Ultrasound technician training programs are designed to prepare aspiring ultrasound techs for a career in one of the most sought-after healthcare fields in America. Like any highly competitive profession there are a variety of specialized career paths available in this field. As such, students have several options when it comes to their education whether they opt for programs offered by career-oriented ultrasound technician schools or classes at a local community college.
Everyone’s career path is (and should be) unique to them. However, there are a few common pitfalls to avoid and the best preparation for a successful career starts with a quality education.
How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
Regardless of their area of specialization, ultrasound technicians are almost always required to undergo some formal education or training. For many, the first step to becoming an ultrasound tech is to earn a certificate or degree in the field. This means that the overall ultrasound technician training process can take anywhere from around a year to four years or more. Choosing how far to pursue their education is a big decision for techs-in-training and will involve determining which path best suits their own economic, professional and personal needs:
- Certificate – For those with an existing career in a related healthcare field, a certificate in sonography can be the ideal route. It’s not unheard of for someone to earn their certificate in order to pursue formal certification as a means of bolstering their current salary. With a projected program length of year or less, a certificate program is the quickest (and often cheaper) way of obtaining sonography training. Typically this route is only really useful if a student already has a career in a related healthcare field.
- Associate’s Degree – One of the most common ultrasound technician training programs is an associate’s degree program. Most students can earn their associate’s degree in sonography in about two years. After earning the initial degree, students will continue their ultrasound technician training in a controlled healthcare environment under the supervision of a professional
- Bachelor’s Degree – The most intensive ultrasound technician training program is typically a bachelor’s degree program. Most bachelor degrees take four years to earn, although they can lead to more career opportunities and jobs with higher paying salaries.
In addition to earning a degree or certificate, an important part of ultrasound technician training includes a clinical component. Students will earn credits by working with a professional technician in either a hospital or another type of healthcare clinic. During this time students may begin to gain experience in a specialty they wish to pursue. Most employers will only hire candidates who have a degree or certificate from an accredited institution.
How Important is Accreditation for an Ultrasound School?
Before enrolling in any ultrasound technician training program, students must take several factors into consideration. Accreditation is a subject that any prospective student should be aware of. Put simply: attending an ultrasound training program at an accredited institution is the quickest and safest way of starting your ultrasound career.
This isn’t to say that accreditation is required of all schools or for all students, far from it. The situation breaks down like this:
- It is technically possible to gain certification without having graduated from an accredited school or program.
- It is possible to gain employment in the ultrasound field without certification.
- In fact, graduates will need to meet a specific number of hours of on-the-job experience as a per-requisite for applying for certification.
- Unfortunately, many of the opportunities available to candidates without certification are lower-paying gigs on either a finite contract basis or limited hours. This makes pursuing certification a more time-intensive process.
- Graduates of an accredited ultrasound technician training program are able to apply for certification with fewer per-requisites.
The easiest way to check if a school or program is accredited is by going to the CAAHEP website and searching for the school in question. Admissions representatives will often be able to answer most if not all questions regarding accreditation as well.
Ultrasound Technician Training Curriculum
The typical ultrasound technician training curriculum includes a wide variety of courses. Several courses cover specifics of sonography and cardiovascular technology, while others involve broader aspects of the medical field and healthcare industry. Some of the most common courses students can expect include the following:
- Ultrasound Principles
- Medical Ethics
- Patient Care
- Basic Physics
These are just a portion of the classes included in most ultrasound technician training programs. Students will also have the option to take additional classes in advanced programs that focus on various specialties in the field.
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