Sonograms, which are also known as ultrasounds, are used in several medical specialties including obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, neurology and internal medicine. Viewed by many as a safer alternative to x-rays, medical sonography is a non-invasive form of medical imaging that bounces high frequency sound waves off the body to take internal pictures for diagnostic purposes. Individuals that wish to become sonogram technicians can look forward to an exciting career in the health care industry.
Completing a course of study through an accredited college is the first step to becoming a sonogram technician. The following are some things you need to know when pursuing this education:
Pick a School. There are many schools out there that offer sonogram technician courses. However, the institutions that provide this education are not all the same.
- The most popular route is to attend a traditional college or university. These schools are not too expensive and they can guide you to many different ways of obtaining financial aid.
- Private schools are an alternative to the large traditional universities. These places will come with a heftier price tag and may not provide financial aid. But this is because you can complete the sonogram technician program faster. The one problem that students do encounter with these schools is accreditation. If you choose a private university you must make sure that they have received accreditation with the state.
- Another alternative is online sonography schools. Continuing your education through one of these institutions is becoming popular with students of all ages. They prefer the ease that comes with completing your education from home. Due to the fact that the medical sonography industry is fairly new the price for your education may vary. But most of them accept financial aid as well, though the cost of obtaining a degree through an online university is on the rise.
Choosing a Specialty. When deciding and learning how to become a sonogram technician, a student will need to choose whether to study for a specialty certification. Some of the specialties that you can learn include:
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Diagnostic cardiac sonographer
- Registered vascular technologist
The Courses. Sonography training courses will include anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, patient care, and medical terminology as well as a number of classes in the practical use of ultrasound equipment. Some colleges offer a one-year certificate program in sonography. However these courses are geared toward people already employed in the medical field that wish to further their education. Most sonogram technicians will obtain an associate degree through a community or junior college, while others may opt for a four year, or Bachelor's degree, through a university.
Getting Experience. After graduation from sonography school, a one-year internship is typically required before the designation of ‘diagnostic medical sonographer’ is given. During this time the graduate will gain practical experience in the field of sonography by working with patients, performing sonograms and preparing preliminary reports for physicians.
Get Certified. The final step in becoming a sonogram technician is to obtain certification and registration through The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Most states have no licensing requirements to become a sonogram technician; however, most employers prefer to hire individuals that have completed the registration process. The ARDMS is the national credentialing organization that administers testing and certifies the competency of a technician through the registration process. To become a sonogram technician registered by the ARDMS an individual must successfully complete a number of exams.
Employment. Most sonogram technicians are employed in hospitals. However, there are positions available with private practice physicians, medical groups and diagnostic imaging labs.
- Prenatal sonography is the most common use of ultrasounds. The prenatal sonogram technician will track the progress of a pregnancy, identify anomalies in the unborn fetus, and be able to determine the sex of a baby, as well as identify potential problems in the reproductive organs of the mother.
Once you have completed your schooling, you may start to seek employment. Once hired and practicing your craft, you will understand what other sonographers could only tell you--that medical technical careers are well worth the time it takes to get certified!