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Ultrasound Certification – Preparing for the Exam

Obtaining your professional ultrasound credentials is required by almost all employers, as well as by the Department of Health in some states.  It is crucial to gaining and maintaining employment.

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography ® (ARDMS) is one of the leading organizations recognized globally for granting ultrasound certifications.

Other organizations that offer sonography credentials include:

All of these organizations require you to write a certification exam. Preparation involves knowing the covered material, following a particular application process, and meeting the required prerequisites.

Each organization that administers certificates has their own set of prerequisites, expectations, and costs that are explained below.

Samantha Callis, MHA, ACS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT

Author Samantha Callis, MHA, ACS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT

In an excerpt from her book “Diagnostic Medical Sonography – The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Career“, author and sonographer Samantha Callis explains how to obtain your certification.

“If you attend a CAAHEP-accredited program, you may be able to take your physics exam prior to graduation. In a non-CAAHEP-accredited program, you may have to obtain one year of full time, paid working experience as a sonographer before you fulfill the prerequisite for specialty examinations.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get your credential, but if you finish school and want to gain your professional experience in an area that requires an ARDMS credential to be hired, you can see how this becomes a bit tricky. Ask programs you are interested in how and when prerequisite requirements are met for enrolled students”.

Certificate Testing Prerequisites

ARDMS: Applicants must meet one of the ARDMS prerequisites in order to receive a certificate. Prerequisite #1, for example, is the completion of a two-year allied health degree plus 12 months of clinical experience. Prerequisite #2 is completion of an ultrasound or diagnostic medical sonography degree from a school accredited by the CAAHEP or CMA. Visit the ARDMS website to see all prerequisites as well as other exam requirements.

ARRT: To be eligible to write the ARRT’s Sonography certification examination, candidates must meet the educational prerequisite of earning an Associates Degree or higher or completing an ARRT-recognized educational program. Note that commencing in 2015, the educational program must be an academic degree. Candidates must also meet the ARRT’s Standards of Ethics. The ARRT’s post-primary certifications in Vascular Sonography and Breast Sonography each have their own specific clinical experience prerequisites.

CCI: CCI offers several relevant certification exams, each with their own prerequisites:

To qualify for one of these exams, you must have your high school or GED diploma, meet one of the specific prerequisites associated with the exam you’re taking, and provide documentation as evidence that you meet said prerequisite.

JCAHPO: Having received a high school or GED diploma is one of the prerequisites candidates must meet in order to qualify for the JCAHPO exam. It’s also required that you have completed one of the following: a formal education program with work experience, a formal education program without work experience, an independent home study course, or a distance learning program.

Organizations Granting Ultrasound Certifications

The corresponding address and phone number of the organizations mentioned above are included below.

Organization Mailing Address Phone
ARDMS 1401 Rockville Pike Suite 600 Rockville, MD 20852 (301) 738-8401
ARRT 1255 Northland Drive St. Paul, MN 55120 (651) 687-0048
CCI 1500 Sunday Drive, Suite 102 Raleigh, NC 27607 (919) 861-4539
JCAHPO 2025 Woodlane Drive St. Paul, MN 55125 (651) 731-2944

Exam Expectations

ARDMS: The ARDMS has three different credentials:

Each of these credentials require you to write two exams: the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam and a Specialty Exam. The SPI is around two hours long and consists of about 110 questions regarding a sonographer’s necessary skills, abilities, and knowledge. The number of questions and test duration for the specialty exams depend on which one you’re taking.

Sonographer Adrienne Hardy, RDMS, breaks studying for the SPI down into 9 manageable steps.

ARRT: According to the ARRT, “the purpose of the Sonography Examination is to assess the knowledge and cognitive skills underlying the intelligent performance of the tasks typically required of sonographers”. The discipline that you may wish to become certified in varies in test length and number of questions from other specialties. The ARRT does not endorse specific test preparations.

Click here to learn more about how to prepare for the exam as well as what to expect on exam day and the days following the exam.

CCI: The CCI provides test questions similar to a comprehensive task list reflective of a professional sonographer’s duties. The questions will also reflect the knowledge and skills a sonographer must possess in order to perform their job correctly.

The CCI provides a list of review programs you may use to prepare for the exam, as well as the option of an online self-assessment for $55.

JCAHPO: There are many different exams an aspiring ophthalmic sonographer may take from the JCAHPO. The tests often include content related to biometry, physics, patient care and information, and the ability to operate the relative equipment. Most of these exams take a few hours to complete and consist of approximately 70-200 questions.

Ultrasound Testing Locations

Preparing for certification examARDMS: After you apply online, if approved, you will be sent an examination-confirmation letter. You have 90 days to take the exam from the day you received your letter. The ARDMS exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers located in the US, Canada, and internationally.

ARRT: ARRT certification exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers as with the ARDMS exams.

CCI: The CCI certification exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers along with the ARDMS and ARRT exams.

JCAHPO: The JCAHPO certification exams are held at Prometric Test Centers located across North America.

How Much Does the Exam Cost?

ARDMS: As of May 2019, applicants are charged a $100 processing fee along with the exam fee. The SPI exam costs $225, and the cost of each specialty exam (for the RDCS, RDMS and RVT credentials) costs $250.

The MSK exam (for the RMSK or Registered in Musculoskeletal credential), costs $250, and the PVI exam (for the RPVI or Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation credential) costs $600, as of May 2019.

ARRT: The application fee for the primary ARRT exam is $200, as of May 2019. The post-primary certification application fees in Vascular Sonography and Breast Sonography are also $200 each. Other post-primary exams costs $400, and the online reinstatement costs $75.

CCI: CCI exams range from about $175 to $365, not including a $100 non-refundable filing fee.

JCAHPO: JCAHPO certification exams range from $145 to $340, as of May 2019. The Certified Diagnositc Ophthalmic Sonographer (CDOS) exam costs $200.

Benefits of Accreditation

Having professional ultrasound certification demonstrates that you have proven your knowledge and experience in the field of sonography. As you search for jobs, you will automatically have a competitive advantage over those who do not possess ultrasound credentials.

In some cases, your accreditation can be a useful tool for negotiating a salary that reflects your level of expertise. Because you have the option of writing exams for several certifications (many of which represent a specific area of ultrasound), this opens up the door for higher paying and more advanced and specialized careers.

Is Online Testing Available?

Currently, all four ultrasound credentialing organizations (ARDMS, ARRT, CCI, and JCAHPO) do not appear to offer online testing options. However, the ARDMS, CCI, and other ultrasound tutoring services offer online practice examinations.

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