How to Find the Best Sonography College Near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Huntsville AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a college. First, you need to find the right program that will furnish the proper education to become a skilled professional. And since a number of states do require that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on your residence you may also need preparation to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it's extremely important that you research each college in order to assess and compare your options. But exactly where does one start? Most prospective students will begin by looking for schools that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Certainly cost and location need to be taken into account when making a decision, but there are other important factors as well. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they provide internship programs. These and other qualifications will be discussed more in detail later in this article. But first, let's go over what a sonogram tech does and the credentials and online education programs that are available.
Ultrasound Technician Work Description
There are several acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. Regardless of name, they all have the same basic job description, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Although many work as generalists there are specialties within the field, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals, private practices or outpatient diagnostic imaging centers. Typical daily work tasks of a sonogram technician can involve:
- Preserving records of patient medical 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
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Using equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Assessing results and identifying need for additional testing
Sonographers must regularly assess the performance and safety of their machines. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to sustain that level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are required to complete continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Technician Degree Programs Offered
Ultrasound technician enrollees have the option to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will generally require around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish depending on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to 4 years to complete. Another option for individuals who have previously earned a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have earned a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a relevant medical sector, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take just 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to consider is that most ultrasound technician schools do have a clinical training component as a portion of their curriculum. It often may be satisfied by participating in an internship program which numerous colleges organize through Huntsville AL clinics and hospitals. When you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to satisfy the certification or licensing requirements 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 Huntsville 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.
Ultrasound Tech Online Schools
As previously mentioned, virtually all ultrasound tech schools have a clinical component to their programs. So although you can obtain a degree or certificate online, a substantial part of the training will be either conducted in an on campus lab or at a sponsored off campus medical care provider. Clinical training can often be satisfied through an internship at a local Huntsville ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or private practice. But the rest of the classes and training may be accessed online in your Huntsville home. This is especially convenient for those individuals that keep working while getting their degrees. In addition online schools are frequently less costly than on campus alternatives. Costs for commuting and study materials can be reduced also. But just as with any sonographer school you are reviewing, verify that the online program you choose is accredited. One of the most highly regarded accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly crucial 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 degree may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Ultrasound Tech Colleges
Once you have determined which degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of reviewing and comparing ultrasound tech colleges. You will first probably want to decide whether you would rather access classes online or travel to a school campus in the Huntsville AL area. Obviously location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an important qualification also. But there are additional variables that you should also take into account, for instance if the colleges are accredited and if they provide internships. Therefore in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, following are a few questions that you may want to ask each sonography program before deciding.
Are the Sonogram Tech Schools Accredited? Most ultrasound technician schools have acquired some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Nevertheless, it's still crucial to confirm that the school and program 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 receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a rigorous assessment of their teachers and educational materials. If the program is online it might 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. Besides ensuring a premium education, accreditation will also help in obtaining financial aid and student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And numerous Huntsville AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry level positions.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the sonogram technician programs you are reviewing have associations with Huntsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a way to fulfill the practical training requirement for the majority of programs. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Huntsville healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the ultrasound tech schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Huntsville AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the ultrasound tech program as well.
Does the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the ultrasound tech college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville Ultrasound Tech Program
Enrolling in the right ultrasound technician certificate or degree program is an important first step to commencing a rewarding new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech colleges require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Along with meeting academic requirements, you need to be in at least fairly good physical condition, able to stand for extended periods with the ability to routinely lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it often necessary to position patients and maneuver heavy machines. Other desirable talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay collected when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse clearly and compassionately. As we have addressed in this post, there are a number of questions that you need to ask each college you are reviewing. This holds true whether you choose an online degree or drive to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can evaluate each school, you will be able to narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the right training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can reach your objective to practice as an ultrasound tech in Huntsville Alabama.