Growing population diversity is changing student population and workforce demographics, while greater inclusion has led to awareness that all people should choose a career based on their interests and capabilities. In 2017, sonography is not just for women or recent high school graduates or people of a certain race. Anyone who wants to work in healthcare and is able to meet the educational and physical requirements can become a sonographer. Nontraditional is becoming traditional.
What is a Nontraditional Student?
Defining the nontraditional student is challenging precisely because the student does not fit what is generally recognized as the traditional profile. Say “college student,” and the first assumption is the person is a recent high school graduate. However, many students are older, already have a college degree, are of non-white or mixed race, are employed and so on.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has spent considerable time trying to develop a consistent definition of the nontraditional student. Typically, it is age that has been used to define them because it captures students facing challenges like family responsibilities. However, age alone is inadequate. So the NCES, through the Institution of Education Sciences, decided to use criteria that would give a better idea of what nontraditional students are dealing with as they attend school. The criteria included students:
- Who delayed attending school for more than a year after finishing high school
- Who are single parents or taking care of dependents other than a spouse
- Who are working while attending school
- Who earned a GED or high school certificate of completion
Welcoming Contemporary Students to the Profession
The NCES criteria was established for statistical purposes for that particular study. There are other nontraditional students who are called “contemporary students” or “21st century students”. They include:
- Men – One definition for a nontraditional student is a man or woman who studies in order to enter an occupation in which men or women make-up 25 percent or less of the total number of people employed. Men who decide to become sonographers are nontraditional students by this definition.
- Mature – People who are much older than the traditional student may be in their 30s, 40s or 50s. They may be starting a second career or just now finding time to pursue the desired education and to attend classes, something not possible earlier in life due to personal circumstances. The older student might decide that now is the time to start a healthcare profession out of a desire to help others.
- Degreed – Sometimes a student who already has a degree may decide to earn a Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree. The degree already earned could be in an Allied Health field, or it might be in something completely unrelated to healthcare. Note that anyone entering a sonography program must meet prerequisites no matter what type of degree has already been earned.
- Background – There are students who are considered nontraditional because of a mixture of factors that include ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status and so on. It is more than one characteristic that creates unique student circumstances. They may decide to become a registered sonographer because they can bring a unique perspective to the position.
No one who wants to become a specialized Diagnostic Medical Sonographer should let anything stop them from achieving their goal. The CAAHEP accredited sonography programs are located in schools that offer a broad support system to help students succeed, including counseling, mentoring and scholarships.
Become a Sonographer
Nontraditional students often bring maturity and/or experience to the educational experience. They may bring compassion, a greater understanding of what it takes to deliver quality patient services, a great desire to succeed, a passion for achieving goals and much more. All nontraditional students are welcomed to become a sonographer because the profession needs a rich diversity of trained ultrasound technicians who can serve the growing nontraditional U.S. population.