What is Ultrasound Tech School?
Ultrasound tech school prepares students to work as ultrasound techs, either in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. There are many different types of ultrasound techs, some specializing in echocardiography, OBGYN, or neurosonography. Because of advances in ultrasound technology, this field has grown rapidly in the past decade. Many ultrasound programs are available through community colleges and trade schools through two-year programs. There are also a growing number of ultrasound tech schools online. These programs may also be referred to as sonography, which is the medical term for an ultrasound. Ultrasound techs are also referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers (DMS). Bachelor’s degrees in sonography are available, but not common for most ultrasound techs.
Accreditation for Ultrasound Tech Schools
It is essential that the ultrasound tech program you’re enrolled in is an accredited program. This allows you sit for your licensing exam and become a certified ultrasound tech. The program should be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography; most online schools and traditional schools will state this accreditation source on their website. If you have questions on a program’s accreditation, ask to speak with an academic advisor to better understand that program’s accreditation. If your school and program are not properly accredited, your degree will not be valid.
Do I Have to Register After Finishing Ultrasound Tech School?
While it is not required to register with an organization following your ultrasound tech program, it is helpful for obtaining a job. Many clinics, hospitals, and offices will not consider candidates who are not registered with the American Radiological and Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (ARDMS) Association. Following your licensing exam, you will report your scores and transcript to the organization, pay a fee, and become a member of the organization. You are a registered professional ultrasound technologist. This should appear on your resume and show potential employers you are a registered member and have met all requirements to work as an ultrasound tech.
Can I Specialize in Multiple Areas?
Additional certification is completed with minimal training and another licensing exam. With this, an ultrasound tech improves his or her chances of being employable by many doctors and various departments at the hospital. Some ultrasound techs work part time for multiple employers, when and where they’re needed.
Can I Go to School Online to Become an Ultrasound Tech?
There are many online programs available for those wanting to participate in an ultrasound tech program, but cannot attend traditional classes. A portion of the program is conducted online; this includes all coursework that would normally be taught in the classroom. Students have a strict schedule, and class work and exams revolve around designated dates just as in a traditional course. Once this first portion of the class is complete, students move on to clinicals; here they work hands-on with patients, under the supervision of certified ultrasound techs.
How Do Clinicals Work for Ultrasound Techs Attending Online Programs?
Most often the online program is affiliated with a nearby hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office in the area. Sometimes students are divided for clinicals among multiple facilities. In some cases, students may be allowed to find their own medical facility to conduct clinicals at, pending an instructor or program director’s approval. Clinicals are a vital part of becoming a well-trained, knowledgeable ultrasound tech. Any program promising a license without hands-on training and clinicals is not the right path for someone looking to build a career as an ultrasound tech; typically these schools are not on the accredited list mandated by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Be thorough when researching online programs to become an ultrasound tech. While it is a two-year program, where the bulk of learning can be done online, you must participate in clinicals to achieve patient care experience.
Can I Get a Bachelor’s Degree After Becoming an Ultrasound Tech?
It is very common for students to become certified ultrasound techs, work for a few years, and then return to finish a bachelor’s degree in sonography. This is the path for ultrasound techs who want to work in supervising positions or wish to increase their knowledge and area of expertise. With a bachelor’s degree in the subject, along with work experience, you’re qualified to work as the head tech for a hospital or preside over techs at large clinics.
Is it OK to Have an Online Degree in Sonography?
Whether you’re attending a two-year program in sonography or going for your bachelor’s degree, online degrees are acceptable in the medical community. Many people in the medical community change careers to work in the same field, but in a different capacity. Others want to attend school to improve their earnings and job responsibilities, but not everyone can stop working in order to do so. For this reason, online degree programs have increased substantially in popularity. They offer convenience to students who want to work full time while attending school part time. For both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in sonography, online degrees are acceptable by the vast majority of employers. More ultrasound techs are needed, and the position is set for growth in the next decade. The employer’s focus is a well-trained individual who can adapt and make patients feel at ease in order to capture the best possible ultrasound.
What are Classes Like in an Ultrasound Tech Program?
The curriculum for an ultrasound tech program is fairly similar for those at traditional schools and online programs. One focus is patient care. Students must understand that creating a comfortable environment for the patient is of the utmost importance in order to do their job effectively. These are among the first courses students take. The objectives are communication skills, learning ethics, and the legal concerns an ultrasound tech can encounter.
Medical coursework makes up a large portion of any accredited ultrasound tech program. This covers the basics of physiology and human anatomy. Students learn how to examine the body with X-rays and ultrasound imaging. Some of the medical course work may involve working directly with patients as a student will do later when conducting clinicals. Ultrasound physics involve:
- The science behind ultrasounds
- How sound travels
- Acoustics physics
- Diagnostic imaging
This is also the portion of the program where students learn how to physically work ultrasound machines. The last part of any ultrasound tech program involves clinicals. Here, students work with patients and gain hands-on experience. Students experience what daily work is like for an ultrasound tech. Students also see what area they may want to specialize in such as cardiology or echocardiography.
How Do I Specialize as an Ultrasound Tech?
You can specialize by taking additional courses and sitting for additional licensing exams. This will give you the ability to work in many different areas of ultrasound. Most ultrasound techs add these areas of specialization after working at the job for a few years; if a position becomes monotonous and the tech experiences burnout, he or she is easily able to undergo additional training and then sit for an exam. Additional clinicals are required as part of the training since you are specializing in a different area and may have limited hands-on experience in that department; this keeps ultrasound techs educated and allows them to practice in various areas.
How Much Can I Expect to Earn as an Ultrasound Tech?
When you are starting out with little experience, you may go into a job at the entry level position and earn between $30,000-$35,000 per year. This will go up and the average ultrasound tech working today earns about $50,000. This number can go up to $70,000, which is what the top 10 percent of ultrasound techs earn; most techs earning this much work for private practices versus hospitals and clinics. The lowest pay is usually at clinics. Often the best pay is at hospitals in urban cities or rural areas. In the former, techs are in demand because of population. In the latter, there may be fewer people qualified to take on the role, and techs are needed at most medical facilities that see patients. This is a position that is set for substantial growth, and the flexibility of online courses allows you to train without the commitment of attending traditional classes. Earning power increases as an ultrasound tech has more experience; the more training and areas a tech specializes in, the higher the chance of gaining a high paying position while working closely with patients. The ease of training for new areas of expertise makes a career as an ultrasound tech interesting because it can change often.