Ultrasound technicians or diagnostic medical sonographers are highly skilled health care professionals, demonstrating a well-grounded body of knowledge that includes the principles of physics, anatomy and physiology and pathology. Ultrasound technology opens up a challenging career opportunity demanding a commitment to education and hands-on practice. Medical sonographers such as ultrasound technicians earn around £35,750 annually in 2010. With specialisations, salaries could increase considerably. Ultrasound technology renders images in two dimensions, requiring precision eye and hand coordination to produce such images. The process of training to become an ultrasound technician involves graduating from an accredited ultrasound college program in medical sonography, completing clinical requirements and passing a national certification exam.
Graduate from an accredited medical sonography program, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Prospective students should research programs before committing, as program admissions and application procedures vary. Students may attend a program lacking accreditation; however, such students will not be eligible to take the certification exam upon graduation. Students graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited program may sit for the exam immediately upon graduation. CAAHEP recognises more than 150 accredited programs in medical sonography as of 2010 and looks to add new programs in the future. The typical program lasts two years and results in an associates degree. Curriculum includes coursework in physics, diagnostic imaging and anatomy and physiology during the first year and hospital-based clinical education in the second.
Complete all required clinical training. Programs accredited by CAAHEP for diagnostic medical sonography will incorporate clinicals as part of the program requirements. Those graduating from unaccredited programs must complete a 12-month internship in a hospital to meet the clinical requirements to sit for the certification exam. Students graduating from unaccredited programs must apply for internships with hospitals independent of the educational programs they attended. The clinical or internship helps students develop the required hands-on experience in handling both patients and imaging equipment.
Sit for the certification exam as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Although certification is not a requirement in most states, registered technicians will find more opportunities and higher salaries. Some employers employ only registered sonographers, and others pay higher salaries for certification. The ARDMS website provides an extensive manual detailing the breakdown of the exam, how to study for the exam, areas of specialisation and how to apply, register and schedule to take the test.
Gaining credentials in multiple imaging technologies, such as nuclear medicine or radiography, increases an ultrasound technician’s professional opportunities.
The state of Oregon now licenses all medical sonographers. All individuals looking to enter this field with plans to work in Oregon must check with the state to determine licensure requirements. Although Oregon is the only state to require licensure currently, other states may follow suit.
Tips and warnings
- Gaining credentials in multiple imaging technologies, such as nuclear medicine or radiography, increases an ultrasound technician’s professional opportunities.
- The state of Oregon now licenses all medical sonographers. All individuals looking to enter this field with plans to work in Oregon must check with the state to determine licensure requirements. Although Oregon is the only state to require licensure currently, other states may follow suit.