Students interested in becoming an ultrasound technician are recommended to complete formal education, whether in a degree or certificate program. Accredited ultrasound schools may offer a certificate program, an associate, and or bachelor’s degree program in sonography or related field. Students pursuing a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography may complete their education in as little as 12 months.
Most degree and certificate programs include lectures and laboratory work along with clinical experience, where students gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. Coursework for degree and certificate programs may include courses in medical terminology, anatomy, and applied sciences. These programs may also include coursework focused on a specialized ultrasound area, such as breast, abdominal, vascular, or cardiovascular.
Popular Educational Paths
The Associate Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is the most common program sought by future ultrasound technicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 45.5% of all employed ultrasound technicians hold an associate degree while only 19.7% of those in the field have completed a bachelor’s degree. While limited online ultrasound programs are also offered by a number of accredited schools.
Ultrasound technicians assist healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and treat patients. Many technicians chose an area of specialization to provide better care for patients, and they may complete the necessary training through degree or certificate programs. Students may need to choose an area of concentration early in their training, so they obtain the specific amount of hands-on experience needed. Students typically partake in clinical internships based on their ultrasound specialty. Popular diagnostic medical sonography specialties may include:
- Abdominal Sonography
Those who choose abdominal sonography examine structures located within the abdomen. This may include the spleen, gallbladder, liver, urinary tract, and pancreas. Sonographers may also examine all the related soft tissues and blood vessels found within the abdominal cavity.
- Cardiovascular Sonography
Cardiovascular sonographers, also called echocardiographers, use ultrasounds to check on patients’ heart and blood vessels. Oftentimes called echocardiography, this specialization relies on evaluating the heart’s overall anatomy including valves and chambers. The sonographers also check on the heart’s blood flow, which is also called hemodynamics.
- Musculoskeletal Sonography
Musculoskeletal sonographers conduct ultrasounds of patients’ joints and soft tissues, including ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints. These sonographers help healthcare professionals detect and diagnose musculoskeletal injuries diseases, including arthritis and osteoporosis. This form of sonography is increasing in the United States, especially in the fields of sports medicine and rheumatology.
The ultrasound specialty of neurosonography, also known as neurosonology or neuroimaging, deals with evaluating the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the nervous system. These ultrasound technicians diagnose and monitor the blood flow through vessels found within the nervous system. Patients who have suffered a stroke or have a subarachnoid hemorrhage may need to undergo a neurosonological scan.
- Pediatric Sonography
Those who utilize pediatric sonography perform ultrasounds on children. In this growing field, pediatric sonographers may focus on a specific area within the field, such as specializing in pediatric vascular sonography or pediatric cardiac sonography.
- Prenatal Sonography
Prenatal sonographers scan female reproductive systems and unborn fetuses to determine if there are any medical issues. These ultrasounds can track the growth and development of the fetus to make sure the pregnancy proceeds in a healthful manner. Some schools may include this type of specialty in an obstetrics and gynecological concentration, but other schools may include it with an area such as fetal electrocardiography.