Frequently Asked Questions
- How do students find the CAAHEP accredited programs?
- What are the program requirements to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
- What is the sonography program admission process?
- What type of financial aid is available?
- How does one become a certified Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
- Is additional education required after becoming a certified sonographer?
- Does each state require licensing of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?
- What can Sonographers do to maximize earnings in 2017?
- Do salaries for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers vary a lot from state to state?
- Do all Diagnostic Medical Sonographers work in hospitals?
- What are the primary job responsibilities of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
- What are the employment prospects for students successfully completing CAAHEP certified programs and earning ARDMS certification?
- What are the career opportunities for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?
- What are the risks to consider before choosing sonography as a career?
FAQs About Education
How do students find the CAAHEP accredited programs?
There are two simple ways to find schools with sonography programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). One method is to review the list of eligible schools found on the school list page. The interactive chart lists schools by state and city. The chart also notes the degrees and concentrations offered at each school. It has school contact information and indicates whether a program is also ARRT recognized. The second method is to browse the CAAHEP website that provides links to CAAHEP accredited programs.
What are the program requirements to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
Each program develops its particular prerequisites for the course of study that must be completed. The sonography program prerequisites and general requirements are influenced by CAAHEP minimum requirements for accreditation and the type of sonography degree, diploma or certificate that will be earned upon program completion. Sonography students will complete didactic and clinical training, unless applying to a one-year certificate program and can document eligible clinical training or experience. In that case only course work is required. Required college-level course topics include science, math, communication plus medical imaging and patient care specific topics.
What is the sonography program admission process?
Each program has its own admission process, but there are typical steps students can expect to take. Many programs have limited enrollments so it is important to start the application process well in advance of the program start date. The first step is verifying that admissions requirements can be met in terms of high school completion, previously completed college level courses, and grade point average. The application process will include completing a set of admission forms and submitting documentation concerning degrees, field experience and references. An in-person interview might be required, but as a minimum there will be written questions to answer or an essay to write. Reviewing sample interview questions is helpful.
What type of financial aid is available?
Students can apply for all available financial aid that includes federal and state grants and loans, scholarships, work-study, veterans’ benefits, or a mix of resources. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASA) application is used to apply for federal loans and grants. The financial information provided by the student on the application is used by the school to determine how much the financial assistance the student qualifies for from all sources. Financial aid counselors at the schools help students assemble a funding package from available financial resources, including school-administered scholarship money. The student can also apply independently for private scholarships or bank loans.
How does one become a certified Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
The primary certifying entity for ultrasound technicians is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The sonography credentials that can be earned by passing designated ARDMS exams are Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Vascular Technologist, Registered Diagnostic Cardiac, and the recently added Registered in Musculoskeletal. Other certifying entities include Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In all cases, students must meet minimum educational and experience requirements for exam eligibility. An explanation of the certifying entities is found on the webpage HERE.
Is additional education required after becoming a certified sonographer?
Periodic certification renewals are required by each certifying organization. To maintain ARDMS credentials requires certified sonographers to complete 30 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits every three years. The CME credits must be earned by completing classes or workshops offered by the certifying entity’s accepted or approved sponsors. Some accepted CME sponsors charge a fee, but there are also sponsors offering free CME credits. As credits are completed, the student must update their online documentation. ARRT and CCI also have re-credentialing requirements.
Does each state require licensing of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?
Oregon and New Mexico have passed laws requiring licensing of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. West Virginia and New Jersey are having an ongoing discussion concerning adding a licensing requirement for ultrasound technologists. Other states are likely to follow suit. Employers in all 50 states and the states themselves recognize the ARDMS certification, and over 30 states recognize ARRT’s credential. It is important that sonographers stay abreast of state licensing laws to ensure compliance in the future.
FAQs About Career and Salary
What can Sonographers do to maximize earnings in 2017?
There are several factors that influence career earnings. One of the most important is becoming credentialed by a recognized certifying entity. However, other important factors impacting salaries include geographic location, the type of facility where the sonographer is employed, the years of experience, and the degree earned. Sonographers with a specialization credential like Registered Vascular Technologist are more likely to earn higher salaries than a sonographer without a specialty.
Do salaries for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers vary a lot from state to state?
Ultrasound salaries do vary, and in some cases significantly. For example, the 2016 yearly average wage for Alabama was $54,940 and for California it was $93,350. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the national average annual wage for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers as of May 2016 was $71,750. For those able to relocate, taking the time to review a state-by-state listing of sonographer salaries can help ultrasound technologists decide where they would like to seek employment.
Do all Diagnostic Medical Sonographers work in hospitals?
Sonographers work in a variety of industries and positions, which impacts wages. The top employment industries are not necessarily the top paying industries either. Sonographers often begin their careers working in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and physician offices. However, they also work for outpatient care centers, corporations, and educational facilities. Some people remain hands-on medical imaging professionals, while others may decide to shift career paths by moving from doing medical imaging to doing research or teaching. It is beneficial to look at salaries by industry when developing career goals.
What are the primary job responsibilities of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Sonographers are patient care professionals trained to use sonographic medical imaging equipment. The equipment directs sound waves into the human body, producing images of soft tissues and systems that are then analyzed for quality and adequacy. Sonographers also maintain patient health records and document imaging procedures. One reason people are attracted to this profession is due to the fact that sonographers work with a variety of people that include patients, patient families, medical personnel and facility administrative staff. The job description includes being able to do plenty of physical activity from standing all day to physically moving patients and equipment.
What are the employment prospects for students successfully completing CAAHEP certified programs and earning ARDMS certification?
The job outlook for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is excellent. In fact, the federal government’s projections indicate that employment is expect to grow much faster than the national average, with 31,700 projected job openings over the 10-year period. Approximately 97 percent are employed in health care and social assistance. There are two trends that could make the job outlook even brighter. First, the population is aging with baby boomers retiring for the next 20 years, and senior citizens typically require more medical services. Second, the rollout of the national health care program and its focus on preventive medicine and lower health care costs means non-invasive procedures will be in greater demand.
What are the career opportunities for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers?
It is important to start working as soon as possible after completing a sonography program because most people need to get one year of working experience before they can sit for the ARDMS certification exam. Entry-level positions are typically ultrasound technicians who work in various clinical settings that include hospitals and imaging centers. However, there are many other options that include mobile imaging units, physician offices, and laboratories. After gaining experience, some sonographers decide to move into other types of positions. The career path options include becoming an educator at a colleges or universities, moving into an administrative position, working in research and development for commercial enterprises, becoming a sales representative, and many others.
What are the risks to consider before choosing sonography as a career?
A career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer has many advantages that include excellent salary, many employment opportunities and interesting work. However, there are some factors to keep in mind before choosing sonography for a career. The work is physically demanding. Sonographers may be exposed to patient body fluids and diseases. The position might require working rotating shifts and being on call, which can be difficult for people with young children. Before choosing a career in ultrasound technology, it is very important to review all the advantages and disadvantages first.