How to Select the Best 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 selecting a college. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will furnish the appropriate training to become a qualified professional. And since a number of states do require that ultrasound techs be either certified or licensed, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a licensing or certification exam. So it's very important that you investigate each school so that you can evaluate and compare your choices. But just where does one start? A number of individuals will begin by searching for schools that are within travelling distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location must be considered when arriving at 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 other qualifications will be covered more in depth later in this article. But first, let's go over what a sonogram tech does and the credentials and online training options that are offered.
Sonogram Tech Work Description
There are multiple professional titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called ultrasound technologists, sonogram techs, and diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers). Regardless of name, they all have the same basic job description, which is to implement diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. While a number of techs practice as generalists there are specializations within the field, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority work in Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work functions of an ultrasound tech may consist of:
- Preserving records of patient case histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for use and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Operating equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and determining necessity for further testing
Ultrasound techs must routinely gauge the safety and performance of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to maintain that level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education programs on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degree Programs Offered
Sonogram tech enrollees have the choice to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically involve about 18 months to 2 years to complete dependent on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to 4 years to finish. Another option for those who have previously obtained a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have obtained a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a relevant medical field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to keep in mind is that most ultrasound technician programs do have a practical training component as a portion of their course of study. It can often be satisfied by participating in an internship program which numerous colleges sponsor through Birmingham AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from one of the degree or certificate programs, you will then need to fulfill the certification or licensing 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 Sonogram Tech Degrees
As earlier discussed, almost all sonogram technician colleges have a practical requirement to their programs. So although you can receive a certificate or degree online, a substantial portion of the training will be either carried out in an on-campus lab or at an authorized off campus facility. Clinical training can usually be satisfied through an internship at a local Birmingham ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. But the rest of the training and classes can be accessed online in your Birmingham home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that keep working while getting their degrees. In addition online programs are often less expensive than traditional alternatives. Expenses for commuting and study materials can be reduced also. But just as with any sonographer school you are looking at, check that the online school you choose is accredited. Among the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially important for licensing, certification and finding employment (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to learn outside of the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online degree may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Sonography Schools
Once you have decided on which degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of evaluating and comparing ultrasound technician schools. You will first probably want to choose whether you would rather access classes online or commute to a school campus in the Birmingham AL area. Clearly location will be significant if you select the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification as well. But there are other variables that you must also take into account, for example if the programs are accredited and if they offer internship programs. So in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are several questions that you may want to ask each sonography school before deciding.
Are the Sonogram Tech Schools Accredited? Most sonogram technician colleges have received some form of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still crucial to make sure that the program and school are accredited. One of 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 undergone a detailed evaluation of their teachers and course materials. If the program is online it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. All accrediting organizations should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides ensuring a premium education, accreditation will also help in acquiring financial assistance and student loans, which are many times not offered for non-accredited schools. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And numerous Birmingham AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry-level positions.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the sonogram tech colleges you are reviewing have associations with Birmingham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a way to fulfill the clinical training requirement for most programs. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Birmingham medical community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the ultrasound tech programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Birmingham AL home. Students who have chosen 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 importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions 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 class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the sonogram technician program also.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the sonographer program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, make certain 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 need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Ultrasound Technician Training
Choosing the ideal ultrasound technician degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to commencing a rewarding new career furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with meeting academic standards, you must be in at least fairly good physical health, able to stand for extended periods and able to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to position patients and maneuver heavy machines. Additional desirable talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay collected when confronted by an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse clearly and compassionately. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of questions that you need to ask each school you are considering. This holds true whether you enroll in an online degree or travel to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can evaluate each school, you will be able to narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can reach your goal to work as an ultrasound tech in Birmingham Alabama.