How to Pick an Accredited Sonography Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Once you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Decatur AL, it's time to begin the procedure of selecting a school. To begin with, you need to find the right program that will provide the appropriate training to become a qualified professional. And given that some states do require that ultrasound techs be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need to be prepared to pass a licensing or certification examination. So it's very important that you research each program in order to evaluate and compare your alternatives. But just where does one begin? A number of prospective students will start by searching for schools that are within commuting distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Of course location and cost need to be taken into account when making a decision, but there are other significant factors also. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they sponsor internships. These and other qualifiers will be addressed more in detail later in this post. But first, let's discuss what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online education options that are available.
Ultrasound Tech Occupation Summary
There are more than one acceptable 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 testing on patients. While many practice as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority work in Decatur AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Common daily work functions of an ultrasound technician can consist of:
- Keeping records of patient medical histories and specifics 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
- Moving patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Operating equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying need for further testing
Sonographers must routinely assess the performance and safety of their equipment. They also are held to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. So as to maintain that level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education courses on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs Offered
Sonogram technician students have the option to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually require around 18 months to 2 years to finish depending on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to four years to complete. Another alternative for those who have already 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 relevant health sector, you can enroll in a certificate program that will take just 12 to 18 months to finish. One thing to bear in mind is that almost all sonographer schools do have a clinical training component as part of their curriculum. It often may be satisfied by taking part in an internship program which many schools sponsor with Decatur AL hospitals and clinics. When you have graduated from one of the degree or certificate programs, you will then need to satisfy the certification or licensing requirements in Alabama or whichever 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 Decatur 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 Schools
As aforementioned, nearly all ultrasound technician schools have a clinical requirement to their programs. So although you can earn a degree or certificate online, a substantial portion 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 Decatur ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or family practice. However the balance of the classes and training may be accessed online in your Decatur home. This is especially beneficial for those students that keep working while getting their degrees. Plus online schools are often less expensive than on campus alternatives. Expenditures for study materials and commuting may be decreased as well. But similarly as with any sonography college you are reviewing, verify that the online school you choose is accredited. One of the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly crucial for certification, licensing 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 could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Ultrasound Tech Colleges
When you have decided on which degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating and comparing sonogram tech schools. You will first probably want to decide whether you will attend classes online or travel to a school campus in the Decatur AL area. Of course location will be critical if you decide on the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an important qualification also. But there are other factors that you should also take into account, for instance if the colleges are accredited and if they sponsor internship programs. Therefore in order to perform your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, following are several questions that you may want to ask each sonography school before deciding.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Programs Accredited? The majority of sonogram tech colleges have earned some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still imperative to verify 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 receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through 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 learning. All accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with guaranteeing a quality education, accreditation will also assist in acquiring financial aid and student loans, which are many times not offered for non-accredited schools. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And many Decatur AL health facilities will only hire a graduate of an accredited school for entry level openings.
Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the sonogram tech programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Decatur AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a means to satisfy the clinical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional connections in the Decatur health care community and help with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the ultrasound tech programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Decatur AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the ultrasound tech program as well.
Does the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the sonographer school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Decatur Ultrasound Tech Training
Choosing the right sonographer certificate or degree program is a crucial first step to entering a fulfilling new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician programs require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Apart from satisfying academic standards, you must be in at least reasonably good physical health, able to stand for extended durations with the ability to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy machines. Other beneficial skills include technical proficiency, the ability to remain collected when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have addressed in this article, there are several questions that you should ask each college you are looking at. This is true whether you select an online degree or drive to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can compare each school, you can narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the right training, discipline and determination to succeed, you can achieve your goal to work as a sonographer in Decatur Alabama.