While legally in many states, ultrasound certification is not required, most employers prefer their prospective ultrasound technicians or diagnostic medical sonographers to hold such a credential. According to the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), “certification is a voluntary process and documents that an individual has met specific requirements and has the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform within a profession” (ARDMS.org).
Some states, like Oregon, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, and West Virginia either require or may soon require that sonographers be licensed, with other states expected to follow suit. Licensure on a state level usually requires candidates to hold a national certification or credential. ARDMS certification is held in high esteem among the medical, ultrasound and cardio/vascular community across the United States and the world.
About the ARDMS
The ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) is a non-profit organization that was established in 1975. Over 65,000 individuals, specialized in diagnostic medical, cardiac or vascular sonography, have been certified by the ARDMS. ARDMS is accredited by several prestigious and reputable bodies, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In order to earn this level of ultrasound certification, individuals must sit for an ARDMS exam (in some cases a main and specialty exam depending on the area the ultrasound technician/sonographer is specialized in). To be eligible to write the certification exams, individuals must meet certain prerequisites. Most formal education programs will provide individuals with the appropriate credit and clinical hours and experience to make them eligible to write the exam for diagnostic medical sonography certification.
Professional Certifications Offered
The ARDMS offers the following credentials:
- RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer): For those ultrasound technicians who wish to be certified in areas of abdomen, breast, neurosonology, obstetrics and gynecology or fetal echocardiography sonography.
- RDCS (Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer): For those who want ultrasound certification in the area of cardiac sonograms.
- RVT (Registered Vascular Technologist): For those seeking ARDMS certification in the area of vascular sonography – the system of blood vessels streaming throughout the entire body.
- RMSK (Registered Musculoskeletal): A new ARDMS credential that individuals can start applying for in June 2012 for the first fall 2012 examinations. Musculoskeletal sonography involves taking ultrasounds of the joints and soft tissues such as muscles and tendons.
- RPVI (Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation): A diagnostic medical sonography certification only available to physicians. The credential is the highest existing standard that demonstrates that doctors and surgeons have the expertise to incorporate ultrasound into diagnosing and treating vascular diseases.
Celebrate the ARDMS!
The ARDMS was founded in June, 1975, and is busy celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since its inception, the ARDMS has certified almost 90,000 ultrasound professionals from 70 countries across the globe!
The table below shows which ARDMS exams must be written to earn a particular credential. In some cases only one major exam is required, while in other cases a general plus a specialty exam must be written.
|Sonography, Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) Exam||Abdomen (AB), Breast (BR), Fetal Echocardiography (FE), Neurosonology (NE) OR Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Exam||
|Sonography, Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) Exam||Adult Echocardiography (AE), Pediatric Echocardiography (PE) OR Fetal Echocardiography (FE) Exam||
|Sonography, Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) Exam||Vascular Technology (VT) Exam||
|Musculoskeletal Sonography (MSK) Exam||
|Physicians’ Vascular Interpretation (PVI) Exam||
How to Apply for the Exam
Before applying for an ARDMS exam to earn your particular ultrasound certification, you must first ensure you meet the prerequisites. The ARDMS offers seven prerequisite options that can be found on their website at ARDMS.org.
For example, Prerequisite 2 is the completion of an ultrasound program (diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic cardiac sonography or diagnostic vascular degree) from an accredited educational institute. The school may be accredited through the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs) or CMA (Canadian Medical Association). As part of Prerequisite 2, no additional clinical hours are required because they are already included in the accredited ultrasound degree program.
Another option is Prerequisite 1, which is the completion of a two-year allied health program, such as an Associates Degree in Radiologic Technology or Occupational Therapy, plus 12 months of full time clinical ultrasound experience.
Once you are eligible to apply for the ARDMS exam, you can easily apply online; as of April 2012, the processing fee is $100.
Once you receive your ultrasound certification through the ARDMS, you must annually renew your credential by paying a yearly fee. To encourage you to keep up to date with emerging ultrasonography skills and technology, the ARDMS also requires you to seek professional development. Within a three year period you are required to complete 30 CME (continuing medical education) hours. You will also be required to complete reassessments for each specialty area. Typically these tests are much shorter than the ARDMS exams, and within a ten-year certification span for example, you would not have to write a reassessment until the seventh year.