Are you interested in becoming an Ultrasound Technician? Becoming a certified ultrasound technician can lead to many opportunities in an industry that is rapidly evolving.
Ultrasound technicians use their expertise to assist doctors and nurses in improving patient care by providing diagnostic imaging services.
If that sounds interesting, this is the article for you! Here’s what we’ll cover:
- How to become an ultrasound technician
- How long it takes
- Certification pathways
- Salaries and how to find a job
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
How to Become An Ultrasound Technician
In basic terms, becoming an ultrasound technician requires a 4-year bachelor’s in health sciences, a 2-year associate’s degree and/or a 12-18 month certification accreditation for those already working in healthcare. Education must be overseen or accredited by the American Registration of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Acquiring certification is State-dependent in some cases.
If all that sounds a little complicated, don’t worry we’ll break it all down for you. Read on.
How Long Does it Take to Become an Ultrasound Technician?
To become an Ultrasound Technician, it is necessary to have a minimum of two years of an Associate of Science (AAS) in diagnostic medical sonography.
Students who have a degree in a patient-care-related field may be able to apply for shorter-term certificate programs.
To study ultrasound technology programs, students must have completed college-level math, science, and English courses. Program completion times vary depending on specific program requirements.
1. Certificate Program
The Certificate Program is designed for healthcare professionals and it takes approximately 12-18 months to complete.
This program prepares students for entry-level sonography positions by providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to specialize in the field.
2. Associate Degree
The Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography program typically takes two years to complete and can lead to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree with a specialization in sonography. The program prepares students for a career as a practising sonographer.
Students who choose to become sonographers must first become certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) before they are eligible to take examinations through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).
3. Bachelor’s Degree
The Bachelor of Science degree in diagnostic medical sonography typically takes four years to complete, and it prepares students to become practicing sonographers.
To be eligible to take examinations through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), you have to choose a program accredited by CAAHEP.
To determine the right program for you, do your research and choose one that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Ultrasound Technician Certification
A certification is a professional credential or license that indicates that you have specific knowledge or skills.
After completing a sonography program, students can prepare to take the certification exams. Two major organizations provide certification:
- American Registration of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
ARRT provides two ways to gain access to its ultrasound certification:
1. The main route includes the recent completion of an ultrasound program
2. The post-primary pathway is for those who are certified and registered with the ARRT, and who seek additional credentials.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers 15 credentials that cover a variety of medical disciplines such as mammography, bone densitometry, and vascular sonography.
Certification is valid for one year and to renew your license, you must provide proof of continuing education.
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) provides these five certifications:
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS),
- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
- Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer (RMSKS)
- Midwife Sonography Certificate
ARDMS requires different exams for each of the credentials it offers.
The ARDMS Certificate Renewal Program was paused in January 2020. At this time, it is unknown how the program will continue to operate but it is expected that it will not include retaking the initial credentialing examination.
Beginning in 2020, students must have an associate degree to become eligible for certification exams at the ARRT.
States may also have specific requirements for medical sonographer licensing. According to the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), only four states (New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon) have established licensing processes for this occupation.
Other organizations that administer ultrasound licenses include, but are not limited to:
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO) – provides certification in ophthalmic sonography.
- The Ultrasound Guidelines Council (UGC) – provides ultrasound certification to technicians and their practices who carry out ultrasound scans on livestock.
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) – provides certifications in cardiac, vascular and phlebological sonography.
Ultrasound Technician Vs Sonographer Vs Radiology Technician: What’s The Difference?
Ultrasound Technician Vs Sonographer
Ultrasound technicians and sonographers operate under the same guidelines and rules. The difference between the two professions is purely a matter of semantics.
Ultrasound technicians are trained to perform ultrasounds on adults and children, while sonographers are trained to perform ultrasounds on pregnant women and babies in utero.
Ultrasound technicians are also responsible for administering ultrasound exams to patients, while sonographers may perform both non-invasive and invasive examinations.
Both professions have very different responsibilities and skillsets. For example, an ultrasound technician must be able to use their hands and hands-free equipment like a wand or probe while performing an ultrasound exam (which requires a lot of fine motor control), while a sonographer must be able to see through their own eyes what they’re seeing through the patient’s eyes during an ultrasound exam (which requires excellent vision).
Ultrasound Technicians Vs Radiology Technicians
Ultrasound technicians and radiology technicians are two highly trained and skilled healthcare professionals. They have different roles, responsibilities, and duties
Ultrasound technicians work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and imaging centers, outpatient clinics, and private offices. They are also called sonographers.
Ultrasound technicians are trained to operate and interpret diagnostic ultrasound equipment, including transducers and fluoroscopes to make images of internal organs and tissues for medical diagnostics and treatment.
Ultrasound technicians may specialize in obstetrics, cardiology, orthopedics, or musculoskeletal.
Radiology Technicians perform diagnostic imaging procedures using x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine scans, and more.
Radiology technicians may specialize in obstetrics, cardiology, orthopedics, or musculoskeletal.
They may work directly with patients as an assistant to a radiologist or they may work under the supervision of a technician who performs the actual procedure in a hospital setting
Both Ultrasound Technicians and Radiology Technicians have similar educational requirements to become certified as such professionals. They must first complete an associate degree program or bachelor’s degree program in nursing or health sciences before they can apply for certification as an ultrasound technician or radiology technician respectively.
Ultrasound Technician Jobs
Choosing a career in ultrasound technology can be exciting and rewarding, but it’s important to understand that some states offer better job opportunities than others.
According to our research, North Dakota is the best state for ultrasound technologists (in terms of lowest competition per place), while California and North Dakota are the two states with the highest average salaries.
The average annual salary for ultrasound technologists in North Dakota is $99,632 and California has the highest median salary among all 50 states.
Those certified can find jobs via the usual processes, specifically online job portals like indeed.com, etc. It’s also worth networking on LinkedIn to secure top-paying jobs and positions.
Ultrasound Technician Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average annual salary for an ultrasound technician in 2021 was $77,740.
It also reports that ultrasound technologists in the bottom 10 percent of earners made $59,000 annually, whereas those in the top 10 percent earned more than $100,000.
The figures are based on a national average and may vary depending on the location.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.