A bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography prepares individuals with the skills and training required to start a successful career as an ultrasound technician. The degree program typically takes four years to complete, although some schools may offer an accelerated 24- or 36-month track. Within these programs, students may gain administrative skills as well as scanning and diagnostic capabilities. They may learn how to produce two-, three-, and four-dimensional images of abdominal and pelvic structures, blood flow, tissues, and organs. In addition to in-class instruction, students may partake in laboratory work and a clinical internship.
Many ultrasound schools require students to complete a specific number of clinical rotations at off-campus healthcare facilities. In these rotations, students may gain hands-on experience with ultrasound equipment and learn first-hand from other diagnostic medical sonographers and healthcare professionals. During these clinical rotations, each program’s clinical coordinator and program director may monitor the clinical rotations and visit the healthcare facility to check on each student. Prior to partaking in these rotations, students may need to complete a background screening and criminal check.
Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography gain the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to secure employment as entry-level sonographers within the healthcare industry. These individuals may earn the training to work in a clinical practice, research facility, or educational setting. They may also learn how to ethically perform ultrasounds on patients and may learn how to work within a team environment. Examples of program objectives for bachelor’s degree programs may include:
- To graduate diagnostic medical sonographers who are qualified to perform standard and specialized procedures.
- To prepare graduates to fulfill leadership roles in laboratories, education, and healthcare facilities.
- To enhance graduates’ academic skills for pursuing research within the ultrasound field.
- To provide graduates with ultrasound training within their specific area of concentration, such as abdominal, obstetrics/gynecology, vascular, and breast sonography.
- To ensure that graduates are qualified to take certification examinations.
Schools offering bachelor’s degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography often receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). These programs only receive CAAHEP accreditation by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) based upon a review and on-site visit. CAAHEP accreditation allows students to apply and take certification exams from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). ARDMS certification is available in neurosonography, abdominal sonography, ultrasound physics and instrumentation, and obstetrical and gynecological sonography.
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. The annual median salary of a diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technician was $66,400 in 2013. Sonographers whom are paid hourly earned a median hourly wage of $31.93 in 2013. Graduates may find employment opportunities at a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and physicians’ offices. Examples of career specializations for graduates of a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography programs may include:
- Neurosonography (Brain)
- Echocardiography (Cardiac)