How to Become an Ultrasound Technician: Programs, Degrees & Certificates

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Ultrasound Tech Career Facts

Becoming an Ultrasound Technician: Degrees & Certificates

Ultrasound Technicians work on the frontline of healthcare by scanning internal organs to help doctors in the diagnostic process.

In case you were wondering, yes it is ultrasound technicians who tell pregnant patients if they’re having a boy or a girl.

It is a very interesting, versatile and rewarding career that may interest you.

If you think you would enjoy being an ultrasound tech then learning some about the educational requirements will help guide your decision.

Let’s start out by considering some of the good reasons to become an ultrasound technician and then go over the education requirements sharing the various degree and certificate options.

Reasons to Become an Ultrasound Technician

Being an ultrasound technician can be a rewarding and stable career with steady growth and advancement opportunities.

Here are some of the reasons why you should consider being one:

  1. Earn a good living: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the medical sonographers earn an annual salary of at least $72,510. Of course, this will increase depending on the length of service and experience.
  2. Jumpstart your career early: Students who want to get ultrasound training may take an associate degree, which only lasts two years. You can even get your certificate for less than that if you have previous experience in the medical or health profession.
  3. Work in diverse environments: Ultrasound is typically associated with knowing the child’s gender inside the tummy, but ultrasound imaging is actually used in various disciplines in the medical field. The ultrasound technician wouldn’t worry about finding a job.
  4. Help people: Students who want to pursue a career in the medical field will always tell you that they want to help other people. In this career, you can use your skills and what you learned to actually help others.
  5. Have a long career: The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that the medical field is one of the fastest-growing industries in the US, with a potential growth of 14% in the next 10 years.

What an Ultrasound Technician Does

As an ultrasound technician, you would be responsible for the machine that records and produces images. You will also conduct tests, which will become the basis for the physicians to diagnose a patient.

Aside from pregnancy, the ultrasound technician is also called upon to record and produce images of the muscles, brain, lungs, breast tissue, tendons, organs, joints, and spinal cord.

You can also pursue further studies if you want to specialize in something. For instance, those who specialize in taking images of the heart, heart chambers, vessels, and heart valves are called cardiac sonographers. Those who specialize in producing images of the blood flow and blood vessels are called vascular sonographers.

However, you are not just simply taking images of the insides of the patient. You need to have a sharp eye and extensive knowledge of human anatomy so you can see any anomaly in the images. You will provide the initial diagnostic information for the physician to look at.

You will work in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, government medical centers, private doctor’s offices, among others.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree Necessary for an Ultrasound Technician?

There are several ways to build a career as an ultrasound technician. For example, you can get:

  • A certificate or diploma, which can be completed in one year
  • An associate’s degree, which can be completed in two years
  • A bachelor’s degree, which can be completed in four years.

As part of your curriculum, you will study different medical-related subjects such as chemistry, biology, anatomy, physics, and physiology. These subjects are prerequisites to the major subjects in your ultrasound program. Depending on the school, you may need to have some background in healthcare or science before you can be accepted in the program.

However, high school graduates can also get a certificate or diploma.

You may encounter the following courses in your path toward being an ultrasound technician.

  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Abdominal Ultrasound (including small parts)
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of the heart
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Physics and Instrumentation
  • Ultrasound physics
  • Medical Terminology

Take note, however, that you won’t encounter everything listed above. It will depend on your area of specialization.

A major requirement of this degree is the extensive on-the-job training, which will last from three to six months. This will allow you to gain practical experience in addition to what you learned in the classroom.

Schools with Ultrasound Technician Programs

There are so many schools in the country that offer this program. So which one do you choose? Here are some of the things you should consider in choosing a school:

  1. First is the accreditation: This is very important because if your school is not accredited, you might not be able to get a license to practice what you learned. You have to look at their certificates first issued by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRCDMS) and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Regional accrediting agencies also monitor schools for compliance.
  2. Complete equipment and facilities: As with medical degrees, an ultrasound technician undergoes hours and hours of practical application to apply the theories that they learned in school. The school must have modern sonogram and ultrasound machines, at least, so students can have hands-on training.
  3. Partnership with establishments: Your school should have agreements with government facilities or private institutions to take in students for internships. The experience they learn out there with real-life patients would be invaluable for their success in this profession. No book can teach them how to calm down a nervous patient.

Degrees in Ultrasound Technician

You will also need to choose between an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree on your way to become an ultrasound technician.

Knowing which degree plan you want to pursue will help you choose the right ultrasound technician school.

Associate’s Degree

You can take an associate’s degree if you want to kick start your career immediately. You can enter the workforce in just 18 to 24 months. This is an entry-level position that can be a good choice if you don’t have enough budget to earn a bachelor’s degree.

You will have plenty of hands-on training with the equipment, as well as hours and hours of lecture on science subjects and patient care. A good ultrasound technician must know how to deal with very different personalities as they go about their jobs.

Bachelor’s Degree

You can also choose a bachelor’s degree in medical sonography. The two extra years that you will spend honing your craft will only benefit you. Apart from what they teach you in the associate’s degree, you will also enhance your problem-solving skills, as well as get plenty of opportunities to enter the academe or take research projects. You can also choose to become a doctor should you want.

If you are seriously considering a bachelor’s degree, there are two options you can take:

  • Four-year degree course: If you don’t have experience in the healthcare profession, this is the route to take. You can enroll in a Bachelor’s of Science degree in diagnostic medical sonography. You will study major subjects related to your course, as well as general education subjects. Most of the major subjects will be taken up in the last 24 months of your course.
  • Degree completion: Meanwhile, if you have experience in healthcare or if you are currently employed in the industry, you can take these programs to pad your resume. You will also be listed in the official registry of the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

You need a background in social sciences, college algebra, and English grammar as part of the curriculum.

You will study the following:

  • Healthcare management
  • Healthcare systems
  • Breast sonography
  • Neonatal sonography
  • Pediatric sonography
  • Fetal echo

Apart from the classroom and laboratory, you will also undergo extensive on-the-job-training at a certified laboratory or medical facility.

With the associate’s degree, you can also pursue further studies for your specialization.


To practice your profession, you need to have a certificate in place of a degree in medical sonography. If you are earning a certificate, you need to have a college education, which is not required of the other certificates.

The program will last from 12 to 18 months, depending on what school you are enrolled in.

To secure a certificate in medical sonography, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree as an undergraduate, or an associate’s degree in a health program relevant to your course.

A certificate program can be finished much earlier than a bachelor’s degree. However, it doesn’t mean that the teachings are half-baked. You will gain plenty of experience during the externship with the hospital, laboratory or clinic.

Regardless of what you choose, you need to finish the programs according to the prerequisites. The curriculum is designed that way so that the lessons you learn today will become the foundation of more lessons in the future.

You will have a great career as an ultrasound technician as the industry continues to expand. It’s an exciting time for the medical field, indeed.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

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