How to Choose an Accredited Ultrasound Tech School Near Birmingham Alabama
Since you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Birmingham AL, it's time to begin the process of choosing a college. First, you need to find the right program that will provide the proper training to become a qualified professional. And given that a number of states do mandate that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need to be prepared to pass a certification or licensing exam. So it's extremely important that you research each school in order to evaluate and compare your alternatives. But exactly where does one begin? Many potential students will begin by looking for colleges that are within commuting distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Certainly location and cost need to be taken into account when arriving at a decision, but there are additional important factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they sponsor internships. These and additional qualifications will be discussed more in detail later in this post. But first, let's discuss what an ultrasound tech does and the credentials and online education options that are available.
Ultrasound Technician Job Summary
There are multiple acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. No matter what their title is, they all have the same basic job description, which is to carry out diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though many work as generalists there are specialties within the field, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily work tasks of a sonogram tech may involve:
- Keeping records of patient case histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Readying the ultrasound machines for use and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Utilizing equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and determining need for additional testing
Ultrasound techs must routinely evaluate the performance and safety of their machines. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. In order to sustain that level of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are required to complete continuing education training on a regular basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs Offered
Sonogram technician enrollees have the choice to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will normally take around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish dependent on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at as long as four years to finalize. Another alternative for those who have already received 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 relevant health field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take just 12 to 18 months to finish. One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of ultrasound technician colleges do have a clinical training element as part of their course of study. It can often be satisfied by entering into an internship program which many colleges set up through Birmingham AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the degree or certificate programs, you will then need to comply with the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whatever state you choose to work in.
Ultrasound Technology Specialties
Ultrasound technology, or diagnostic sonography, has become more popular for diagnosing internal medical conditions because, unlike other medical imaging tools such as X-rays or CT Scans, ultrasound doesn’t expose the body to radiation. This safer approach has made ultrasound imaging the preferred method for testing pregnant women and infants, who have a higher risk for complications due to radiation. However, babies and expectant mothers are not the only ones who can benefit from ultrasound imaging and it is used in many ways to diagnose illness in the body. Following is a partial list of ultrasound technician education specialties available in the Birmingham AL area:
- Musculoskeletal sonographers can create real-time images of joint injuries, assisting orthopedic surgeons and sports physicians in their diagnosis and treatment.
- Abdominal sonographers specialize in generating images of abdominal internal organs and tissues, such as the pancreas, spleen, liver and gallbladder.
- Breast sonographers conduct ultrasound scans using a sound frequency specifically targeted for breast tissue to evaluate tumors and other abnormalities as a method of verifying or contradicting the results of a mammogram.
- Obstetrics/Gynecology sonographers work with women to scan their reproductive organs and assess the development and health of fetuses throughout the pregnancy.
- Echocardiography sonographers are trained in the imaging and evaluation of the heart, its valves and vessels, and the blood flow to and from the heart.
- Vascular technologists are trained to use ultrasound technology to identify damaged areas or blockages in blood vessels, and to gauge the flow of blood through veins and arteries.
- Ophthalmology sonographers conduct diagnostic tests on the eyes and surrounding muscles and tissue.
- Neurosonology sonographers are specially trained to use ultrasound imaging to detect blockages, tumors or abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.
Online Ultrasound Technician Programs
As previously mentioned, almost all ultrasound tech schools have a practical component to their programs. So while you can obtain a degree or certificate online, a substantial part of the training will be either conducted in an on campus laboratory or at an authorized off-campus medical care provider. Practical training can usually be fulfilled through an internship at a local Birmingham ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. But the remainder of the training and classes can be accessed online in your Birmingham home. This is particularly convenient for those individuals that keep working while earning their degrees. In addition online colleges are many times less expensive than on-campus options. Costs for study materials and commuting may be lessened also. But similarly as with any sonography program you are looking at, confirm that the online program you select is accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially significant for licensing, certification and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to attend classes outside of the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online school could be the right option for you.
Topics to Ask Ultrasound Tech Programs
Now that you have decided on which degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing and comparing sonogram tech colleges. You may first want to decide whether you will attend classes online or travel to a college campus in the Birmingham AL area. Certainly 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 other factors that you must also take into consideration, for instance if the colleges are accredited and if they offer internship programs. So in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can arrive at your ultimate selection, following are several questions that you may want to ask each ultrasound tech school before deciding.
Are the Ultrasound Technician Schools Accredited? A large number of ultrasound tech colleges have earned some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still imperative to make sure that the program and school are accredited. Among the most highly regarded 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 a detailed examination of their teachers and course materials. If the program is online it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. All accrediting agencies should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in obtaining financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And many Birmingham AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited college for entry level openings.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the ultrasound tech schools you are interested in have partnerships with Birmingham AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a way to fulfill the clinical training requirement for most programs. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Birmingham health care community and help with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the ultrasound tech schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Birmingham AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the sonogram technician program as well.
Does the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the ultrasound tech program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham Ultrasound Tech Training
Enrolling in the ideal ultrasound tech certificate or degree program is a crucial first step to launching a rewarding new profession providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech programs require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to satisfying academic requirements, you should be in at least reasonably good physical condition, capable of standing for lengthy periods with the ability to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy machines. Other desirable talents include technical aptitude, the ability to keep collected when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. As we have discussed in this article, there are a number of questions that you should ask each school you are considering. This is the case whether you enroll in an online degree or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the appropriate questions so that you can compare each program, 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 determination to succeed, you can achieve your objective to practice as a sonographer in Birmingham Alabama.