Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technician

Diagnostic medical sonographers are defined by the technology they deploy. Sonograms, also known as ultrasounds, are procedures involving the specialized, non-invasive application of sound waves to generate medical images. Physicians use the images created by sonographers to make diagnoses and monitor fetal development.

Many people think of pregnant women when they hear the word 'ultrasound.' Obstetrics, however, is only one application of diagnostic sonography. The technology is used to evaluate and diagnose all kinds of patients. Sonography, or ultrasonography, can be found in every sector of the medical field, from obstetrics and cardiology to neurology and physical therapy.

Ultrasound technicians use complex instruments to project high-frequency sound waves into the body, creating echoes that reflect off of internal surfaces. The echoes are then translated by machines into live visual images of organs, tissues or a fetus in utero.

Even basic ultrasonography is highly operator-dependent. Moreover, ultrasonic imaging demands ever more advanced technology, and thus more skilled professionals to effectively manipulate it. This trend means the occupational outlook is good, and will be best for technicians who keep up with major technological innovations.

Ultrasounds are non-invasive, safe and relatively inexpensive for consumers, and have become the most common diagnostic tool in use today. While there are no known side effects, there are occasional invasive duties involved in ultrasound imaging. Probes, for example, are sometimes needed to create quality scans in areas like prostate imaging.

Apart from the use of technology, ultrasound technologists are also skilled professionals in patient care. They need to be able to do their job with a compassionate and nonjudgmental mindset. Excellent listening and problem-solving skills are critical. The field requires a well-rounded emphasis on science, medicine, business, administrative service and interpersonal communication.

Some ultrasound technicians are independent contractors and others work as employees. In either case, variable shifts and on-call weekends are common stipulations. Many ultrasound techs work on a per diem or 'PRN' - pro re nata, as needed - basis, usually involving higher hourly wages but no scheduling guarantees or benefits.

About Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Accreditation

Ultrasound technician schools are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP. Graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited program is a good way to ensure you are prepared to sit for the ARDMS examination - although it's not the only way.

Graduates of otherwise-accredited or non-accredited programs, for example, may take the exam after a year of full-time paid clinical work. However, in the present job market, it is extremely difficult to find such a position without professional certification.

Licensing

Until recently, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers were not licensed by the states. Now, some states are moving to regulate the discipline, and licensing laws have been passed in Oregon, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Jersey so far. The industry expects other states to follow suit in the coming years.

Educational Options in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

The education of a sonographer may last between one and four years, up to either the vocational, associate or bachelor level. The shortest programs are generally reserved for those who already possess credentials in a related allied health profession. Those without medical experience may enter two-year ultrasound tech schools provided they have a high school diploma.

Ultrasound technologists go to school to learn about the body and pathophysiology, imaging protocols and common techniques, ethics and legal issues in medicine, and basic patient care. Sonographers create and tweak scans before handing them off to physicians for medical interpretation. They must understand the kind and quality of images necessary for doctors to make accurate diagnoses, and that requires a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology.

Primary Certification

After completing an accredited program with supervised clinical training, graduates then take a national examination to earn their credentials via the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or ARDMS. Certification with the Registry is highly recommended as an active prerequisite for employment in most settings. Upon certification, new professionals may use the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer title, or RDMS.

Alternatively, ultrasound technicians may become certified with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. This organization, which certifies a variety of medical imaging professionals, offers the ARRT-S - 'S' for Sonography - credential to students who successfully complete its national certification exam in this area.

Most jobs require current RDMS or ARRT-S certification. The RDMS implies knowledge of ultrasound applications in obstetrics/gynecology and breast sonography; abdomen and organ systems; small parts, including tissues and some glands; and basic neurosonography.

Associate Degrees

To become a diagnostic sonographer without previous experience in the medical field, it is necessary to acquire at least an associate's degree. Sonography certificates are available, but many of these programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in any subject or an associate's degree in an allied health profession.

Bachelor Degrees

About half of the 200+ CAAHEP-accredited DMS programs in the country provide diplomas or certificates to successful students. A solid majority extend two-year associate degrees, while around 30 offer bachelor degrees in general sonography or one of its specializations, especially Vascular or Cardiac Sonography.

Master Degrees

There is currently just one U.S. program that hosts a Master's program in Sonography. The University of Missouri has introduced a dedicated, CAAHEP-accredited Master of Science curriculum in Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound (DMU) through its School of Health Professions. It is the first degree of its kind in the United States.

Secondary Certifications

Diagnostic medical sonography is one of the major subdisciplines of radiology. There are, in turn, several major specialties available within diagnostic medical sonography. Different types of sonography are known as "modes."

Certificates in this field are primarily useful as secondary credentials establishing a sonographer's modal expertise. Here are the three main speciality modes that are certified by ARDMS:

- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)

- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)

- Adult Echocardiography

- Fetal Echocardiography

- Pediatric Echocardiography

- Registered in Musculoskeletal (RMSK)

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We found 105 schools offering ultrasound technician degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 105 Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technician Colleges in the U.S.

Ultrasound Technician Schools By Total Enrollment

1
Miami Dade College
Miami, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 46834

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
2
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 40929

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
3
Community College of Southern Nevada
North Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 29905

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
4
College of Dupage
Glen Ellyn, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 28862

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
5
Valencia Community College
Orlando, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 27565

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
6
Broward Community College
Fort Lauderdale, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 27389

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
7
Austin Community College
Austin, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 25735

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
8
Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus
Bloomfield Hills, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 23188

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
9
Montgomery College
Rockville, MD  |  Total Enrollment: 20923

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
10
Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 20838

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's

Browse All 105 Colleges With Ultrasound Technician Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Western Suffolk Boces Northport NY 130
West Virginia University Hospital School of Radiologic Technology Morgantown WV 27
West Kentucky Technical College Paducah KY 1518
Weber State University Ogden UT 16050
Volunteer State Community College Gallatin TN 6567
Valencia Community College Orlando FL 27565
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City OK 2759
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Newark NJ 4666
University of Maryland - Baltimore Co Diag Med Sonog Baltimore MD 29
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock AR 1855
Ultrasound Diagnostic School Pittsburgh PA 66
Tyler Junior College Tyler TX 8319
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
Trident Technical College Charleston SC 10246
Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia PA 2256
St Philips College San Antonio TX 7921
St Lukes Medical Center - School of Diagnostic Medical Sonography Milwaukee WI 5
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield MA 6705
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport LA 1176
South Suburban College South Holland IL 6751
South Hills School of Business and Technology State College PA 527
Siena Heights University Adrian MI 1972
Seattle University Seattle WA 5852
Santa Fe Community College Gainesville FL 12464
Sanford - Brown Institute - White Plains White Plains NY 208
Sanford - Brown Institute - Trevose Trevose PA 244
Sanford - Brown Institute - Tampa Tampa FL 285
Sanford - Brown Institute - Springfield Springfield MA 269
Sanford - Brown Institute - New York New York NY 182
Sanford - Brown Institute - Landover Landover MD 225
Sanford - Brown Institute - Iselin Iselin NJ 404
Sanford - Brown Institute - Houston Houston TX 429
Sanford - Brown Institute - Garden City Garden City NY 354
Sanford - Brown Institute - Ft. Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale FL 668
Sanford - Brown Institute - Dallas Dallas TX 264
Sanford - Brown Institute - Atlanta Atlanta GA 255
Sanford - Brown Institute Middleburg Heights OH 161
Saint Louis Community College - Forest Park Saint Louis MO 6749
Pitt Community College Winterville NC 4973
Pima Medical Institute Tucson AZ 364
Owens Community College Perrysburg OH 15845
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls OR 2815
Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro GA 1764
Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus Bloomfield Hills MI 23188
Newbridge College Santa Ana CA 383
New Hampshire Technical Institute Concord NH 2809
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha NE 400
National School of Technology Inc Hialeah FL 502
Montgomery College Rockville MD 20923
Modern Technology School Fountain Valley CA 85
Middlesex Community College Bedford MA 7451
Miami Dade College Miami FL 46834
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines IA 409
Medical College of Georgia Augusta GA 1932
Mayo School of Health Related Sciences Rochester MN 248
Louisiana State University - Eunice Eunice LA 2704
Lorain County Community College Elyria OH 10521
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA 3153
Lansing Community College Lansing MI 16011
Lancaster General Hospital - Lancaster Institute for Health Education Lancaster PA 197
Kettering College of Medical Arts Kettering OH 498
Kapiolani Community College Honolulu HI 6760
Johnston Community College Smithfield NC 3061
Jackson Community College Jackson MI 5069
Hudson Valley Community College Troy NY 9304
Houston Community College System Houston TX 40929
Hohokus School of Business and Medical Sciences Ramsey NJ 288
Hillsborough Community College Tampa FL 18497
Greenville Technical College Greenville SC 10786
Grady Health System Professional Schools Atlanta GA 83
Gloucester County College Sewell NJ 4669
George C Wallace State Community College - Hanceville Hanceville AL 4696
Gateway Community College Phoenix AZ 7895
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem NC 5860
Florida Institute of Ultrasound Inc Pensacola FL 43
Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences Orlando FL 581
Florida Community College at Jacksonville Jacksonville FL 20838
Everest College - West Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 318
Everest College - City of Industry City Of Industry CA 352
El Paso Community College El Paso TX 18001
El Centro College Dallas TX 4333
Delgado Community College New Orleans LA 12784
Delaware Technical and Community College - Stanton - Wilmington Newark DE 6622
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland OH 19518
Community College of Southern Nevada North Las Vegas NV 29905
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh PA 15556
College of St Catherine Saint Paul MN 4487
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire WI 4503
Chattanooga State Technical Community College Chattanooga TN 7873
Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science Los Angeles CA 99
Central Ohio Technical College Newark OH 1832
Central California School San Luis Obispo CA 206
California School of Medical Sciences Beverly Hills CA 121
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute Hudson NC 3191
Broward Community College Fort Lauderdale FL 27389
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Bergen Community College Paramus NJ 11993
Bellevue Community College Bellevue WA 11234
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