Understanding the Educational Process

Sometimes it’s the small things that can hold a person back. Upon reflection years later, those obstacles that seemed so insurmountable could have easily been conquered. Such is the case with careers. Trying to understand the requirements we need, to get us from where we are to where we want to be, can be confusing.

If you have read about the opportunities in Ultrasound Technology, you understand how exciting this career is. As a highly trained Ultrasound Technician, you would be in high demand for your skills. Your career would give you job security, a great salary and the opportunity to really make an impact. The education takes a relatively short period of time and rewards you with a stable and exciting career as an Ultrasound Technician. Rather than ‘I wish I had’ you will be able to say ‘I am so proud I did!’

Step One                 Location

Where will you be living? This simple question will be the first determining factor in choosing a school. Will you be living at home while attending school? Are you willing to commute a longer distance for a more preferable school? While some are more fortunate and can attend any school in the country, most of us have to take location into consideration. Determining where you will be living will help narrow down your search for a school.

Step Two                Accredited ….or non-accredited

There is an important distinction between accredited and non-accredited schools. Accreditation is the process by which an outside source determines a school’s credibility and standards. This ensures the school is performing at the highest standards and follows a curriculum that will give you the best possible education.  One of the most popular educational programs for sonography is CAAHEP / JRC-DMS accredited. There are two types of credentials for Sonography in the United States – ARDMS and Cardiovascular Credentialing.

Once your education is complete at an accredited school, you will have the opportunity to take an exam, the ARDMS exam (The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.) Successfully passing this exam allows you to become a Registered Ultrasound Technician. This is an indicator to employers that you are a highly-dedicated and knowledgeable Ultrasound Technician. Such an accomplishment affords you great marketability and increased salary, as well as great personal satisfaction.

Non-accredited schools, while some may be very good, are not held to these strict standards as accredited school. There is no determination, by an outside source, of the schools’ credibility or standards. Selecting a non-accredited school also means you will not be allowed to obtain State registration or certification as an Ultrasound Technician. You cannot even sit for the exam. Only those trained at an accredited school are eligible.

Some non-accredited schools are informing prospective students that if they work for one year, they can sit for the ARDMS exam (to become registered). This is untrue. There must be over fifteen hundred hours logged and documented for those who were educated at a non-accredited school. Obtaining over fifteen hundred hours of documented work is difficult for those unable to find employment at all due to their very lack of ARDMS. For one unfortunate student, it took her over three years to obtain the requirements for ARDMS after obtaining an education at a non-accredited school.

Learn from those who have gone before you…..

Unfortunately, many who obtained their education at a non-accredited school are now having difficulty obtaining employment. Most hospitals and healthcare organizations have made ARDMS a requirement for employment. Obtaining your education at an accredited school assures your future is open for all possibilities.

Step Three      Optional Schools

Military – You can become an Ultrasound Technician while serving your country. The Armed Forces, whether the Air Force, Marines, Navy or Coast Guard, can provide you with wonderful educational opportunities. Each branch of the Military maintains local enlistment offices.  It is important to fully discuss your career options with your recruiter before you make any enlistment commitment, to determine if your career goals are applicable, and of use, to that particular branch of the Military.

Pro – Your education is paid for by the Military, in return for your service.

Pro   – Once your enlistment period is up, you can easily obtain employment in the civilian sector. You may also re-enlist, which can bring a hefty sign on bonus your way!

Con – You will be required to enlist, and fulfill the terms of your enlistment. The Military will decide where you will be posted.        

One Year Certification Program – One year coursework is available at community colleges, technical schools and some universities. There are two types of one- year certification programs – those accredited by the CAAHEP and those that are not. The most recognized and accepted sonography program is CAAHEP / JRC – DMS accredited.

If you do not already have a degree, you need to attend a CAAHEP accredited program. This will give you the healthcare skills you will need. You may hear from some schools that are looking to increase enrollment that you do not need to obtain accreditation. However, many former students are finding it difficult to obtain employment without an education from an accredited school.

 If you already have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in a related healthcare field, you will not need to attend a CAAHEP accredited program, merely a non-accredited program. The skills and education you obtained during your former degree provide the necessary healthcare skills. However, the program you choose must be at least nineteen months long. This includes 960 hours of internship to fulfill your ultrasound technician requirements.

Associate’s Degree– The most common training for this career, an Associates Degree typically takes two years to complete. There are many online schools and programs that are accelerated, meaning you obtain your degree in a faster period of time, as well as ARDMS certified programs.

Pros – You will be fully prepared for a career in Ultrasound Technology

Cons – You will be required to commit to a longer educational process than a vocational school or technical school.

Bachelor’s Degree– This type of degree is called a ‘four-year’ college. For those who have already completed a one-year course, returning to further their career by enrolling in a Bachelor’s program provides a rich and thorough degree in Ultrasound Technology.

Pro – You will be in demand, much sought after for your expertise

Pro – You may pursue a managerial role in this field.

Pro – Your high level of education may command a higher salary range

Cons – The educational process is longer

 Step Four                Commitment to Clinicals

As well as classroom study, you must also obtain real hands-on experience to become a skilled and professional Ultrasound Technician. Known as clinicals, this type of training is done in an actual healthcare facility. Clinicals are in addition to your class work. Typically, for every week you are in school you will also be expected to complete around twenty five hours of clinical work.  While your classroom study is important, clinical are invaluable as a teaching tool.

Step Five                   To certify….or Not to Certify?  

Once you have completed the educational process, you can now decide if you would like to become certified.  If you have completed an accredited program, you may choose to take an exam for ARDMS registry. Students affectionately refer to this as “sitting for the ARDMS.”  If the education you received is not from an accredited program, you are not eligible to sit for the examination.

If you chose to take the exam and have successfully passed, you are now a Registered Ultrasound Technician. This achievement allows prospective employers to know you have not only completed your education, you have studied and passed a professional assessment of your skills. You may increase demand for you in the job market, as well as command a higher salary range.

You may also obtain certification in various areas of specialty, such as vascular certification. You must participate in continued education to keep your certification current. This allows you to stay on top of cutting edge technology, and reflects your dedication to your career as well as helping others.



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