What to Look For in a Sonography Program
Once you have decided on the degree that you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes online or on campus, you can begin narrowing down your list of school options. There are numerous ultrasound tech schools and colleges in the United States alone, so its important to have a checklist to refine your choices so that you can ultimately make your final selection. The cost of tuition and additional expenses is one of the most important qualifiers and will immediately limit your possibilities depending on your budget. Following are some additional important factors that you need to research before making your final selection.
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Are the Ultrasound Technician School and Degree Programs Accredited? Many sonography schools and programs have earned either a regional or a national accreditation, or both. One of the most highly regarded accrediting agencies in this field is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS). Colleges receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a comprehensive screening of their curriculum and their instructors. Online schools may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance learning. Make sure that the degree program as well as the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education, or a Council on Higher Education Accreditation recognized accrediting organization. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools.
What are the Graduation and Job Placement Rates? Find out from the schools you are considering what their graduation rates are. Also, how long on average does it take students to complete the program? A low graduation rate could be an indication that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out, or that the instructors were not adept or qualified to teach the syllabus. It is also important that the school has a high job placement rate. Older schools have a broader list of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to use for their job placement and internship programs. A high job placement rate will not only help confirm that the school has a good reputation within the industry, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students obtain positions or internships upon graduation.
Check the Campus Facilities and Location. Unless you are willing to relocate, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your home. Taking courses online may be an option that will give you more flexibility for attending classes and reduce the need for travel. however the clinical portion of the training will have to be satisfied through a local internship or on campus. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs it may require higher tuition fees than for in-state students. Also be sure to check out the campus facilities in person before paying your first tuition payment. Make sure that they are high-tech and that the equipment you will be training on is state of the art.
Does the School Sponsor Internship Programs? One of the best ways to get hands on experience as an ultrasound tech is to work out in the field. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with local hospitals, clinics or labs for internship programs. Not only will the experience be rewarding as far as clinical training, but it may also help establish relationships in the local medical community and help open doors when looking for a position upon graduation.
How large are the Classes? You will want as much one-on-one instruction as possible, which will be hard to receive in very large classes. Ask if you can monitor some classes so that you can experience the interaction between faculty and students and get an idea how large the classes are. Speak with some of the students and find out what their experience has been regarding class sizes and the instruction that they have received. Finally, speak with some of the teachers and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees they hold.
Does the College offer Flexible Class Scheduling? One final item to check is if the sonography school offers flexible class scheduling which can accommodate your busy schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends, be sure to consider only those schools that offer night and weekend classes. If the school requires a full-time schedule and you can only attend part-time, then you may have to consider a different school. Also, find out if there is an option to make up classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies. The last thing that you will want to do is set yourself up for failure with a class schedule that will be difficult to attend.