Montana has a thriving health care industry that has significantly contributed to the state’s economy in 2015. Health care services have driven job creation for years, meaning the ultrasound technician can play an important role in delivering affordable, mostly non-invasive services to a diverse population. As national health care is rolled out, Montana will be an active participant in 2016 in the effort to ensure all state residents have access to needed services.
Requirements to Become a Sonographer in Montana
To become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer with the greatest employment opportunities requires completing a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The accredited programs have proven high quality and meet stringent standards for preparing students to enter the health care field. Graduating students have been fully prepared to take the credentialing exams offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Each Diagnostic Medical Sonography program consists of coursework and clinical training. However, students have several degree options and should keep their preferences in mind when selecting a school. Some schools only offer a Bachelor’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, while others may only offer an Associate’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or a certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Schools will also offer certain concentrations which include general, cardiac, pediatric cardiac, and vascular. Therefore, it is important to consider upfront the concentration of interest because that will influence which schools are eligible for selection.
Another consideration when selecting a school location is the requirements for admission. There are programs that only accept students who have completed certain course prerequisites so that the time spent in the program can concentrate strictly on preparing students to become ultrasound technologists.
Six Steps to Become a Sonographer in the State
The steps to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer include the following:
- Select the desired degree to narrow school choices
- Decide whether to attend an online program or campus-based program
- Review schools offering online CAAHEP-accredited programs or that are located in the preferred location
- Determine admission prerequisites, ensuring they can be met
- Complete the coursework online, on-campus or through a mixture of both
- Complete the clinical training as required
After earning a certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or a degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, students can sit for the ARDMS (American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) exams. Once ARDMS registered, they can seek employment in one of the outstanding Montana healthcare facilities like the Kalispell Regional Medical Center or the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Other ultrasound career paths include working in a physician’s office, free-standing clinic or mobile unit.
Training Options for Sonography Students in Montana
Montana does not have any sonography programs certified by CAAHEP. Attending a school with a CAAHEP-accredited sonography program is an important step that must be taken before earning professional credentials through ARDMS. Those who want to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer fortunately have educational options that will enable them to pursue their careers. The first option is to attend an online school enabling coursework to be completed through distance learning. The second option is to attend an out-of-state-school in a nearby state.
Online Accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography Programs
There are two schools offering accredited online ultrasound programs in 2016:
Each school follows the CAAHEP requirements for offering programs consisting of high quality online coursework and a requirement to complete clinical training. Washburn University and Jackson College must approve the choice of facility for clinical training to ensure standards are maintained. However, the schools try to be flexible in helping students find facilities that meet their needs in terms of location.
Accredited Campus-Based Ultrasound Programs
Though Montana does not have schools with CAAHEP-accredited sonography programs, the bordering states do. If anyone prefers to attend a campus school, Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming each have a school offering one or more degrees in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. When ready to review all the school options, an excellent place to start a search is at the School Directory. The site conveniently lists all schools by state that offer accredited programs in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Employment for Sonographers in Montana.
Montana’s health care industry is one of the fastest growing industries according to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. From 2015 to 2021, statistics indicate the annual growth rate increases to 10 positions with another 3 for replacement. In 2010 there were 150 sonographers employed, but by 2020 there is a projected 240 positions for a 57.6 percent change. In 2015 there were 200 ultrasound technologists working in the state.
How Much to Make as a Sonographer in Montana?
The average annual wage figure for Montana’s Diagnostic Medical Sonographers in 2015 is $71,800, and that is higher than the national average of $70,800 for the occupation. Montana is a large state and approximately 50 percent of the available positions are in two major cities. 50 professionals of the total ultrasound technicians employed statewide are in Billings and earn an average of $66,270 annually. 30 positions are employed in Great Falls at an average annual wage of $68,490. As of May 2015, no positions were reported in eastern or central Montana, indicating possible opportunities in outpatient clinics, physician offices and mobile units in the future. Most of the current positions are in southwestern and western Montana.
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