How to Enroll in the Right Ultrasound Tech College Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Tuscaloosa AL, the next step is to begin the process of picking a school. To begin with, you have to find the ideal program that will provide the necessary education to become a skilled professional. And since some states do require that sonographers 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 college so that you can assess and compare your alternatives. But just where does one begin? Many prospective students will start by searching for colleges that are within travelling distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Of course location and cost should 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 offer internships. These and additional qualifications will be addressed more in detail later in this post. But first, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the credentials and online training programs that are available.
Sonographer Job Summary
There are several acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called ultrasound technologists, sonogram techs, and diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers). No matter what their title is, they all have the same primary job function, which is to implement diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Even though a number of techs practice as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority work in Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals, private practices or outpatient diagnostic imaging centers. Common daily job functions of a sonogram tech may involve:
- Preserving records of patient case histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for use and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Using equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying need for additional testing
Sonographers must frequently evaluate the performance and safety 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 up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education programs on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degrees Offered
Sonogram technician enrollees have the opportunity to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will generally take around 18 months to 2 years to finish based upon the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to 4 years to finish. Another option for individuals who have already obtained a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have obtained a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a related health sector, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require just 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to bear in mind is that almost all ultrasound technician programs do have a practical training element as a portion of their course of study. It can often be fulfilled by entering into an internship program which many colleges organize with Tuscaloosa AL clinics and hospitals. After you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then have to fulfill the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whatever 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 Tuscaloosa 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 Programs
As previously mentioned, almost all sonogram tech schools have a clinical component to their programs. So although you can earn a certificate or degree online, a significant part of the training will be either conducted in an on campus laboratory or at an approved off-campus medical care provider. Practical training can typically be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Tuscaloosa ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or private practice. However the balance of the training and classes may be attended online in your Tuscaloosa home. This is particularly beneficial for those individuals that keep working while obtaining their degrees. In addition online schools are many times more affordable than on-campus alternatives. Expenses for commuting and study materials can be reduced also. But just as with any ultrasound tech program you are reviewing, check that the online school you select is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly significant for licensing, certification and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are motivated enough to learn away from the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online school could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Sonogram Tech Programs
When you have decided on which certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can initiate the process of evaluating and comparing sonogram technician schools. You may first want to decide whether you will attend classes online or commute to a school campus in the Tuscaloosa AL area. Of course location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification also. But there are additional factors that you should also take into account, for example if the schools are accredited and if they provide internship programs. Therefore in order to perform your due diligence so that you can make your ultimate selection, following are several questions that you may want to ask each sonography program prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Colleges Accredited? The majority of ultrasound tech colleges have received some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, it's still crucial to verify that the program and school are accredited. Among 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 receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone a rigorous examination of their instructors and course materials. If the school is online it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. All accrediting agencies should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides guaranteeing a superior education, accreditation will also help in obtaining financial aid and student loans, which are many times not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And many Tuscaloosa AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited college for entry-level jobs.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the ultrasound tech colleges you are interested in have partnerships with Tuscaloosa AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a means to satisfy the practical training requirement for the majority of programs. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa health care community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the ultrasound tech programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial 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 a lot of students, the college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Tuscaloosa AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. 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 converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the sonogram tech program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the sonographer school you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Ultrasound Tech Training
Choosing the right ultrasound technician degree or certificate program is a vital first step to entering a gratifying new career furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician colleges require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Along with satisfying academic standards, you should be in at least fairly good physical health, able to stand for lengthy periods with the ability to regularly lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy equipment. Additional preferred talents include technical proficiency, the ability to remain levelheaded when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have addressed in this post, there are multiple questions that you need to ask each college you are considering. This is true whether you choose an online program or commute to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can compare each school, you can narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can reach your goal to work as a sonographer in Tuscaloosa Alabama.