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Ultrasound Certification – Preparing for the Exam

Ultrasound certification, in some cases, is required either by state laws or the employer. In many cases, employers prefer job candidates to hold such professional credentials.

Preparing for exam

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography ® (ARDMS) is one of the leading organizations, recognized across the United States and globally, for granting ultrasound certifications. The ARRT (American Registry for Radiologic Technologists), CCI (Cardiovascular Credentialing International) and JCAHPO (Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology) also offer credentials relevant to the field of sonography. All of these organizations require you to write a certification exam.

Preparing for the exam involves knowing the material to be covered and the prerequisites you must have and following a particular application process.


ARDMS: Applicants must meet one of the seven ARDMS pre-requisite options. For example, Prerequisite #1 is 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. The ARDMS website has an interactive online tool to help you determine if you specifically met the pre-requisites.

ARRT: To be eligible to write the ARRT’s Sonography certification examination, candidates must have completed a Sonography educational program within the last five years from a school recognized by either the CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation) or the USDE (United States Department of Education). Note that commencing in 2015, the educational program must be an academic degree. Candidates must also meet the ARRT’s Ethics standards. (The ARRT also offers post-primary certifications in Vascular Sonography and Breast Sonography which each have their own clinical experience pre-requisites).

CCI: CCI offers several relevant certification exams, including Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS), Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS) and Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer (RCCS) exams.

To qualify to sit for one of the certification exams, you must have your high school or GED diploma, meet one of the specific pre-requisites associated with that exam and have documentation to support that you meet that pre-requisite.

The RCS certification exam, pre-requisites vary from having two years of full time professional experience working in the cardiovascular technology field to the completion of cardiac sonography education program from an accredited school. 

JCAHPO: JCAHPO offers several credentials; one that is relevant to those wishing to be accredited as an ophthalmologic sonographer (ultrasounds of the eye) is the Certified Diagnostic Ophthalmic Sonographer (CDOS) credential. Generally, those who have completed a relevant educational program from an accredited school, have sufficient professional experience (i.e. 6,000 hours or more) OR who already have a professional certification (such as ARDMS’ RDCS or RDMS or ARRT’s Sonographer credential) are eligible to write the exam.

Organizations Granting Ultrasound Certifications

Organization Mailing Address Web Address Phone
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography 1401 Rockville Pike Suite 600 Rockville, MD 20852 ARDMS.org/get-certified/ 301.738.8401
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists 1255 Northland Drive
St. Paul, MN 55120
ARRT.org/earn-arrt-credentials/credential-options 651.687.0048
Cardiovascular Credentialing International 1500 Sunday Drive, Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27607
CCI-ONLINE.org/CCI/Content/Get_Credentialed 919.861.4539
JCAHPO 2025 Woodlane Drive St. Paul, MN 55125 JCAHPO.org/certification-recertification/ 651.731.2944

What to Expect on the Ultrasound Certification Exam

ARDMS: For ARDMS’ RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer), RDCS (Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer) and RVT (Registered Vascular Technologist) credentials, you must write two exams: the SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation) Exam and a Specialty Exam.

For example, if you are applying for the RDMS credential, you have the option of completing an Abdomen, Breast, Fetal Echocardiography, Neurosonology or Obstetrics & Gynecology specialty exam.

The ARDMS website provides an outline of what topics are included on each exam and also the option to take online practice exams for $25 (as of May 2012).

ARRT: According to the ARRT, the “Examination in Sonography is to assess the knowledge and cognitive skills underlying the intelligent performance of the tasks typically required of staff sonographers at entry into the profession”. Content includes questions on patient care, physics as related to sonography and abdomen, pelvis, obstetric, gynecologic and other ultrasound procedures.

CCI: The CCI provides a comprehensive task list reflective of a professional sonographer’s duties that mirrors the questions that will be on the exam. For example, for the RCS exam, questions cover general procedures (such as maintaining ultrasound equipment), echocardiogram procedures, specialized echocardiography, and the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

JCAHPO: The CDOS certification exam covers the following topics: anatomy and physiology of the eye, biometry, ultrasound procedure and instrumentation, physics and pathology.

Where do I have to go take my test?

Preparing for certification exam
ARDMS: After you apply online, if approved, you will be sent an examination-confirmation letter. From that date you have 90 days to take the exam. The exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers.

There are over 200 test centers across the United States and more than 3,000 all over the world, from Brazil and France to China and Australia.

ARRT:  As with ARDMS certification exams, ARRT certification exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers.

CCI: As with ARDMS certification exams, CCI certification exams are held at Pearson VUE test centers.

JCAHPO: Certification exams are held at Prometric Test Centers located all across North America.

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, and other ultrasound tutoring services do offer online practice examinations.

How Much Does it Cost?

ARDMS: As of May 2012, applicants are charged a $100 processing fee along with the exam fee. The SPI exam costs $200 and each specialty exam (for the RDCS, RDMS and RVT credentials) costs $250.

If you are applying for the MSK exam (for the RMSK or Registered in Musculoskeletal credential, which will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2012), it costs $450 for non-physicians and $600 for physicians. The PVI exam (for the RPVI or Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation credential) costs $600.

[Update April 8, 2015]: Currently, ARDMS’ RSMK credential is only available to physicians. However, according to a January 21, 2015 press release, the ARDMS is working on a certification in musculoskeletal ultrasound program for sonographers.

ARRT: The application fee for the Primary Certification Sonography exam is $200, as of May 2012. (The post-primary certification application fees in Vascular Sonography and Breast Sonography are also $200 each).

CCI: As of May 2012, all registry level certification exams cost $350 plus a $100 filing fee.

JCAHPO: JCAHPO certification exams range from $145 to $340, as of May 2012. The CDOS exam costs $200.

Benefits of Accreditation

Having professional ultrasound certification demonstrates that you have proven 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 have ultrasound credentials.

In some cases, your accreditation can be a useful tool for negotiating a salary that reflects your level of expertise. You have the option of writing examinations for several certifications many of which represent a specific area of ultrasound. This also opens up the door for higher paying and more advanced careers that focus on an ultrasound specialization.

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