How to Choose the Best Sonography Degree Program Near Huntsville Alabama
Since you have made a decision to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Huntsville AL, the next step is to start the process of choosing a school. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will furnish the necessary instruction to become a qualified professional. And since some states do mandate 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 so that you can evaluate and compare your options. But just where does one start? A number of individuals will start by looking for schools that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location must be considered when making a decision, but there are additional important factors as well. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they sponsor internships. These and other qualifiers will be discussed more in depth later in this article. But to start with, let's discuss what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are available.
Sonographer Work Summary
There are several professional titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. No matter what their title is, they all have the same basic job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound techniques on patients. Although many practice as generalists there are specialties within the field, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. Most work in Huntsville AL hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily work tasks of an ultrasound tech may involve:
- Preserving records of patient medical histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Preparing the ultrasound machines for testing and then cleaning and recalibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Utilizing equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Assessing results and identifying need for additional testing
Sonographers must routinely assess 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 maintain that degree of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are required to complete continuing education programs on a regular basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degrees Offered
Ultrasound tech enrollees have the choice to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically take around 18 months to 2 years to finish dependent on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at as long as four years to finalize. Another option 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 related health field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take just 12 to 18 months to complete. Something to keep in mind is that most ultrasound technician programs do have a clinical training element as a portion of their course of study. It can often be fulfilled by entering into an internship program which many schools organize with Huntsville AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the degree or certificate programs, you will then have to satisfy the certification or licensing requirements in Alabama or whatever state you decide 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 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.
Sonogram Tech Online Schools
As earlier discussed, almost all sonogram tech schools have a practical 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 laboratory or at an approved off campus facility. Practical training can often be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Huntsville ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. But the rest of the training and classes can be attended online in your Huntsville home. This is particularly beneficial for those individuals that keep working while earning their degrees. In addition online schools are often less costly than on campus options. Expenses for commuting and study materials may be decreased as well. But just as with any sonographer school you are reviewing, confirm that the online program you select is accredited. One of the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially important for certification, licensing 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 online classes could be the ideal choice for you.
Subjects to Ask Ultrasound Tech Colleges
As soon as you have determined which degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can initiate the process of assessing and comparing sonogram technician colleges. You may first want to choose whether you will attend classes online or travel to a college campus in the Huntsville AL area. Of course location will be significant if you decide on the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification also. But there are other variables that you must also take into account, for instance if the programs are accredited and if they offer internships. So in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are a few questions that you need ask each sonography program prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Colleges Accredited? Most ultrasound tech schools have earned some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Nevertheless, it's still imperative to confirm that the school and program are accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting organizations 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 undergone a rigorous evaluation of their instructors and educational materials. If the program is online it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. All accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in securing financial assistance and student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited colleges. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And a number of Huntsville AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry level openings.
Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the ultrasound technician colleges you are reviewing have associations with Huntsville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a means to satisfy the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Huntsville healthcare community and help with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the sonographer programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Huntsville AL home. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on 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 technician program also.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the ultrasound tech program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative 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 might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Huntsville Ultrasound Tech Program
Picking the ideal ultrasound technician degree or certificate program is a vital first step to entering a rewarding new profession delivering diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Along with satisfying academic requirements, you need to be in at least fairly good physical health, able to stand for prolonged durations with the ability to routinely lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy machines. Additional desirable talents include technical proficiency, the ability to stay collected when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse clearly and compassionately. As we have discussed in this article, there are multiple questions that you need to ask each school you are looking at. This is the case whether you choose an online program or commute to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can assess each school, you can narrow down your choices until you are left with the best program for your education. And with the right training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can realize your goal to practice as an ultrasound technologist in Huntsville Alabama.