Ultrasound Technician Training
There are many avenues to becoming an ultrasound technician, also known as a sonographer or diagnostic medical sonographer. One, two, and four year programs are available, and the students in these programs may come with no more than a high school education or with a degree in nursing, or with any level of education and experience in between. Training programs include classroom work and an internship of 3-6 months for hands-on experience.
Sonographers must have good interpersonal skills and must be physically able to operate the equipment and to move large or disabled patients. Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation, so protective equipment is not necessary.
Ultrasound Technician Training Programs
One-year programs are non-accredited training programs that result in a certificate. These programs are intended for health care workers who are interested in improving their job prospects by adding sonography to their resumes.
Two-year programs result in an associate’s degree and are more prevalent than four-year programs, which result in a bachelor’s degree. Both are typically offered by colleges and universities. Other organizations that may offer programs include hospitals, vocational schools, and the Armed Forces. In 2006, there were 147 ultrasound training programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), most of those at colleges and universities.
Once trained, sonographers can register with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or a similar agency. Certification requires passing an exam and improves the sonographer’s marketability.
Ultrasound Technician Coursework and Specialties
Ultrasound technician training includes coursework on basic science, such as biology, anatomy, and physics. Training in instrumentation (using the equipment), patient care, and medical ethics is also included.
The best-known ultrasound technician specialty is obstetric and gynecological ultrasound. Technicians specializing in this field have additional training in maternal and fetal anatomy and physiology.
Another major ultrasound technician specialty is cardiovascular ultrasound. Specialists in this field perform ultrasounds of the heart, called echocardiograms, and of the blood vessels. They measure blood flow throughout the cardiovascular system. Specialists in this field receive additional training in anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of the heart and in vascular ultrasound.
Less common ultrasound technician specialties are abdominal sonography (examining the abdominal organs), neurosonography (examining the brain), and breast sonography (examining breast tissue for abnormalities).
- “Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-2009, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Available at https://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos273.htm
- “Ultrasound Tech Training.” All Allied Health Schools. Available at https://www.allalliedhealthschools.com/faqs/ultrasound-training