How to Enroll in an Accredited Sonography Course Near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Birmingham AL, it's time to begin the procedure of choosing a college. To begin with, you need to find the right program that will provide the necessary instruction to become a skilled 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 licensing or certification exam. So it's very important that you investigate each program so that you can assess and compare your choices. But just where does one begin? Many prospective students will start by looking for colleges that are within commuting distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Certainly cost and location must be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are other significant factors as well. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they sponsor internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be discussed more in detail later in this article. But first, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the credentials and online training options that are offered.
Sonogram Tech Occupation Summary
There are more than one acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called ultrasound technologists, sonogram techs, and diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers). No matter what their title is, they all have the same basic job function, which is to implement diagnostic ultrasound techniques on patients. Even though a number of techs work as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily job duties of a sonogram technician can involve:
- Keeping records of patient case histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for usage and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Using equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Assessing results and determining necessity for additional testing
Ultrasound techs must routinely evaluate the safety and performance of their equipment. They also are held to a high professional standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to maintain that level of professionalism and stay current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Technician Degrees Offered
Ultrasound technician students have the opportunity to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually require around 18 months to 2 years to complete dependent on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at up to four years to finish. Another option for individuals who have previously obtained 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 medical sector, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take only 12 to 18 months to complete. Something to consider is that almost all sonographer programs do have a practical training component as part of their course of study. It can often be fulfilled by participating in an internship program which numerous schools organize with Birmingham AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to satisfy the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whichever state you decide to practice 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 Degrees
As previously mentioned, nearly all sonogram technician colleges have a clinical requirement to their programs. So although you can earn a certificate or degree online, a substantial part of the training will be either carried out in an on campus laboratory or at an authorized off-campus medical care provider. Practical training can typically be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Birmingham ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. However the remainder of the training and classes may be accessed online in your Birmingham home. This is especially convenient for those students that keep working while obtaining their degrees. Plus online schools are often less costly than on-campus alternatives. Costs for study materials and commuting can be lessened as well. But just as with every ultrasound tech program you are reviewing, check that the online program you enroll in is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially important for certification, licensing and finding employment (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to attend classes away from the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online degree may be the ideal choice for you.
Topics to Ask Ultrasound Tech Programs
Once you have decided on which degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can start the procedure of reviewing and comparing ultrasound tech schools. You will first probably want to choose whether you would rather access classes online or travel to a college campus in the Birmingham AL area. Of course location will be critical if you decide on the latter, and the price of tuition undoubtedly will be an initial qualification as well. But there are other factors that you must also take into account, such as if the programs are accredited and if they provide internship programs. So in order to complete your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are a few questions that you need ask each sonographer college prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Schools Accredited? The majority of sonogram tech schools have received some form of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still crucial to confirm that the program and school are accredited. Among the most highly regarded accrediting organizations 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 gone through a rigorous examination of their teachers and course materials. If the college is online it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. All accrediting agencies should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to ensuring a superior education, accreditation will also help in securing financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And a number of Birmingham AL employers will only hire a graduate of an accredited program for entry-level openings.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the ultrasound technician programs you are evaluating have associations with Birmingham AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a means to fulfill the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Birmingham medical community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the ultrasound tech schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Birmingham AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the sonogram technician program also.
Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the ultrasound tech program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Birmingham Ultrasound Tech Training
Picking the right sonographer certificate or degree program is an important first step to entering a rewarding new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech colleges require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to satisfying academic requirements, you must be in at least reasonably good physical condition, able to stand for extended durations and able to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy equipment. Additional helpful talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay calm when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. As we have addressed in this post, there are several questions that you need to ask each school you are reviewing. This is true whether you select an online program or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the appropriate questions so that you can compare each program, you can narrow down your options until you are left with the best school for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can achieve your objective to work as an ultrasound tech in Birmingham Alabama.