Ultrasound Technician Certification: How to Become a Certified Ultrasound Technician

Learn how to become an ultrasound technician and all about ultrasound technician schools, training and education.
Compare ultrasound tech programs  

Ultrasound Tech Career Facts

Reasons to Get Your Ultrasound Technician Certification

Many parents have gone to the doctor for a checkup and had a picture of their unborn baby taken by the ultrasound technician.

Ultrasound Technicians are the allied healthcare professionals who create medical images of babies in the womb, alongside many other important sonography tasks.

Sonography makes use of equipment or an ultrasound machine to make images of tissues, bones, organs, and blood vessels of the patient. An ultrasound technician is considered a frontliner in healthcare.

You will deal personally with patients as you test them for various diseases and conditions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that degree holders of diagnostic medical sonography earn an average of $72,510 every year. You can also get an associate’s degree, which takes only two years, as an entry-level education to become an ultrasound technician.

Being an ultrasound technician opens you to a whole world of opportunities. You will be amply rewarded, not just in terms of the paycheck but also in the sense that you are helping others.

The industry is projected to grow as more hospitals, laboratories, and other healthcare facilities are in need of ultrasound technicians for their institutions. In fact, medical sonography lands third on the US News and World Report’s best healthcare support jobs list.

The job growth is also expected to spike 14% through 2028, which is 7% faster compared to the other industries.

Do States Require Ultrasound Technicians to be Certified?

No state in the US requires ultrasound technicians to be certified. However, it doesn’t mean that the industry itself has no quality standards.

Most hospitals, clinics, and laboratories will ask for your credentials before they will consider your application. That’s because the certificate will be the proof that you finished the required education and clinical experience to be competent of your job.

You could lose out to other applicants who possess at least one certification.

So Why Get Credentials?

As already mentioned, your credential will be your only proof that you meet the quality standards set by the industry.

This is confirmed by the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), which says that healthcare facilities and insurance providers should always ask for certification and experience in the field before hiring applicants.

The sonography field is very competitive. You need all the edge you can get to secure a stable job with a high entry-level salary. Plus, insurance companies won’t even pay the bill from the hospital if the procedure is not done by a certified ultrasound technician or a diagnostic medical sonographer.

Are You Passionate for this Career?

Even if you excel in academics, it doesn’t automatically make you the best diagnostic medical sonographer. Of course, you need a lot of problem-solving skills to make accurate reports from the images.

However, you need a lot of empathy, as well as a basic understanding of human psychology. You need to understand that some patients may be nervous about the procedure because it’s something unfamiliar to them. It’s your job to explain the process to them to calm their nerves.

The job presents a lot of challenges, which can make it a very interesting career indeed. You need to have extensive knowledge of anatomy and pathology to determine what types of images you need to take.

Sonography is an evolving industry that was typically associated with obstetrics, but now ultrasound is extensively used in various applications.

Earning Your Ultrasound Certification

To earn your credential as a diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technician, you need to:

  • Finish all educational units from an accredited program
  • Complete all the required number of hours of on-the-job training
  • Pass at least one certifying exam

Degrees for Ultrasound Technician or Sonogram Specialists

The degree options for an Ultrasound tech program are:

  • 1-year certificate or diploma
  • 2-year associate’s degree
  • 4-year bachelor’s degree

Majority of sonographers in the industry today are associate degree holders.

However, if you really want to have an edge, you can take further studies and earn your bachelor’s degree, which will give you even more options.

Meanwhile, if you want to start your career immediately, you can choose certificate or diploma programs, which typically last from 12 to 18 months. However, they require that you have experience in healthcare before you can be accepted into the program.

You will learn a combination of classroom teaching and practical clinical application whether it is in a span of one or four years. During your externship, you will be supervised by a technologist as you will deal with patients in real-life scenarios.

Make sure, however, that you only enroll in a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Employers will always look for a certification from the CAAHEP to make sure that what you learn is up to the standards of the industry. Another organization that issues accreditation is the Canadian Medical Association.

Finally, you need to pass a national certification exam as the last step to get your certification.

Types of Sonography and Ultrasound Certification

The good thing about this career is that you can choose from the different types of specializations. These types have different requirements to determine eligibility.

The three certifying bodies are:

Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI):

  • Registered Vascular Specialist
  • Registered Cardiac Sonographer
  • Advanced Cardiac Sonographer
  • Registered Phlebology Sonographer
  • Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT):

  • Breast Sonography
  • Sonography
  • Vascular Sonography

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS):

  • Adult Echocardiography
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Fetal Echocardiography
  • Vascular Technology
  • Pediatric Echocardiography
  • Pediatric Sonography
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Breast
  • Abdomen

How Much Should I Spend for the Certification?

After passing your course and earning your degree, you need to pass the certification exam from the certifying agency. The exam could be more than one.

The cost will depend on what type of exam you will take:

  • The ARRT collects from $200-400 for the examination application fee
  • The ARDMS collects $225-$250 for the application fee
  • The CCI collects $365-$450 for the application fee

What Does it Take to Be Certified?

There are several ways for you to get the certification. Each option will have varying degrees of challenges and requirements. The length of time to secure certification will depend on the certifying body, which has its distinct process.

  • ARRT: You need at least a two-year associate’s degree to secure an ARRT certificate. You can also secure a second credential, but you have to finish a certain number of units and hours in clinical procedures to be eligible.
  • ARDMS: To get an ARDMS certificate, you should first complete a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. The bachelor’s degree must be related to sonography. Finally, you should have at least one year’s experience in clinical ultrasound.
  • CCI: You need to have both an educational background and extensive experience in a clinical setting before you get credentialed by the CCI. Each exam will need unique requirements.

Period to Secure the Certification

The certifying body will be instrumental in how long you can get your certification, along with the requirements needed to secure your credentials.

  • ARDMS: The ARDMS certification requires a renewal fee that you pay each year. There are also certain policies you need to comply, including more education credits, as well as a renewal every six years.
  • ARRT: The ARRT requires a fee that you pay every year. Every 24 months you will also need to complete more units. Every decade, you will also be required to finish further qualification requirements to refresh your knowledge.
  • CCI: You must be active for at least 9 months after hurdling the exam. On your first renewal, you will be required to sign a code of ethics agreement and pay a fee. On the succeeding renewals, you will have to earn more units every three years apart from paying a fee and signing the agreement.

How Much Do Ultrasound Technicians Make?

In the US, the annual median salary of diagnostic medical sonographers is $72,510. The salaries vary according to your experience, degree qualifications, the institution that hired you, and the state you are located in.

The highest 10% earn over $99,840 while the lowest 10% earn $50,760 or less. Sonographers who managed to land in outpatient care centers typically get a good salary at an average of $81,200. Meanwhile, those who work in laboratories earn an average of $69,690.

How to Ensure that Ultrasound Technician Schools are Accredited

The CAAHEP-accredited programs typically offer the following courses:

  • Patient care
  • Applications of ultrasound
  • Image evaluation
  • Physical sciences
  • Instrumentation
  • Applied biological sciences
  • Clinical medicine
  • Related diagnostic procedures

Aside from learning the theories behind these courses, you will also undergo a competency-based training to help enhance your knowledge on the ultrasound equipment and also with patients.

Depending on the job, you may need additional certification from a designated organization. The CCI and ARDMS require CAAHEP certification or the Canadian Medical Association before you can be hired. Meanwhile, you can check the approved accrediting agencies to ensure you don’t miss out on anything.

You need an educational background for a career in ultrasound technician. The fact that you are reading this is already due diligence on your part. Now, that you have some inkling over what to do, the next step is to contact the accredited school so you can get more information.

If you are interested in becoming an ultrasound technician then click on the blue “Find Schools” button to search ultrasound technician programs.

Get Started on Your Ultrasound Technician Training

Find a School Today

Search, compare, and even get matched to the best ultrasound technician program for you.