How to Enroll in an Accredited Sonography Course Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Once you have made a decision to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Tuscaloosa AL, the next step is to start the process of selecting a school. First, you must find the right program that will furnish the proper instruction to become a qualified professional. And since a number of states do mandate that ultrasound techs be either licensed or certified, 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 evaluate and compare your choices. But exactly where does one begin? Most potential students will begin by searching for colleges that are within commuting distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Naturally location and cost must be considered when making a decision, but there are other important factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they offer internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be covered more in depth later in this post. But to start with, let's go over what a sonogram tech does and the credentials and online education options that are offered.
Sonogram Tech Work Description
There are several 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 basic job description, which is to carry out diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Although many work as generalists there are specializations within the field, for example in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority practice in Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work tasks of an ultrasound tech can involve:
- Maintaining records of patient medical histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for usage and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Operating equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Assessing results and determining necessity for additional testing
Sonographers must regularly evaluate the safety and performance of their machines. They also are held to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. So as to maintain that degree of professionalism and remain up to date with medical knowledge, they are required to complete continuing education programs on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs Available
Sonogram technician enrollees have the opportunity to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually require around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish depending on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at as long as four years to finish. Another alternative for those who have previously received 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 field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to complete. Something to bear in mind is that most sonographer programs do have a practical training element as a portion of their course of study. It can often be fulfilled by participating in an internship program which many schools sponsor through Tuscaloosa AL clinics and hospitals. Once 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 elect 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 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.
Sonogram Tech Online Schools
As earlier discussed, almost all ultrasound tech colleges have a clinical requirement to their programs. So while you can earn a degree or certificate 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 through an internship at a local Tuscaloosa ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or family practice. However the remainder of the classes and training may be accessed online in your Tuscaloosa home. This is particularly beneficial for those students that continue working while getting their degrees. Plus online colleges are frequently less costly than traditional alternatives. Expenses for study materials and commuting can be reduced also. But just as with any sonographer school you are considering, make sure 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 particularly significant for certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to learn away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online degree may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Sonography Colleges
Once you have decided on the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can start the procedure of reviewing and comparing sonogram tech colleges. You may first want to decide whether you would rather attend classes online or commute to a school campus in the Tuscaloosa AL area. Naturally location will be important if you select the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification as well. But there are additional factors that you must also take into account, for example if the schools are accredited and if they sponsor internship programs. So in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, following are a few questions that you need ask each sonographer program prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Schools Accredited? A large number of ultrasound technician schools have obtained some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, 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). Schools receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone a detailed evaluation of their teachers and educational materials. If the college is online it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. All accrediting organizations should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in getting financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And many Tuscaloosa AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited program for entry level jobs.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the sonogram tech colleges you are interested in have relationships with Tuscaloosa AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a means to satisfy the practical training requirement for the majority of programs. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa healthcare community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the ultrasound tech schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Tuscaloosa AL residence. Those who have opted 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 importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are looking at 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 decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the ultrasound technician program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the sonographer school you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Tuscaloosa Ultrasound Tech Training
Picking the ideal sonographer degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to commencing a fulfilling new profession furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician programs require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with meeting academic requirements, you should be in at least reasonably good physical condition, capable of standing for lengthy durations and able to regularly lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it frequently necessary to position patients and move heavy equipment. Additional preferred skills include technical proficiency, the ability to keep calm when confronted by an angry or anxious 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 considering. This holds true whether you enroll in an online program or travel to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can evaluate each program, you can narrow down your choices until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the right training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can reach your objective to practice as an ultrasound technologist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.