How to Find the Right Ultrasound Tech College Near Opelika Alabama
Since you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Opelika AL, the next step is to start the process of picking a college. To begin with, you must find the right program that will provide the necessary instruction to become a skilled professional. And because some states do mandate 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 assess and compare your choices. But exactly where does one begin? Most potential students will start by looking for schools that are within commuting distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Of course location and cost must be considered when making a decision, but there are additional significant factors also. For instance, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they provide internship programs. These and other qualifications will be covered more in depth later in this post. But first, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the degrees and online education options that are offered.
Sonographer Job Summary
There are multiple 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 primary job description, which is to carry out diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Even though many work as generalists there are specializations within the field, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. Most work in Opelika AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Standard daily job duties of a sonogram 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 use and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Utilizing equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying need for additional testing
Sonographers must routinely evaluate the safety and performance of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. In order to sustain that level of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs Available
Ultrasound technician students have the opportunity to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will normally involve around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish depending on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at up to four years to finish. Another option for those 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. One thing to bear in mind is that almost all ultrasound technician colleges do have a clinical training component as a portion of their course of study. It can often be fulfilled by entering into an internship program which many schools organize through Opelika AL hospitals and clinics. After you have graduated from any of the degree or certificate programs, you will then need to comply with the certification or licensing requirements in Alabama or whichever state you choose 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 Opelika 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 Ultrasound Tech Classes
As aforementioned, almost all sonogram technician colleges have a clinical component to their programs. So while you can earn a certificate or degree online, a substantial part of the training will be either carried out in an on-campus lab or at an authorized off campus medical care provider. Practical training can often be satisfied through an internship at a local Opelika ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. But the rest of the classes and training can be attended online in your Opelika home. This is particularly convenient for those students that continue working while obtaining their degrees. In addition online schools are frequently less expensive than on campus alternatives. Costs for study materials and commuting may be decreased as well. But just as with every ultrasound tech school you are looking at, confirm that the online school you choose is accredited. Among the most highly regarded accrediting agencies 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 away from the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online school could be the ideal option for you.
Subjects to Ask Ultrasound Technician Colleges
Once you have determined which certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating and comparing ultrasound tech colleges. You may first want to decide whether you will attend classes online or commute to a college campus in the Opelika AL area. Obviously location will be critical if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an important qualifier also. But there are other factors that you must also take into account, such as if the colleges are accredited and if they provide internship programs. Therefore in order to complete your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are a few questions that you may want to ask each ultrasound tech school before deciding.
Are the Ultrasound Technician Programs Accredited? The majority of sonogram technician colleges have acquired some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, it's still imperative to confirm 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). Schools obtaining accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a rigorous assessment of their instructors and course materials. If the program is online it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. All accrediting agencies 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 offered for non-accredited schools. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And a number of Opelika AL employers will only hire a graduate of an accredited program for entry level openings.
Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the sonogram tech colleges you are interested in have associations with Opelika AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a way to satisfy the clinical training requirement for most programs. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Opelika health care community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the sonographer schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Opelika AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide 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 often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the sonogram technician program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the ultrasound tech school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Opelika AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Opelika Ultrasound Tech Program
Choosing the ideal ultrasound tech degree or certificate program is an important first step to entering a gratifying new profession providing diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer colleges require that you have a high school diploma or a GED. Along with meeting academic standards, you need to be in at least reasonably good physical health, capable of standing for prolonged time frames and able to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy equipment. Other desirable skills include technical proficiency, the ability to keep collected when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have covered in this post, there are a number of questions that you need to ask each program you are reviewing. This is true whether you choose an online program or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can assess each college, you can narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the proper training, discipline and determination to succeed, you can achieve your objective to work as an ultrasound technologist in Opelika Alabama.