How to Enroll in the Right Ultrasound Tech College Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Muscle Shoals AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a college. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will provide the appropriate education to become a skilled professional. And since a number of states do require that ultrasound techs be either certified or licensed, depending on your residence you may also need to be prepared to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it's very important that you research each college in order to assess and compare your options. But exactly where does one start? Most prospective students will start by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Of course cost and location need to be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are additional significant factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they sponsor internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be discussed more in detail later in this article. But to start with, let's discuss what a sonogram tech does and the credentials and online education options that are available.
Ultrasound Tech Job Summary
There are several acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as 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 perform diagnostic ultrasound techniques on patients. While a number of techs work as generalists there are specialties within the field, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Muscle Shoals AL hospitals, clinics, private practices or outpatient diagnostic imaging centers. Routine daily work tasks 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 usage and then cleaning and recalibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Operating equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying need for additional testing
Ultrasound techs must frequently gauge the safety and performance of their machines. They also are held to a high professional standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to maintain that degree of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education programs on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Tech Degree Programs Available
Sonogram tech enrollees have the opportunity to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will generally require about 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 four years to finish. Another option for those who have previously obtained 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 related health field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take only 12 to 18 months to finish. One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of sonographer schools do have a clinical training element as a portion of their curriculum. It often may be fulfilled by taking part in an internship program which many schools sponsor with Muscle Shoals 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 prerequisites in Alabama or whichever state you elect 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 Muscle Shoals 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.
Sonographer Online Colleges
As previously mentioned, virtually all ultrasound 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 authorized off-campus facility. Clinical training can often be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Muscle Shoals ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. However the rest of the training and classes may be accessed online in your Muscle Shoals home. This is particularly beneficial for those students that keep working while obtaining their degrees. Plus online colleges are often less costly than on campus options. Expenditures for study materials and commuting can be lessened also. But similarly as with any sonographer college you are considering, 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 particularly important for certification, licensing and finding employment (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to learn away from the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online degree could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Ultrasound Technician Schools
When you have determined which degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating and comparing sonogram tech colleges. You may first want to choose whether you would rather attend classes online or travel to a school campus in the Muscle Shoals AL area. Certainly location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualifier also. But there are additional variables that you should also take into account, such as if the schools are accredited and if they offer internship programs. Therefore in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are several questions that you may want to ask each sonographer school prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Schools Accredited? A large number of ultrasound technician colleges have obtained some form of accreditation, whether regional or national. However, it's still important 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). Schools obtaining accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone an extensive assessment of their teachers and educational materials. If the program is online it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. All accrediting organizations should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides guaranteeing a superior education, accreditation will also assist in obtaining financial assistance and student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited colleges. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And numerous Muscle Shoals AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited college for entry level jobs.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the sonogram technician programs you are interested in have relationships with Muscle Shoals AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a means to satisfy the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Muscle Shoals health care community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the ultrasound tech programs you are reviewing 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 good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Muscle Shoals AL residence. Students who have opted 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 importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the sonogram tech program also.
Does the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the ultrasound tech school you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Muscle Shoals AL area, verify 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 need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Muscle Shoals Ultrasound Technician Training
Selecting the ideal ultrasound technician degree or certificate program is a vital first step to embarking on a rewarding new profession delivering diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer programs require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Apart from meeting academic requirements, you should be in at least reasonably good physical health, able to stand for lengthy time frames with the ability to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to position patients and move heavy machinery. Additional desirable talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay collected when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have covered in this article, there are multiple questions that you should ask each school you are reviewing. This is the case whether you select an online degree or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can assess 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 motivation to succeed, you can realize your objective to work as an ultrasound tech in Muscle Shoals Alabama.