Graduating from a CAAHEP accredited ultrasound program can jumpstart a sonography career. Avoid the temptation to attend a non-accredited program.
There is plenty of sonography program information on the internet. So much so that it is easy to get lured into programs offering inexpensive tuition and great career opportunities. However, students interested in sonography programs, but unfamiliar with CAAHEP accreditation, may find themselves choosing a program that leads to a degree but limits career opportunities. Think twice about succumbing to the temptation to attend a non-accredited sonography program if interested in a career in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Searching for Accreditation of Sonography Programs
The internet makes it easy to find information about programs, including tuition rates and curriculum. However, one of the first and most important pieces of information a student should look for in the program’s description is the type of accreditation it has earned. For Diagnostic Medical Sonography students that means looking for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). You can find accredited sonography programs with detailed information by state here.
Quality school and sonography program webpages will always supply information on accreditation because the program meets academic standards developed by recognized accrediting organizations. Some programs will include a statement on the college or program webpage. Some schools will simply list the programs that are accredited and the name of the agency doing the accreditation. Either way, it is important to find and review the accreditation information.
Sonography Students Facing a Dilemma
There are ultrasound students who are unfamiliar with the accreditation process and do not understand its importance. The CAAHEP reviews Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs against health sciences and medical standards developed by relevant professionals. It ensures the program offers the right mix of classes and clinical training and includes the kind of information that will enable a graduate to deliver high quality ultrasound services.
Since clinical training is included in the training, the student is able to sit for the ARDMS exams after graduation. Graduating a CAAHEP accredited program and passing the ARDMS exams means the student is ready to start a career as a sonographer. Most employers in all states now recognize CAAHEP accreditation as the equivalent of a professional license, but only four states have actually passed licensing laws.
Here is the dilemma some students face. Someone desiring to become an ultrasound technician searches online for a program close to home without regard for accreditation. They are thinking that a lack of licensure laws means accreditation and ARDMS registration are optional. The sonography programs make promises that students will get a quality education that makes them highly employable. Since the nearest CAAHEP accredited program would require attending a school located further away from home, it seems reasonable to just get the degree first and worry about employment later.
The Truth Can Hurt
The truth can hurt sometimes when it means not being able to sit for the ARDMS exams and discovering a year of clinical training or work experience is still needed before even being eligible to take them. The situation becomes even more distressful when the graduate learns that he or she is not eligible for most open positions because the person is not ARDMS registered. Since the graduate cannot get a job and cannot get certified as a sonographer, starting a career is put on hold.
That is the reality some students face when they choose to attend a non-CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. It is not difficult to imagine the disappointment and even anger some people feel after paying thousands of dollars to get an education that promised to be the key to an exciting career in ultrasound technology, only to discover they cannot get a job.
Avoiding the Trap
There are several ways to avoid this trap. Of course, the first step is finding a CAAHEP accredited program. Following is some helpful information:
- Get the facts about accreditation and do not make assumptions. Students are free to contact any program and ask about accreditation.
- The Title I federal Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act requires educational facilities to publish certain information about program completion rates and about graduation rates. Many programs now publish that information plus additional information on how many students are employed within a year after graduation. Seeking out that information is important because it is a snapshot of results. Low employment rates is a signal there is a problem.
- Do not automatically assume the whole story is being told on program websites. Take the time to verify information by contacting the program staff to ask questions.
- Review the program curriculum and verify it meets ARDMS prerequisites.
- Sign onto forums discussing sonography programs and ask if anyone wants to share information about a program of interest. Graduates who belong to the “disappointed group” are likely to tell their story.
Though ARDMS is the gold standard for sonography certification, there are other sonography certifications that are recognized by many employers. They include Cardiovascular Credentialing International, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Canadian Association of Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals.
The bottom line is this: Find a CAAHEP accredited sonography program to attend. There are hundreds of them in the U.S., and most offer financial aid to defray the cost of the sonography program. The Ultrasound Technician Center provides a great list of accredited ultrasound technician schools by state to make the search as simple as possible. It is well worth the time and effort if getting to work as soon as possible is top of the sonography student’s list.