolling through the questions, keeping track of remaining time, marking questions for review, and utilizing the review feature. Upon completion of the test, individuals will receive a test-result report. The ARDMS offers 10 different practice examinations, all costing $25.00.
Test Center Locations
Once your application has been approved you will have 90 days to take the exam. You will be asked to register for and take the exam at one of the nearly 3,000 Pearson VUE test centers across the globe. You must have a valid signature ID to present prior to sitting for the exam. This ID must be a non-expired government-issued photo ID with signature and must exactly match the name on the application.
Maintenance & Re-Certification
Individuals who possess ARDMS certification are entitled to use the initials of their credentials (RDMS, RDCS, RVT, RPVI, and RMSK) as long as they comply with current and future standards and rules. However, if the ARDMS board of directors determines that you violate the certification, the organization can revoke certification designation in accordance to its policies. The ARDMS stipulates that certification is a privilege, not a right. In order for you to maintain certification, you must pay an annual renewal fee on or before December 31 of each year, and the amount is currently either $75.00 or $100.00, depending upon the type of designation. You also need to earn a minimum of 30 continuing medical education (CME) credits from ARDMS-accepted programs during a three-year period. In addition, the ARDMS issues a 10-year recertification period, in which certification remains valid.