According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 36-40 percent of students enrolled in an institution of higher education is 25 years old or older. The non-traditional student is a growing student body. The 25 and over group in 2015 is making it clear that age will not stop them from pursuing a new career. Some of these students will choose to attend accredited diagnostic medical sonography programs. Will they face challenges unique to older students?
Challenges of Adult Learners in a Sonography Program
The population of adult learners has been one of the fastest growing student cohorts in higher education. There are different definitions of adult learners, but the earliest one was students 25-years-old or older. This student population, once considered non-traditional, now makes up approximately 38 percent of campus enrollments in any given year.
The message for those interested in a career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is clear: Age should not stop anyone from entering a sonography program. In fact, U.S. News published a list of top 10 colleges that have the highest number of older students attending school, and Keiser University is on the list with 63 percent of students being 25-years-old or older. Keiser University is one of the schools that offers a CAAHEP accredited sonography program.
Attending one of the sonography schools, earning a sonography degree and becoming an ARDMS registered sonographer is a clear path to an excellent career in an expanding Allied Health field. The only thing holding back some people from entering one of the sonography colleges are personal concerns like the following.
Will not fit in with a younger student body
With so many older students attending college, most schools have clubs and associations geared towards these students. Also, campuses are welcoming institutions where diversity is accepted. Younger students benefit from interaction with the more mature older students. Older students enjoy interacting with people who are excited about finally getting the opportunity to work towards a chosen career.
Have forgotten how to study
Students who have not been in school for several years or more are often concerned they have lost the skills to study, take tests and complete special projects. There is also the concern that they are behind the times in the use of technology in the educational setting.
Many schools offer a support system comprised of help centers and tutors. Also, no one really forgets how to learn. Once enrolled in a sonography program, and the textbook is in the hand, the skills needed to succeed will return.
Not enough time
Balancing personal and educational responsibilities is one of the main challenges many adult learners face. Most of the students are employed, are already married and/or have children. However, time management is an issue for every student of every age.
The best approach is to sit down before the sonography program starts and make a schedule of critical activities and responsibilities that fit around the courses and lab assignments. For those who need to earn a degree as soon as possible, a good option is earning an Associate Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. It takes 24 months. The student can return to school later to earn a bachelor’s degree which will take another two years.
Since many older students are already employed, there is a fear that returning to school will cause financial harm. The answer is to take advantage of the financial aid available. There are many scholarships available to pay the cost of earning a degree in ultrasound technology. Apply for as many as possible, in addition to applying for federal and state grants. With enough financial aid, there is often enough to pay for school and basic personal necessities. (Check available financial aid and scholarships for your local sonography education.)
Fear of employer age discrimination
Why bother to get a sonography degree if the employer is not going to hire someone over 30 or 40-years-old? That is the type of negative thinking that stops people from pursuing a career.
Employers in the U.S. must follow the employment laws that forbid discrimination based on age. However, one of the greatest advantages of earning a degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography and getting ARDMS registered is that the older student’s qualifications are as competitive as a younger student’s qualifications. In fact, many employers in the health care industry prefer to hire older students because they are more mature, have proven their motivation and bring a wealth of experiences that younger people do not posses.
Adjusting to Life as a Student
Adjusting to student life is not nearly as difficult as some people believe. It is important to identify and address concerns head-on so that they do not linger and impede success. Following are a few tips to make the adjustment easier:
- Attend some classes online or enroll in one of the online sonography technician programs that are CAAHEP accredited
- Take full advantage of support groups and other resources, like counseling, that the school makes available
- Identify the learning style that works best for the student and prepare in advance to utilize it, i.e. writing things down, recording and playing back lectures, online interactive learning, memorization tools and so on
- Treat school like it is a new job, filled with challenges that are overcome through the use of capabilities, talents, knowledge and recall of past experiences
- Be a full participant in class by asking questions of faculty and fellow students, and do not worry about what others are thinking; people in the educational setting are anxious to help others
- Take the time to develop self-confidence by reading books or online articles; remember that every student at any age has doubts and anxieties when starting an educational program
- Attend one of the best local sonography schools because that keeps the student close to home and a support system of family and friends
- Talk to older sonographers already working in the field because they can provide reassurance that age is not a factor (Read an interview with a senior sonographer)
Careers Belong to Everyone
It is true that older students will have to make adjustments when they decide to return to school to attend one of the sonography programs. Just remember that life is full of accommodations, and earning a sonography degree is one that will lead to a successful lifelong career. Age and self-induced fear should not stop anyone from becoming a sonographer.