An Associate Degree in Sonography prepares students for entry-level positions and is the most common degree possessed by working Sonographers. It provides them with a varied skill set so that they can successfully image organs and other body components of their prospective patients for diagnoses, pregnancy monitoring and other medical purposes.
An Ultrasound Technician Associate’s Degree program is a mixture of course work and on-the-job clinical rotations. Students who graduate with an Associates Degree from a CAAHEP accredited program are eligible and equipped to write the ARDMS exam, the major certification either highly preferred or required by clinics and hospitals hiring professional sonographers.
Benefits of an Ultrasound Associates Degree
- An associates degree will prepare you for entry level sonography positions.
- You can typically complete your program in two years.
- Prerequisites are a high school diploma or equivalent.
- It provides a solid foundation from which to build your career.
- Gain marketable skills in diagnostic medical sonography.
Prerequisites for Entering an Associate’s Degree Program
The prerequisites for an Associates in Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound or Sonography depend on the ultrasound school you are planning on attending. Some colleges/universities only require candidates to have their high school diploma/GED. Some Associates Degree programs require a few introductory college credits related to Biology, Medical Terminology and/or Physics in addition to a high school diploma.
Other programs require applicants to have completed an Allied Health Associate’s degree (in an area related to patient care such as radiological technology, occupational therapy or registered nursing) or a Bachelor’s degree in any major.
When applying for an Ultrasound Associates program, be sure to clearly understand the necessary prerequisites that particular school requests and submit all required transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of reference.
Is the Program Accredited?
There is plenty to evaluate when considering which program to attend. Often foremost in people’s minds are cost, location, and length of program, and whether or not the student will be accepted. These are all very important, but perhaps one of the most important things to consider is if the program is accredited.
The most widely recognized and highly regarded accrediting agency for Sonography programs is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Through their easy to use online tool, students can search for accredited allied health programs in their state.
There are other accrediting agencies as well, often specified towards the area of study. For example, radiology programs might be certified by the American College of Radiology (ACR), and there are other local and state credentials that a school can earn. An education is a serious investment, so be sure to do your homework in researching a program before you commit.
If you attend and complete your education at an institution recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), you are also eligible to sit for the ARDMS exam. Holding the ARDMS credential usually preferred or required by employers, although some will have the provision that ARDMS accreditation be obtained within the first year of employment.
Tuition and Fees
Associate’s degrees are generally two-year programs, and as such offer an affordable way to obtain a degree in a highly marketable field. Costs can vary widely depending on the school, ranging from around $10,000 to as high as $40,000. Community colleges are usually the most affordable, while for profit institutions the most expensive.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a useful tool, free of charge, that can help you compare the true costs of your education, and provides information on financial aid.
As our population ages, healthcare needs are growing at a rapid pace. Employment opportunities for sonographers, as well as most other fields within medical imaging healthcare, are growing right along with it. In it’s 2017 publication, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict job growth of 17% between 2016 and 2026, which they define as “much faster than average”.
How long does it take to complete an Associates program?
On average, an Ultrasound Associates degree is a two year program and ranges between four and six semesters/terms.
Can I complete an Associates degree online?
Generally, most ultrasound schools do not offer an online sonography degree program due to the fact that a lot of the course work involves hands-on experience with imaging equipment in the lab as well as off-campus clinical.
Will an Associates degree in ultrasound qualify me for ARDMS certification?
Yes. As per ARDMS’ Prerequisite 1, anyone who has completed a two-year allied-health program, including a diagnostic medical sonographer/ultrasound program, along with 12 months full-time clinical ultrasonography experience, is eligible to write the ARDMS certification exam.
What jobs can I get with an Associates in Sonography?
An Ultrasound Associates Degree qualifies you for an entry-level sonographer position. Depending on where you apply, there are several synonymous job titles including ultrasound sonographer, ultrasound technician and diagnostic medical sonographer.
There are many ultrasound technician specializations within the field that offer different job opportunities, and it would be worthwhile to explore the options before you begin your education.
According to the ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) you can become certified as:
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (focusing on the abdomen, breast, obstetrics & gynecology and/or the nervous system).
- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (focusing on adult, fetal and/or pediatric echocardiography)
- Registered Vascular Technologist (focusing on cerebral and peripheral vascular systems)
Is an Associates degree enough to make me a competitive job candidate?
Yes. An Associates degree coupled with ARDMS certification and exemplary feedback from your clinical rotations will make you a very successful job candidate in a field that is expected to experience 17% growth within the next decade (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Typically higher education, such as a Bachelors Degree in Ultrasound, is recommended for those who wish to further their careers to leadership/managerial roles. There’s a terrific resource available to sonographers looking for employment, and you can learn more about it here.
It’s Never too Late to go Back to School!
Whether you’re a parent looking to get back in the workforce or an adult wanting to change careers, it’s never too late to pursue your education!
“One of the advantages of returning to school when older is that the student tends to be more purpose-driven and thus will be able to benefit more fully from the education they are receiving.”
Curriculum for Ultrasound Associates Degrees
An Associates in Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound or Ultrasound Technology comprises of coursework that delves into biology, physics, medical terminology, ultrasound imaging and patient care. More specifically as an Ultrasound Associates Degree student, you will learn about anatomy and physiology, the principles behind sonographic imaging, how to use each of the essential ultrasound machines and the psychology/behavioral sciences involved with interacting with patients.
You will also gain invaluable, hands-on clinical experiences, as often as once per semester, by working in a hospital or health center where you could potentially work after graduation. Some Ultrasound Associates programs also allow you to specialize in one specific area, such as vascular technology, echocardiography or general sonography (abdomen, obstetrics and gynecology), although generally you will have the opportunity to complete one course in each of these medical fields.