So, How Do You Become an Ultrasound Technician?

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When you want to become an ultrasound technician, pinning people down on an exact answer on how to do that can be difficult. If you read certain sources, it appears that this field is just a one-year certificate. Then, the next thing you read claims that it is a 2-year Associate’s degree. We’ve even seen 4-year Bachelor’s programs. So, which is it? Here’s the weird part, they are all technically right. Confused? We were, too.

The length of the program is not a state or national requirement. In fact, it varies widely depending on the institution. The school puts together a plan on how they think  you should be educated and what you should learn. Then, they run it by the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs). If the CAAHEP feels that it meets their requirements, it gets accredited. Currently, there are almost 200 accredited programs for diagnostic medical sonography listed on the CAAHEP’s website; half are just a certificate and half are an Associate’s degree (or more).

The key is to make sure the program you sign up for is accredited. If it is not, run. Run far away. Not to knock non-accredited schools; for degree programs that have rapidly changing information, they work just fine. It  just doesn’t fly in the health care profession. At. All. Chances are you may not be allowed to sit for the SPI exam, which is the exam given by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography that you take after graduation to receive your license.

Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to specialities. When most people think of a career as an ultrasound technician, they immediately think of announcing the sex of an unborn child to the excited parents-to-be. That’s part of it but there are many other avenues to pursue in this career. You usually select to focus on one of three areas: general, cardiac or vascular. Each has its own corresponding license exam, in addition to the SPI exam.  Cardiac (heart) and vascular (veins) are self-explanatory. General encompasses the abdomen, OB/GYN, breast and neurosonography.  None of the three are better or worse than the others; it just depends on what interests you.

This is a good starting point. Do more research and learn about the career before you take the big step of starting an educational program.  Talk to some ultrasound technicians if you can and see what they like about their job, what they do, and other things that you can only learn by talking to someone.


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