An Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography prepares entry-level sonographers with the knowledge and skills needed to work in the healthcare industry. The ultrasound degree program typically takes two years to complete, but some schools offer year-round schooling and students can complete the program in as little as 18 months.
Individuals may learn how to perform routine sonographic techniques and may specialize in certain fields, including vascular, cardiac, breast, abdomen, and obstetrics/gynecology. Students may also gain strong communication skills and critical thinking capabilities, which can help them become effective sonographers.
Prior to enrolling in the associate degree in ultrasound technology, students must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may require students to pass an entrance assessment, which may include exams in English, science, math, and reading. Potential students may also need to complete coursework in certain areas, including chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biology, medical terminology, and physics. In addition, students may need to meet with the program director to discuss career goals.
The goal of the Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is to prepare students for roles as patient-centered sonographers. Students may complete coursework dealing with clinical and administrative functions through instruction on-campus and off-campus. For off-campus instruction, students may work closely with physicians, sonographers, and other healthcare professionals to learn how to perform ultrasound examinations. Examples of objectives gained through these programs include:
- Gain a working knowledge of the sonography field.
- Partake in a clinical experience of a sonographic procedure.
- Obtain critical-thinking and communication skills.
- Maintain ethical standards in regard to patient care.
- Think independently and become enlightened decision makers.
Many states allow professional organizations to voluntarily register and certify ultrasound technicians; as such certification is generally not required to practice. However, certification may help increase employment opportunities. Upon completion of the associate degree program, graduates may be eligible to sit for certification from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). The organization offers certification in Ultrasound Physics and Instrumentation (SPI), Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN), and Abdomen (AB). Another certification in sonography is available is through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers are expected to increase by 46% from 2012 through 2022, which is higher than the national average for all professions. The BLS also reported that there were 58,800 employed diagnostic medical sonographers as of 2012. The annual median salary of a diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technician was $66,400 in 2013. Ultrasound technicians whom are paid hourly earned a median hourly wage of $31.93 in 2013. Career advancement may occur in areas such as education and administration. Examples of job settings for graduates of the Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography may include:
- Public Health Facilities
- Primary Care Clinics
- Mobile Imaging