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How to Select the Right Sonography Program

sonography exam of pregnant womanOnce you have made a decision to obtain an ultrasound technician degree, the next step is to start the process of selecting a school. First, you need to find the ideal program that will provide the appropriate education to become a qualified professional. And given that some states do mandate that ultrasound techs be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it’s extremely important that you research each program in order to evaluate and compare your options. But exactly where does one begin? Many students will start by looking for colleges that are within driving distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location must be considered when making a decision, but there are additional critical factors also. For instance, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they sponsor internship programs. These and additional qualifications will be discussed more in detail later in this article. But first, let’s go over what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online education programs that are available.

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Sonogram Tech Work Description

ultrasound tech testing young womanThere are more than one professional titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. Regardless of name, they all have the same basic job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. While many work as generalists there are specialties within the profession, for instance in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority practice in hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work functions of a sonogram technician can include:

  • Preserving records of patient medical histories and specifics of each procedure
  • Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
  • Readying the ultrasound machines for usage and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
  • Escorting patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
  • Using equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
  • Reviewing the results and identifying necessity for additional testing

Sonographers must routinely assess the safety and performance of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to sustain that degree of professionalism and remain up to date with medical knowledge, they are required to complete continuing education courses on a regular basis.

Ultrasound Tech Degree Programs Offered

Sonogram tech enrollees have the opportunity to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree. An Associate Degree will generally take around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish based upon the program and class load. A Bachelor’s Degree will require more time at as long as four years to finish. Another alternative for those who have already earned a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have received a Bachelor’s Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a related health sector, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to finish. One thing to consider is that the majority of sonographer schools do have a clinical training element as a portion of their curriculum. It often may be satisfied by taking part in an internship program which many colleges organize with local hospitals and clinics. When you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then have to comply with the certification or licensing prerequisites in whatever state you choose to work in.

Online Sonogram Tech Schools

female student attending ultrasound tech school onlineAs earlier discussed, nearly all sonogram technician schools have a practical component to their programs. So although you can receive a degree or certificate online, a substantial portion of the training will be either held in an on-campus lab or at an authorized off campus facility. Clinical training can typically be satisfied through an internship at a local outpatient clinic, hospital or family practice. But the remainder of the classes and training may be accessed online in your home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that continue working while earning their degrees. In addition online programs are many times less costly than on-campus options. Expenses for study materials and commuting can be lessened also. But just as with any sonography program you are looking at, make sure that the online school you enroll in is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially significant for certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to attend classes away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online degree could be the ideal option for you.

Topics to Ask Sonogram Tech Programs

Now that you have decided on which certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can start the procedure of reviewing and comparing sonogram tech schools. You may first want to decide whether you will attend classes online or travel to a college campus in your area. Naturally location will be critical if you decide on the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualifier as well. But there are additional things that you must also take into consideration, for example if the programs are accredited and if they provide internships. So in order to complete your due diligence so that you can make your ultimate selection, following are some questions that you need ask each sonography college prior to making a decision.

Are the Sonogram Technician Schools Accredited? A large number of ultrasound technician colleges have earned some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. Nevertheless, it’s still important to confirm that the school and program are accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting agencies in the field of sonography is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS). Programs obtaining accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone an extensive review of their teachers and educational materials. If the college is online it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. All accrediting organizations should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to ensuring a superior education, accreditation will also assist in getting financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And numerous healthcare employers will only hire a graduate of an accredited school for entry-level jobs.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the sonogram technician schools you are evaluating have associations with local clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a way to satisfy the clinical training requirement for the majority of programs. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the local healthcare community and help with obtaining employment.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the ultrasound tech schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the school they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their home. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuition for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the ultrasound tech program as well.

Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the sonographer  program you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

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Enroll in the Best Ultrasound Tech Training

Choosing the right ultrasound tech certificate or degree program is an important first step to embarking on a rewarding new profession furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Apart from meeting academic standards, you need to be in at least reasonably good physical health, able to stand for lengthy time frames with the ability to regularly lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it often necessary to adjust patients and move heavy machinery. Additional beneficial talents include technical proficiency, the ability to keep collected when confronted by an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse clearly and compassionately. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of questions that you should ask each college you are considering. This is the case whether you enroll in an online program or commute to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can assess each college, you will be able to narrow down your choices until you are left with the best program for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can reach your objective to practice as an ultrasound technologist.