How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
Before you cough up one penny to any school to learn how to become an ultrasound technician, you need to conduct a thorough and exhaustive review of the each educational institution and study all the requirements you will need to meet in order to secure employment in this field. You must take full ownership and accountability over your life, your career and the decisions that you make. Please do not take this site or any other as the gospel truth.
Ditch College strives to provide accurate and useful information so that you can make informed decisions, but we are not perfect. Frankly, we have seen some downright outlandish claims and information provided by various websites on the internet related to ultrasound technician education and training. And some of the stories about naïve students being victimized by these fraudulent schools are heart-breaking. Ditch College is but one resource you should be tapping into, but you need to do your due diligence. If you truly want to know how to become an ultrasound technician we ask that you thoroughly review the content found on the websites for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP), the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).
Becoming an ultrasound technician or medical sonographer can be quite frustrating due to the difficulty in navigating all the conflicting information you may read on the internet.
Many schools will attempt to deceive prospective students by claiming they are accredited by such and such agency. The truth of the matter is that some of these accreditations are useless and irrelevant to you the prospective student. I would even go so far as to say that some accrediting agencies are deliberately set up as self-serving marketing ploys by some for profit schools to defraud students.
For those aspiring to become ultrasound technicians, it is imperative that you attend a school that is accredited by the CAAHEP. Do not confuse the accreditation a school receives as whole with the programmatic accreditation bestowed upon a specific health education program by the CAAHEP. Even reputable schools possessing reputable accreditation by a well-know organization may lack CAAHEP accreditation for their specific diagnostic medical sonography program.
ARDMS and CCI
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Cardiovascular Credentialing International are two of the most reputable credentialing organizations for ultrasound technicians. Although there currently are no laws requiring medical sonographers to have a licensing credential, the marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive and employers are demanding this additional designation.
The ARDMS was founded in 1975 as an independent and non-profit organization to ensure patient safety and quality care by certifying ultrasound professionals. Examination and credentialing in five different certification areas of expertise are administered to ultrasound technicians throughout the year. In order to secure employment and become a full-fledged ultrasound technician, you will need to sit for and pass the ARDMS examination in one of the areas outlined below:
- RDMS® – Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer®
- RDCS® – Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer®
- RVT® – Registered Vascular Technologist®
- RPVI® – Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation®
- RMSK™ – Registered in Musculoskeletal™ sonography
CCI was founded in 1968 and offers the following credentialing:
- RVS – Registered Vascular Specialist
- RPS – Registered Phlebology Sonographer
- RCS – Registered Cardiac Sonographer
- RCCS – Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer
Different Ways to Become an Ultrasound Technician
Though Ditch College is primarily geared toward educating high school students about careers they can aspire to without a traditional four-year degree, there are a couple of different ways individuals can enter the medical sonography field and become an ultrasound technician.
Accredited Educational Programs and Instruction
Educational programs for aspiring ultrasound professionals can last anywhere between one and four years. The length of the program depends on the degree or certificate awarded and is also influenced by your previous academic and professional background.
High school graduates would pursue the two-year program (or the four-year program should they desire) with the one-year program reserved for those students meet certain qualifications in a clinically related allied health profession. High school graduates will be expected to have completed basic science and physics classes in addition to algebra.
Accredited programs will expose students to physical sciences, applied biological sciences, patient care, clinical medicine, applications of ultrasound and image evaluation. All sonography programs should possess a structured, competency-based clinical education component.
Some individuals already possessing a bachelor’s degree can elect to forego the two-year option and attend a one-year program.
Post-education Employment or Externship
In addition to satisfying your education component, ultrasound technicians must complete 1,680 hours of clinical ultrasound/vascular experience. This experience can be acquired through paid employment or earned through the completion of a formal ultrasound/vascular program. Please note that these hours must be documented.
These work experience hours are required for nearly every applicant wishing to sit for the ARDMS examination. Those already possessing a bachelor’s degree may be able to avoid the 1,680 hour requirement and immediately sit for the ARDMS exam (See Prerequisite 2).
Non-accredited Education Options
In California and many other regions, schools offering accredited programs in diagnostic medical sonography are seriously impacted with extensive waiting lists. This can be considerably frustrating with some students opting to attend a for-profit school lacking programmatic accreditation. Others simply see advertisements for 14-month programs and the like and believe that they can take short cuts.
While you can attend a non-accredited school and still become an ultrasound technician you need to be cautious and wary of a couple of things. What guarantees and what level of confidence do you have in the quality of the education you will receive and how confident are you that you will be able to find a job once you graduate. The ARDMS will require you to have 1,680 hours (nearly 12 months of on the job experience) before you can sit for the exam. Many ultrasound techs are surprised to learn once they graduate from a non-accredited school that it is very difficult to find full-time employment. So, even though you may think that you are going to circumvent the waiting list for an accredited school on the front-end, the fact of the matter is that you may end up costing yourself more time and aggravation on the back-end when you cannot earn the work experience hours you need to become an employable technician.