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How to Find an Accredited Ultrasound Technician Degree Program Near Opelika Alabama

sonography diagnostic exam of pregnant woman in Opelika AlabamaSince you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Opelika AL, the next step is to begin the procedure of choosing a school. First, you need to find the ideal program that will provide the proper training to become a qualified professional. And since a number of states do require that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on your residence you may also need to be prepared to pass a certification or licensing exam. So it's very important that you research each program so that you can assess and compare your choices. But just where does one begin? A number of students will begin by searching for schools that are within travelling distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Naturally location and cost must be considered when making a decision, but there are additional significant factors also. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they provide internships. These and other qualifications will be covered more in depth later in this post. But to start with, let's discuss what a sonogram tech does and the credentials and online training options that are available.

Sonographer Work Description

Opelika Alabama ultrasound technician examining young woman

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. Regardless of name, they all have the same primary job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound techniques on patients. While a number of techs practice as generalists there are specialties within the field, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority work in Opelika AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily job duties of an ultrasound tech can involve:

  • Maintaining 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 cleaning 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 determining need for additional testing

Sonographers must routinely assess the performance and safety 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 remain current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on a regular basis.

Sonogram Tech Degree Programs Offered

Ultrasound 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 complete depending on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at as long as four years to finish. Another option for those who have already 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 relevant medical sector, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to keep in mind is that almost all ultrasound technician colleges do have a clinical training component as a portion of their curriculum. It can often be satisfied by taking part in an internship program which numerous colleges set up through Opelika AL hospitals and clinics. After you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to comply with the certification or licensing prerequisites in Alabama or whichever state you decide to practice in.

Ultrasound Technology Specialties

Opelika Alabama woman receiving ultrasound diagnostic exam for thyroid cancerUltrasound 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 Technician Programs

Opelika Alabama female student enrolled in ultrasound technician school onlineAs earlier discussed, almost all sonogram technician colleges have a practical component to their programs. So while you can receive a certificate or degree online, a significant part of the training will be either conducted in an on-campus laboratory or at an authorized off campus facility. Clinical training can usually be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Opelika ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. However the remainder of the training and classes may be attended online in your Opelika home. This is particularly convenient for those students that keep working while obtaining their degrees. In addition online colleges are many times more affordable than traditional alternatives. Expenditures for commuting and study materials may be lessened also. But just as with every sonography college you are reviewing, check that the online program you ultimately pick is accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially crucial for certification, licensing and job placement (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 may be the ideal option for you.

Points to Ask Sonography Schools

Now that you have decided on which certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing and comparing ultrasound tech colleges. You will first probably want to decide whether you would rather access classes online or commute to a school campus in the Opelika AL area. Clearly location will be important if you choose the latter, and the cost of tuition undoubtedly will be an initial qualifier as well. But there are other factors that you must also take into account, for instance if the schools are accredited and if they provide internship programs. So in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your ultimate selection, below are some questions that you need ask each sonography program before deciding.

Are the Sonogram Tech Schools Accredited? Most ultrasound tech colleges have received some form of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, it's still important to verify that the program and school are accredited. One of 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 earning accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone a detailed assessment of their instructors and educational materials. If the school is online it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. All accrediting organizations should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with ensuring a superior education, accreditation will also assist in getting financial aid and student loans, which are often not offered for non-accredited schools. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And a number of Opelika AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited program for entry-level jobs.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the sonogram technician programs you are reviewing have relationships with Opelika AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a means to fulfill the clinical training requirement for most programs. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Opelika healthcare community and assist with job placement.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the sonographer programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Opelika AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher 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 speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the sonogram tech program as well.

Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the ultrasound tech  program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Opelika AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Opelika Ultrasound Technician Schools

Choose the Best Opelika Ultrasound Tech Program

Enrolling in the right ultrasound technician degree or certificate program is an important first step to launching a rewarding new career delivering diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician colleges require that you have a high school diploma or a GED. Along with meeting academic standards, you should be in at least reasonably good physical health, capable of standing 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 machinery. Additional preferred skills include technical aptitude, the ability to remain calm when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. As we have covered in this post, there are several questions that you need to ask each school you are looking at. This is the case whether you select an online degree or travel to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the appropriate questions so that you can evaluate each school, you can narrow down your choices until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can accomplish your objective to work as an ultrasound technologist in Opelika Alabama.

 

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