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Online Ultrasound Schools

By Ann Cameron,

Ultrasound technicians operate the ultrasound machines used in hospitals and other clinical settings. Ultrasound machines transmit high frequency sound waves into the patient to create the reflected images used for diagnostic purposes.

There are several paths to becoming an ultrasound technician. Most ultrasound school options require a minimum of one year of training. The choices include certificate programs, two-year associate's degree programs, and four-year bachelor's degree programs earned at a college or university.

Ultrasound School Admission Requirements

All ultrasound technician programs require a high school diploma or GED. (These can be earned at both traditional and online high schools). Some ultrasound schools also require personal interviews, entrance assessments, or previous related healthcare experience and credentials.

Ultrasound School Credentialing

The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) is the largest credentialing body for ultrasound technicians. Currently, ARDMS recognizes the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) as the only accrediting organization for ultrasound schools.

Students who attend a non-credentialed ultrasound school will need to complete a year of work experience under the auspices of Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) before they can take the ARDMS certifying exam.

Ultrasound School Curriculum

The coursework includes a variety of general medical knowledge and hands-on technical skills. These include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Ethics
  • Sonographic Physics and Instrumentation
  • Doppler Sonography
  • Obstetrics and Gynecologic Sonography

Many programs also require that students complete an unpaid clinical internship working in a professional ultrasound facility before graduation.

Career Prospects for Ultrasound School Graduates

The job outlook for ultrasound school graduates will continue to be strong over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for ultrasound technicians will rise 18 percent from 2008 to 2018. This is faster than the average growth for all occupations. This increase is driven by the overall aging of the U.S. population, resulting in more demand for ultrasound procedures, and by an expected increase in ultrasound procedures as an alternative to the more expensive and hazardous radiological diagnostic procedures.

Students who complete a certificate or associate's degree program are qualified for entry-level jobs in the field. The BLS reports that 59 percent of ultrasound technicians work for hospitals. The remaining 41 percent work for a variety of clinical practices including physician offices, mobile imaging services, or outpatient care centers.

Ultrasound Technician Salaries

The latest wage information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $63,010 as of May 2009. The bottom 10 percent earned $43,990 and the top 10 percent made $85,950.