Are you interested in using cutting-edge technology to create images of internal body structures? Then ultrasound tech school may be right for you!
Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, use specialized equipment to create ultrasounds, or sonograms.
Better yet, this career only requires an Associate’s Degree in Sonography to get started. While ultrasound techs don’t require a nursing degree, this does make a great alternative nursing career.
So, in this post we’ll dive into what an ultrasound technician is and how to become one.
We’ll also explore the top sonographer schools. This includes both on-campus and online degree options for becoming an ultrasound tech.
Table of contents
- What Is An Ultrasound Tech?
- How To Become An Ultrasound Technician
- How Long is Ultrasound Tech School?
- Can You Become an Ultrasound Tech at Community Colleges?
- How To Choose An Ultrasound Tech School
- Best Ultrasound Tech Schools by State
- 4 Best Online Ultrasound Tech Programs
- Is Ultrasound Tech School Right For You?
What Is An Ultrasound Tech?
An ultrasound technician is also called a sonographer or diagnostic medical sonographer. These medical professionals are skilled in operating equipment that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the body’s internal structures.
These images, known as sonograms or ultrasounds, play a crucial role in aiding physicians to:
- Diagnose and monitor medical conditions
- Track the progress of pregnancies
- Guide surgeons during certain procedures
However, the role of an ultrasound technician goes beyond just operating the machine. In fact, they’re responsible for:
- Interacting with patients
- Explaining procedures
- Analyzing images for abnormalities
- Providing preliminary findings to physicians
Given the wide range of applications, from prenatal care to cardiovascular examinations, many sonographers choose to specialize in a particular area of medical sonography.
How To Become An Ultrasound Technician
Pursuing a career as an ultrasound offers a unique blend of patient interaction and medical technology expertise.
In this section, we’ll walk you through every step to becoming a sonographer.
1. Attend Ultrasound Tech School
The first step toward becoming an ultrasound technician is earning your degree. To do this, be sure to research different programs to determine which is best for you.
You’ll need to decide on things like:
- Whether you want to earn your degree online or in-person
- Whether you want to pursue and Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree
- Which program you think makes the best overall fit
Whichever program you choose, you’ll learn about ultrasound physics, anatomy, patient care, and specialized imaging techniques.
2. Perform Clinical Training
Hands-on experience is invaluable in the medical field. Every accredited educational program will incorporate a certain amount of clinical training as part of the curriculum.
This real-world experience, usually completed in hospitals or larger clinics, allows students to apply their classroom knowledge in actual medical settings.
That means you’ll be able to operate equipment and interact with patients under the supervision of experienced professionals.
3. Earn Licensure and Certification
Licensing requirements can vary by state, but they usually entail passing a state-administered exam once you’ve earned your degree.
While certification requirements depend on the state, many employers prefer hiring certified ultrasound technicians.
You can obtain certification through organizations like the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) by passing their exam.
Once you pass the exam, you’ll officially be a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).
How Long is Ultrasound Tech School?
The duration of ultrasound tech school can vary based on the level of education you pursue and the specific program you choose. However, there are two main options:
- Associate Degree Programs: Most associate degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography take around 2 years to complete. These programs provide a comprehensive education that includes both classroom instruction and clinical rotations.
- Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Bachelor’s degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography typically take 4 years to complete. These programs often offer a more in-depth curriculum and may provide opportunities for specialization or leadership roles.
Can You Become an Ultrasound Tech at Community Colleges?
You can become an ultrasound tech by attending a community college. Many community colleges offer associate degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography that are accredited by CAAHEP.
In fact, community college programs are often more affordable and accessible, making them a popular choice for individuals looking to enter the field.
The only downside is that you won’t be able to earn your Bachelor’s degree. However, you always have the option to earn your four-year degree after getting your Associate’s.
How To Choose An Ultrasound Tech School
Before you can become an ultrasound technician, you need to get your degree.
It’s key to pick the right school for your needs, so here are some tips for choosing the right ultrasound tech school.
When starting your journey, it’s essential to research schools offering programs in diagnostic medical sonography. A few factors to think about include:
- Location: Is the school conveniently located? Would you need to relocate? Consider the associated costs and logistics if you do.
- Program Length: Sonography programs can range from one-year certificate programs to four-year bachelor’s degrees. Decide on the duration that best suits your career goals and timeframe.
- Curriculum: It’s important to ensure the curriculum is robust and covers all the necessary areas of study, from the basics of ultrasound physics to specialized areas like obstetric or cardiac sonography.
- Clinical Opportunities: Hands-on experience is crucial in this field. Check if the school offers ample clinical rotations or externships to give you real-world experience.
Before applying, it’s important to understand the entry requirements. For example, most programs will require a high school diploma or GED.
Some might also expect students to have completed college-level courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, or physics. This provides a solid foundational knowledge before delving into the more specialized areas of sonography.
Ensuring your chosen institution is accredited is vital for a number of reasons:
- An accredited school guarantees that it meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality. It speaks to the school’s commitment to providing a high-standard of education.
- Most employers prefer hiring graduates from accredited programs, because it ensures you’ve received a quality education.
- Accreditation is often required for students who plan to take certification exams post-graduation.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the primary accrediting body. Always be sure to verify the school’s accreditation status.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to apply. The application process can vary between institutions, but generally, you’ll need to:
- Submit Transcripts: This helps the institution assess your academic qualifications and determine if you’ve met all the prerequisites.
- Provide Recommendation Letters: These serve as character and skill endorsements and typically come from past teachers, employers, or professionals in the field.
- Undergo an Admissions Test: Some schools might require you to take a test to gauge your aptitude for the program.
Remember, choosing the right school is a pivotal decision in your ultrasound technician career. Taking the time to thoroughly research and evaluate your options can set you on a path to success.
Best Ultrasound Tech Schools by State
If you’re looking for a top ultrasound tech school where you can attend classes in-person, any of the following universities make a great choice.
Each of the following schools is CAAHEP accredited, meaning they deliver high-quality education.
However, keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and you should research schools in your preferred state for more options.
Additionally, if you don’t live in any of the following states or near any of these schools, you can always consider online courses. We discuss some of the best online ultrasound tech schools later on.
California: CBD College in Los Angeles, CA
CBD College stands out as a leading institution for aspiring Diagnostic Medical Sonographers in Los Angeles.
Offering a CAAHEP Accredited Program, students benefit from both online courses and advanced hands-on training in a modern imaging center.
With flexible day and night classes, a variety of externship opportunities, and dedicated faculty and staff, students receive a comprehensive education.
Additionally, CBD College supports its students with federal financial aid options, personalized tutoring, and a robust career services department.
In just 20 months, the college’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Associate Degree Program prepares students for a rewarding career in the medical imaging field.
Florida: Valencia College in Orlando, FL
Valencia College in Orlando, FL stands out with its Associate in Science (A.S.) program in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Originating in 1989 and evolving from a certificate program to an A.S. degree by 1990, Valencia boasts a rich heritage rooted in collaboration with Orlando Regional Healthcare.
With a high placement rate of 100% job placement between 2020 and 2022, graduates are a testament to Valencia’s commitment to real-world training.
Unique to Valencia is its focus on melding academic knowledge with practical situations, ensuring students are not just qualified but industry-ready.
This holistic training ensures students are exam-prepared, with an eye on both immediate careers as sonographers and potential further academic advancements.
Illinois: Joliet Junior College in Joliet, IL
Joliet Junior College in Illinois equips its students for a prosperous career in Diagnostic Medical Sonography through its seven-semester, full-time day program.
Central to JJC’s prestige is its exclusive standing: it’s one of just two CAAHEP-accredited DMS community college programs in Illinois, offering an immersive curriculum in three distinct concentrations:
- Vascular Sonography
This extensive training corresponds to an impressive 2022 job placement rate of 100%.
As a testament to JJC’s student-centric approach, it offers a holistic support system via its CASH Center, catering to tutoring, financial assistance, and advising needs.
Finally, by maintaining an annual intake of up to 20 students, JJC ensures students receive personalized attention.
New York: New York School of Career and Applied Studies in New York, NY
The New York School of Career and Applied Studies (NYSCAS) offers a comprehensive 22-month Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program in the heart of New York City.
This full-time program not only covers foundational courses, but also delves into specialized sonography areas, such as obstetrics and gynecology.
Unique to NYSCAS is its hands-on clinical rotations across various city settings, ensuring students gain diverse and in-depth experiences.
With New York being a leading employer for sonographers, graduates from NYSCAS are well-positioned for opportunities in this growing medical field.
Texas: Alvin College in Alvin, TX
Alvin Community College in Texas provides an intensive two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program.
This program prepares students for careers in Adult Echocardiography or Vascular Sonography, specialized branches of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Graduates from ACC leave with the competency to conduct ultrasound and related diagnostic exams of the heart or blood vessels.
For those already holding an associate degree or higher in sonography and a current ARDMS or CCI registry, the college offers an Advanced Technical Certificate program as a condensed alternative.
The robust curriculum at ACC combines didactic instruction, hands-on lab practice, and supervised clinical experience, ensuring students are well-prepared for real-world applications.
Finally, the college prides itself on its stellar retention and job placement rates. This highlights the program’s quality and the high demand for sonographers in the healthcare sector.
4 Best Online Ultrasound Tech Programs
Online ultrasound tech programs provide flexibility for those who need to balance their education with other commitments.
Just keep in mind that, while online programs offer flexibility, they may still require some on-site components for clinical training.
Before enrolling in any program, ensure that it aligns with your career goals and provides the education you need to become a successful ultrasound technician.
1. Jackson College
Jackson College offers an accredited online general sonography program, focused on training students to use high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed anatomical images.
Recognized by the CAAHEP, this Associate in Applied Science degree combines rigorous educational coursework with a minimum of 1,350 supervised clinical hours.
Graduates are prepared for specialties in abdomen/superficial structures and obstetrics/gynecology, and upon completion, they can take the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) exams.
Admission is competitive, based on a point system from prerequisite coursework grades and interviews, with applications due by January 31 annually.
Accepted students commence their studies during the summer semester.
2. Washburn University
Washburn University offers an online Bachelor of Health Science in Medical Imaging that includes a concentration in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
This concentration is designed for registered sonographers looking to advance their careers, and grants a certificate upon completion.
Offering three distinct one-year advanced certificate options, students can specialize in:
- General sonography
- Cardiac sonography
- Vascular sonography
All didactic coursework is online, and students can complete clinical rotations near their residence.
3. Oregon Institute of Technology
Oregon Tech offers an online Bachelor of Science degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, tailored for Registered Sonographers looking to further their education and career opportunities.
The online degree completion program combines foundational medical sciences, specialized ultrasound courses, and a general education core.
Credits can be transferred from other institutions or obtained from professional registries, with 80 credits available for those possessing both OB/GYN and Abdomen credentials from the ARDMS.
Eligibility requires candidates to:
- Be registered with ARDMS in both Abdomen and OB/GYN
- Have employment in a well-equipped laboratory
- Meet the standard Oregon Tech admissions criteria
The program not only enhances professional skills, but also serves as a stepping stone to advanced master’s degree programs in various fields.
4. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers an online Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Imaging that includes a concentration in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. This program is designed for certified sonographers seeking further education.
UWM offers a competency-based Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences: Diagnostic Imaging via the UW Flexible Option.
Tailored for experienced healthcare professionals with an active registry (ARDMS, ARMRIT, ARRT, CCI), students are granted 60 advanced standing credits. The degree prepares graduates for diverse healthcare roles and advanced educational opportunities.
This self-paced program suits nontraditional students and those valuing a UW-Milwaukee degree.
The college, established in 2023, also provides a range of recognized health-related programs.
Is Ultrasound Tech School Right For You?
Ultrasound technician schools provide a comprehensive education, equipping you with the skills you need to excel in the field.
Graduates of these programs have the opportunity to work in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and imaging centers.
As technology continues to advance, the demand for skilled ultrasound technicians is expected to grow, making it a promising career choice.
In conclusion, pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician starts with choosing the right educational path. Researching accredited schools, meeting prerequisites, and committing to your education will set you on the right track.
Nurse Luke is a CRNA who specializes in Nursing content and still enjoys a very busy career with Locum, Per Diem and Travel nursing in the greater midwest. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field and received his CRNA masters degree from the Mayo Clinic School of Healthcare. He is passionate about helping nurses explore the options of becoming a travel nurse as well as spending time with his Family.