Ultrasound technicians, also known more formally as diagnostic medical sonographers, train to perform a skill that seems like something a superhero would do — see inside the human body. Through various machines, films and materials, ultrasound technicians check organs and muscles for disease, tumors or the first signs of fetal life. While there are no stringent requirements for ultrasound technician education, most candidates seek a two-year course in the field.
Most ultrasound technicians begin their career preparation by enrolling in one of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs’ accredited two-year associate’s degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography. As of February 2011, the Commission accredited 185 schools across the country, many in community colleges and technical schools, along with options such as the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics in Mobile, Alabama, and the Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences in Richmond, California.
Training requirements for ultrasound technicians may vary per employer. The educational options for the field include short-term certificates through extensive master’s degrees, but the majority of students seek the two-year associate’s degree. The Commission also separates out schooling in three categories of ultrasound — general, cardiac and vascular. Out of the 185 accredited schools, 53 offer vascular ultrasound, for example.
License to Sound
There are no actual culminating requirements for a career in the ultrasound profession. No licensing or certification is required, but prospective technicians may seek optional registrations and credentials to beef up their resumes. Options include taking an exam for the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer from The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography or other organizations such as The American Registry of Radiologist Technologists and Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
In programs such as Arkansas State University and Wallace State, students in the ultrasound program cover courses such as introduction to sonography, abdominal sonography, OB/GYN sonography, sectional anatomy for sonography, vascular sonography, vascular physics, radiologic sectional anatomy, obstetrical sonography, superficial parts, abdominal pathology, sonographic anatomy and sonographic terms.