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Ultrasonography is one way a doctor can find out what's going on inside a patient without performing surgery. An ultrasound can reveal the sex of a fetus, the presence of a tumor or the precise location of an organ. An ultrasound technician who obtains an ultrasonographer certification demonstrates that she has met certain minimum objective standards for competency in her field.
Sonographer Certification Program
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists administers a national sonography certification program that certifies qualified ultrasonographers. The ARRT's certifications are recognized by health care facilities and governmental organizations. The AART establishes initial educational and clinical requirements for certification and dictates continuing education requirements that last throughout a sonographer's career. The AART also sets ethical standards for the profession and character and fitness requirements for individual sonographers. The organization is governed by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and the American College of Radiology.
Education and Experience
To follow what the ARRT calls the "primary pathway" to certification, a candidate for certification must complete a sonography program at an accredited educational facility. A college degree is not required to be certified as a sonographer; however, a degree will be required starting in 2015. Certification is also available through clinical experience for vascular and breast sonographers and for candidates who seek certification via the "post-primary pathway." Experiential requirements vary based on the path to certification that a candidate chooses. Some clinical experience is required even of candidates who already have a degree in sonography.
You must be of good moral character to obtain an ultrasonographer certification. The ARRT requires candidates to disclose prior criminal convictions, military courts-martial and legal proceedings that ended in diversion or a "no contest" plea. Candidates must also disclose any school honor code violations and all of their professional registrations or certifications. The ARRT runs a criminal background check on all certification candidates and investigates any professional disciplinary proceedings. These rigorous ethical requirements help ensure patient safety during ultrasound procedures. Candidates who are concerned that they may not meet the ethical qualifications for certification may pre-apply for approval before they invest in a sonography educational program.
The final step in becoming a certified sonographer is taking and passing a seven-hour computerized certification exam consisting primarily of multiple-choice questions. At the testing center, test-takers must prove their identities with two forms of identification, an on-site photographer and a biometric palm-scan. The content tested on the exam includes patient care; ultrasound theory and principles; abdominal, obstetrical and gynecological procedures and other sonography, such as pediatric and vascular exams. Candidates who do not pass on their first attempt may retake the exam up to two more times over a three-year period.
Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.