So you’re thinking of becoming an ultrasound technician or sonographer… You may have already begun looking at the wealth of ultrasound training programs out there. Wondering how to choose the best one for you? Let’s explore some of the more important factors to consider.
Tuition costs and location may seem like the best deciding factors. Of course these are important! But remember you are investing in your future career; ideally you should strive to complete the best ultrasound education possible.
Here are some guidelines to help you do just that:
Is the Program Accredited?
If you can, enroll in an ultrasound technician school with a program that is accredited. In the U.S., this means accredited through the CAAHEP. This not only ensures the program’s curriculum, faculty, facilities and training components meet quality standards—it will also make sonographer certification and gainful employment that much easier.
Will this prepare me for Certification?
Not all states require ultrasound technicians and sonographers to be licensed and/or certified, although some do. But individual employers sure do prefer to hire ultrasound professionals that have certification (i.e. through the ARDMS, ARRT or CCI), and some may require it. Finding out whether an ultrasound technician school’s program meets the educational and clinical pre-requisites for certification (generally a CAAHEP-accredited program does) is key.
Ultrasound Program Options
Wondering whether you should take a certificate, Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree?
Certificate programs generally take the least time to complete, but they are generally for those who have already completed an allied health degree or another medical imaging degree and/or those who have already worked in healthcare.
Associate degrees are generally two years long and are ideal for those with no previous healthcare experience that pursuing entry level ultrasound or sonography positions.
Bachelor degrees are more extensive, expose students to more ultrasound specialties and can serve as foundations for more advanced jobs. Depending on articulation agreements, you may be able to transfer credits from an Associate degree towards a Bachelor’s degree should you decide to down the road.
Online or On Campus?
If you are looking at taking an accredited program, there are a few online options, but not as many as campus programs. There are also hybrid programs where classroom work is done online and clinical placements and lab work are done in person. Some online programs may be limited to those with previous healthcare/imaging experience and education.
One huge benefit of post secondary education is finding out about your career options. When researching potential ultrasound technician schools, you want to make sure you will have the opportunity to find out about various ultrasound specialties. Look at the course syllabus and concentration options—for example, cardiac, vascular and general (abdominal and OB/GYN)—and if there is more than one clinical placement/internship included. Ask school advisers what kind of ultrasound specialties they expose students to. Some schools might offer additional specialties that intrigue you, like pediatric or even neurosonography.
One major aspect of a quality ultrasound or sonography program is hands-on learning opportunities allowing you to experience clinical work in real-world settings. Look at how many internships/clinical placements the program offers. Some programs offer additional clinical education courses that allow you to practice in school labs and healthcare facilities before your placement.
Before making a final decision on which ultrasound program you will enroll in, talk to an academic advisor, school representative or sonography department head. Some questions you might ask include:
- Do I meet the requirements to be admitted into this program?
- Is your ultrasound program CAAHEP-accredited?
- What training and experience do the instructors have?
- For an Associate’s degree, will I be able to transfer credits towards a Bachelor’s degree down the road?
- What is the rate of employment after graduation?
- Does this program adequately prepare me for ultrasound tech/sonographer certification?
- Do I get to choose my clinical placements and will they expose me to different specialties?
- Do you offer students services like academic advising, tutoring, study groups, financial aid, childcare, etc?
- What types of ultrasound labs, equipment and training simulators do you have on campus?
You can start requesting information from ultrasound schools by visiting our interactive state directory.