While the most common assumptions about a sonography career is that an individual requires a four-year degree or higher in order to retain an ultrasound job, there are several specific careers within this particular field that provide students with the opportunity to begin as an ultrasound technician with an Associate’s degree or even simply a high school diploma. Graduates who obtain an Associate’s degree may study specialized or broad fields in gynecology and obstetrics, vascular technology, abdomen and fetal echocardiography.
When is the Best Time to Start?
It may be in a student’s best interest to begin taking classes in high school or as soon as he or she believes that sonography is right for him or her. Studies in computer skills, mathematics, biology and physics can prove to be invaluable assets in the job-seeking process. For those who are no longer in high school, not having taken specific science classes does not necessarily mean that a sonography career is eliminated as these classes could be completed online or on a part-time basis.
Are Two- or Four-Year Degrees in Sonogrpahy Available?
Both four-year Bachelor’s programs and two-year Associate’s programs are currently available in diagnostic medical sonography or ultrasound technology in the U.S. Programs at both levels cover ultrasound equipment operation and diagnostic procedures through clinical experiences and didactic courses. However, Bachelor’s degree in sonography may offer students additional specializations, including vascular or cardiac ultrasound technology. Additionally, graduates of Bachelor’s programs are hoped to be qualified to take ultrasound technician certification exams through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Two-year Associate’s degrees in sonography are most common in the U.S. For applicants who previously or currently work in healthcare, some employers may accept a vocational certificate that can be obtained through a one-year program at an accredited institution.
Is Sonography Career Advancement Possible Without a Four-Year Degree?
Arguably one of the most exciting aspects about the healthcare industry is that there is almost always room for advancement within the field of sonography. One of the most effective ways to increase a sonographer’s career potential is to become certified. While it is not a legal requirement to obtain certification or a license, ultrasound technicians who have earned these credentials from a legitimate organization will often be preferred to those with merely a college degree.
Depending upon the advancement desired, some employers offer opportunities for their employees to upgrade their education and will help to cover the cost of the classes and other related expenses. As is the case with nearly any career, a sonographer’s income will likely increase as his or her skillset grows. As a result, many sonographers who hold an Associate’s degree or GED may consider taking additional classes or studying for certification in an attempt to increase their annual pay.
Ultrasound technicians may further their sonography careers by seeking supervisory, managerial or administrative positions. After gaining at least three years of experience in the field, sonographers may have the opportunity to become a director or a lead sonographer within an ultrasound department. Sonography career advancement opportunities may also be found within manufacturers or companies that produce equipment for the field, including sales representatives, technical advisors and consultants. Sonographers may also choose a career in ultrasound education and research.
What if Quitting a Current Job is Not an Option?
As is often the case in career changes, if someone is relying on a current source of income yet desires to pursue a career in sonography, it may still be a possibility to further an education. Many universities and colleges throughout the U.S. are becoming more accommodating to distance learners and part-time students by offering flexible schedules, opportunities for online-only classes and other services. Since sonography programs typically involve hands-on training, technical expertise, face-to-face patient care and clinical duties there may be weekend or evening training sessions that can help students to fulfill these requirements.
Before beginning a sonography career, whether transferring from another healthcare industry or starting for the first time, it is important to thoroughly research the career prior to making any decisions. Prospective employees should consider reading online reviews from current or former ultrasound technicians to gain a complete understanding of the degrees required, the job duties and the potential for advancement within the field.