Most states don’t require diagnostic medical sonographers to hold particular credentials, with the exception of New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oregon (SDMS). However, legislation to mandate the credentialing of ultrasound techs are being pursued by some states, with more considering it, and many employers prefer or require serious job candidates to have an ultrasound certification.
The ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) is one of the most recognized ultrasound license organizations across the United States and the world. It is something that most graduates will pursue after they finish their ultrasound technician degree.
However, there are additional ultrasound certification programs or processes you can pursue to demonstrate the full range of your expertise and specialization that will help you stand out from the pack of other job applicants. But first, let’s discuss the importance of attending a CAAHEP-accredited ultrasound school.
The CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) is presently accrediting 2,100 postsecondary education programs across North America; the accredited entry-level programs represent 23 different fields of health science. Their certification is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This is key because to be eligible for ARDMS or other ultrasound certifications (below), one of the usual criteria is completion of an educational program that is recognized by the CHEA (or the USDOE or CMA).
The CAAHEP consists of member organizations that are knowledgeable in each health science field and thus are able to provide valuable input when it comes to accrediting an educational program. Among the member organizations are several related to the field of ultrasound, including the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), the American Society of Echocardiography (ASECHO), the Committee on Accreditation for Advanced Cardiovascular Sonography, the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRCDMS), the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) and the Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU).
In short, when selecting an ultrasound degree or certificate program, ensure it is recognized by the CHEA, USDOE or CMA. If it is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), you will be meeting this particular pre-requisite for the ultrasound license process.
In addition to being certified through the ARDMS, diagnostic medical sonographers can apply for Sonography Certification through the ARRT (American Registry for Radiologic Technologists). Completing an ultrasound program from an accredited school (recognized by the CHEA or USDE) within the last five years makes you eligible to sit for the ARRT certification exam. (Note that starting January 1, 2015, the educational program must be an academic degree). To acquire and maintain this ultrasound license, candidates must also abide by the ARRT’s Rules of Ethics. Additionally, an ultrasound practice (i.e. a medical center or hospital) can become accredited through the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM).
Various ultrasound certification programs are available to diagnostic medical sonographers who wish to earn a credential in a specific area of sonography. (Note that the ARDMS offers ultrasound certifications in Abdomen, Breast, Echocardiography, Neurosonology, OB/GYN and Vascular Technology and soon in Musculoskeletal Sonography). Examples of other organizations that administer ultrasound licenses include:
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers certifications in cardiac, vascular and phlebology ultrasound.
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) offers ophthalmic ultrasound certifications (the field of sonography concerned with the eye).
- The Ultrasound Guidelines Council (UGC) grants ultrasound certifications to technicians and their practices that perform ultrasounds on beef cattle.