A sonographer, also referred to as a diagnostic medical sonographer, ultrasound technician or ultrasonographer, uses special equipment to direct sound waves (sonography) or high-frequency sounds-waves (ultrasonography) into an area or areas of a patient's body. The equipment gathers the reflected ultrasound "echoes" to create images of various parts of the body. These images are then viewed by a physician, who uses them to diagnose and treat medical conditions or illnesses in patients.
Sonography and Ultrasound Technician Schools
With an associate or bachelor's degree from one of the sonographer schools, you could be well-prepared to work toward certification, including in a specialty field such as pediatric sonography, musculoskeletal sonography, midwife sonography or another area. This can be an advantage since health insurance providers might only pay for work if it is performed by a certified technician, reports the BLS. You can also find certificate-based programs. Some of the sonographer training schools available across the country include:
- Bellevue College: This school, in Bellevue, Wash., offers both an associate of arts degree in diagnostic ultrasound technology and a certificate of completion in breast ultrasound. The AA program has specialty tracks including general, vascular technology, and echocardiography.
- John Hopkins Medicine: This private career school, in Baltimore, Md., offers a full-time 14-month program in cardiac sonography that starts in July and continues through August of the following year. Students should be able to sit for certification upon completion and the school has a high job-placement rate.
- Thomas Jefferson University: At this school, located in Philadelphia, you can complete a program in general ultrasound sonography as part of an area of concentration in the bachelor's degree programs available through the school's Department of Radiologic Sciences. Students in a bachelor's of science degree program also can pursue a dual concentration.
- Red Rocks Community College: The sonography program at this community college can be completed in five semesters, or 21 months of education, and is located on its Arvada, Colo. campus. In the final semester of their programs, students can choose between either a certificate of completion or an associate of applied science degree.
Ultrasound Technician Education Requirements
The two most common paths for entry into the field, according to the BLS, are:
- Associate degree in sonography
- Bachelor's degree in sonography
However, other options for ultrasound training in this profession do exist in hospitals, but are generally only available to those already in related work. Licensing is not a requirement is most states, according to the BLS, but the few states that do have it typically require certification as part of that process.
Certification for sonographers and ultrasound technicians can be sought through an organizations such as:
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART)
- The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Inc. (ARDMS)
Sonography and Ultrasound Courses
Any degree program should enable students to obtain knowledge in the applied sciences, anatomy and medical terminology, but students will also learn how to use related medical equipment and even to work with patients. Below is a list of some of classes that could be taken as part of an ultrasound technician program.
- Abdominal Ultrasound Technologies
- Cardiovascular Principles
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- General Sonography
- Human Anatomy
- Imaging Peripheral Vascular System
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Obstetrician / Gynecologist (OB/GYN)
- Patient Care
- Pediatric Echocardiography
- Ultrasound Concepts
Sonography and Ultrasound Specializations
Students in sonographer training programs typically learn about human anatomy, pathophysiology, ultrasound equipment and more. They may be able to choose general learning and/or complete their study in a specialty area of concentration.
- Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonography (Ob/Gyn): Focused on the female reproductive system, this discipline is most commonly known for the examination and monitoring of the fetus, or fetuses, in pregnant women.
- Abdominal Sonography: This discipline specializes in the abdominal cavity of a patient to help diagnose or treat conditions or illnesses that relate to the kidneys, liver, bile ducts, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas or the male reproductive system.
- Neurosonography: This area focuses on the nervous system and brain, and uses a transducer, which is the device that receives signals in the form of a specific type of energy and modifies it into a signal of another form. However, the beam shapes and frequencies used in this discipline differ from those in obstetric and gynecologic sonography.
- Breast Sonography: This type of sonography is used to monitor blood supply conditions and tumors in the breasts and assist in the accuracy of breast tissue biopsies. It also aids mammography in the detection of breast cancer. In this discipline, high-frequency transducers made exclusively for the study of breast tissue are used.
Resources for Sonographers
- American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM)
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
- Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS)
- How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
- Benefits of Certification, American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Inc. No date. http://www.ardms.org/Discover-ARDMS/benefits-of-certification/Pages/Benefits-of-Certification.aspx
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292032.htm
- Initial Sonography Certification and Registration. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. https://www.arrt.org/certification/sonography
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-6
- ARDMS, American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Inc. http://www.ardms.org/Pages/default.aspx
- Diagnostic Ultrasound. Bellevue College. https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/programs/degrees/proftech/dutec/
- Heart and Vascular Institute, John Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/education/cardiac_sonography_training.html
- General Sonography. Thomas Jefferson University. http://www.jefferson.edu/university/health-professions/departments/radiologic-sciences/degrees-programs/bs-programs/concentrations/general-sonography.html
- Sonography (Ultrasound) Program. Red Rocks Community College. http://www.rrcc.edu/sonography