How to Enroll in the Best Ultrasound Tech College Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Once you have decided to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Tuscaloosa AL, the next step is to start the procedure of choosing a school. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will provide the necessary training to become a qualified professional. And because a number of states do require that sonographers be either certified or licensed, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it's extremely important that you research each college so that you can assess and compare your alternatives. But exactly where does one begin? A number of prospective students will begin by searching for colleges that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Certainly cost and location need to be taken into account when arriving at a decision, but there are additional important factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they provide internships. These and other qualifications will be discussed more in depth later in this post. But to start with, let's go over what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are offered.
Ultrasound Tech Work Summary
There are several acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. No matter what their title is, they all have the same primary job function, which is to implement diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though a number of techs practice as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for instance in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority work in Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work tasks of a sonogram tech may include:
- Maintaining records of patient case histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Preparing the ultrasound machines for usage and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Utilizing equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying need for supplemental testing
Sonographers must frequently gauge 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 level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education programs on a regular basis.
Sonogram Tech Degrees Available
Sonogram technician students have the opportunity to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually require about 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 4 years to finish. Another option for individuals who have already received a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have received a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a related health field, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to consider is that the majority of ultrasound technician colleges do have a clinical training component as part of their curriculum. It often may be fulfilled by entering into an internship program which many schools organize through Tuscaloosa AL hospitals and clinics. After you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to satisfy the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whatever 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 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 Technician Degrees
As aforementioned, almost all sonogram tech schools have a practical requirement to their programs. So although you can obtain a certificate or degree online, a significant portion of the training will be either held in an on-campus laboratory or at a sponsored off campus medical care provider. Practical training can usually be satisfied through an internship at a local Tuscaloosa ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. But the balance of the classes and training can be accessed online in your Tuscaloosa home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that continue working while earning their degrees. Plus online colleges are often less expensive than on campus alternatives. Expenses for study materials and commuting can be decreased as well. But similarly as with every ultrasound tech school you are reviewing, make sure that the online school you choose is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially crucial for licensing, certification and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are motivated enough to learn outside of the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then online classes could be the ideal choice for you.
Subjects to Ask Sonography Colleges
As soon as you have determined which certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing and comparing sonogram technician colleges. You will first probably want to decide whether you would rather attend classes online or travel to a college campus in the Tuscaloosa AL area. Obviously location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification as well. But there are other factors that you should also take into account, for example if the colleges are accredited and if they provide internship programs. Therefore in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, below are several questions that you need ask each ultrasound tech program prior to making a decision.
Are the Sonogram Technician Schools Accredited? The majority of sonogram tech colleges have acquired some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still important 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 receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone an extensive examination of their instructors and course materials. If the program is online it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. All accrediting organizations should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also assist in securing financial assistance and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And a number of Tuscaloosa AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited college for entry level jobs.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the sonogram technician colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with Tuscaloosa AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a way to satisfy the practical training requirement for most programs. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the ultrasound tech programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Tuscaloosa 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 concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are researching what the average teacher to student 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 ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Ultrasound Technician Program
Picking the right sonographer degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to commencing a fulfilling new profession furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to meeting academic standards, you must be in at least reasonably good physical health, capable of standing for extended durations and able to regularly lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it frequently necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy machinery. Other desirable skills include technical proficiency, the ability to keep levelheaded when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have discussed in this post, there are multiple questions that you should ask each program you are reviewing. This holds true whether you enroll in an online program or commute to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can assess each school, you will be able to narrow down your options until you are left with the best school for your education. And with the right training, discipline and motivation to succeed, you can realize your goal to work as an ultrasound technologist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.