What To Expect In Ultrasound Technician School

Ultrasound technician college courses teach you the mastery of Sonography so that you can become a vital member of a medical team, using sophisticated imaging equipment to view inside the human body, taking real-time images of tissue, organs and blood flow. You will take classes in the various aspects of Sonography, including obstetric, abdominal, small parts and musculoskeletal. You will also put all these into practice during a number of clinical rotations. Other important classes will include patient care, physics and anatomy, all of which will teach you to be a top ultrasound technician.

The most common educational qualification for an ultrasound technology career is a 2-year associates degree earned at one of the many accredited ultrasound technician college programs. It is possible to earn a certificate in 1 year, but these are only recommended if you are cross-training into the field from another area of medicine, such as nursing or radiology technology.

ultrasound_technician_schoolsA few colleges offer bachelor degrees in ultrasound technology, and to date there are 2 master’s degree programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree will give you more training and allow you to start work at a higher level and salary, bachelors and masters degrees are really only for those who are interested in pursuing research and teaching in the field.

All ultrasound tech college programs will teach you the following:

Didactic Sonography

Didactic Sonography is the most obvious of your ultrasound tech college requirements and will teach you each area of ultrasound imaging in complement with clinical work. Obstetric, small parts, abdominal, neural, vascular and musculoskeletal Sonography will be studied and you will learn to discern the difference between normal and abnormal functions.

Clinical Sonography

The best ultrasound technician training will offer a number of clinical rotations so that you can experience a wide variety of fields. You should expect to undertake at least 4 different rotations, training in the maintenance and inspection of the equipment as well as its use.


Physics is a key element of your ultrasound technician training and it applies to everything you do on the job. You will study the physics of ultrasound equipment and advanced physics and discover how it affects your choices when using the imaging machines and choosing transducers.


Even if you already have a medical background, you will find standard anatomy classes very useful as you pursue an ultrasound technician career path. You will study the whole of the body, mastering medical terminology and what constitutes normal and abnormal functions, learning how to apply that knowledge to images in a sonogram.

Patient Care

Patient care is one of the most important aspects of training, as the ability to work well with a patient can affect the sonogram and thus the diagnosis and treatment. You will discuss theories of patient care, often engaging in role-playing exercises and work with patients in rotation, learning how to communicate with them and monitor their physical and mental state during the procedure.


Most ultrasound technician colleges pride themselves on turning out students armed with strong skills, including:


Excellent communication skills are crucial to a successful career as an ultrasound technician so that you can work effectively with both patients and doctors. Patient care classes and carefully chosen electives will teach you techniques for communicating with a diverse range of people under a variety of circumstances.


Sonography demands strong coordination abilities, as you have to move your hand to precise areas of the body while keeping your eyes on the display and sometimes using your other hand to keep the patient steady. During your rotations, you will practice and perform Sonography to test your coordination under the most trying of circumstances.


Some ultrasound tech colleges will expect you to demonstrate stamina as part of their prerequisites before you begin study because the need to be physically strong is so critical for an ultrasound technician. You will develop stamina during your clinical rotations, learning how to spend long hours on your feet while maintaining comfort and being able to manipulate machines that weigh over 800 pounds.


The ability to be precise is critical for every aspect of Sonography, from taking detailed patient histories to being able to aim the transducer at the exact right spot on the body. You will spend many hours practicing precise Sonography and might even develop techniques for practicing outside of class as well.

Attention to Detail

In Sonography, every little detail counts and might in fact spell the difference between a precise and an incomplete diagnosis. You will learn to read images with care so that you can detect tiny abnormalities or anything that might require further investigation in ultrasound technician schools.

The Best Ultrasound Technician Courses For Students

When you begin your educational program, the best ultrasound technician courses may not be what you are expecting. You will take math and physics in addition to all the courses supporting the various areas of sonography. The basic ultrasound technician curriculum will include several courses in physics and didactic courses in pelvic, vascular, abdominal, small parts and obstetric sonography. You will also take courses in patient care. In addition to your classroom work, you will be expected to undertake several clinical rotations. If you are thinking about earning your ultrasound technician degree online, make sure that the online program offers coursework that includes these subjects.

Some of the most common core classes that you will take in your ultrasound technician program include:


Ultrasound Technician CoursesEach area of sonography will be divided into its own ultrasound technician class, and each program will present these in its own order. You will study imaging techniques for pelvic, vascular, abdominal, small parts and obstetric sonography. You will learn to discern the difference between healthy and abnormal organs and blood flow. You will be able to identify abnormalities so that you can give an initial assessment to the physician and thus help set the course of treatment.


Physics is 1 of your ultrasound technician course requirements that at first you may find irrelevant, but you will eventually discover that it is your most helpful class because everything you do in sonography has to do with physics. All of the motions you perform with sonography equipment is related to physics, including touching certain buttons or choosing certain transducers. The more you understand physics, the better your work will be.


One of the top ultrasound technician courses is anatomy, which opens up the human body to your understanding. As you come to learn how the body works, you will better grasp what you are looking for when the patient undergoes ultrasound. You will study the body section by section in tandem with techniques for using ultrasound and, once you have mastered all the medical terminology, be able to speak knowledgeably with the rest of the medical staff about the image and diagnosis.


The best programs should offer designated classes for ultrasound technician students in patient care. An ultrasound technician will often have to deal very closely with their patients, first taking a history and explaining the procedure and answering questions, then, depending on the procedure, discussing the image on the screen. You may also need to lift patients onto tables, adjust them into position and then help them down afterwards. It is critical that you learn to communicate effectively with a diverse group of people experiencing a range of emotions. For many in sonography, patient care proves to be the most important class in the ultrasound technician curriculum.


In addition to core classes, your ultrasound technician program will include elective courses on topic like the following:


In some programs, this might be one of your required ultrasound tech courses, but if it is not, you should prioritize it as your top elective. Psychology complements your patient care classes, teaching you aspects of behavior and thought patterns so that you understand what a patient under certain circumstances might be thinking or feeling, and how you can work with them and help them be calm and focused for the procedure. It might be a nice break from the rigor of your required ultrasound technician classes and will prove invaluable when you begin work.


Oral communication might also be one of your required ultrasound technician classes, depending on your program, but it should certainly be something you seek out while in school. You may be surprised when you enter the workplace at how difficult it is to effectively communicate with doctors and other members of the medical staff.

You are expected to hit the ground running and show off what you have gained in your 2 years of training, so you will not have a lot of time for mistakes. Taking the time to master communication skills can make the work of all your top ultrasound technician courses pay off even more than you expected.


You may think that you are already adept at typing if you frequently use a computer, but your job will entail a lot of typing that must be swift and accurate, especially when it comes to maintaining patient records. When you step away from your sonography classes and master excellent typing skills, you will find that it makes your work better and more efficient.


The top ultrasound technology courses will ground you in all the important aspects of sonography and teach you physics, anatomy and patient care. When you are not on rotation, you should take electives such as psychology, communication and even typing to complement your required ultrasound tech classes and help make you a better tech from your first day at work.

Ultrasound Technician Certificate

A certificate is a non-degree program that usually lasts less than 2 years and provides you with the requisite training for an entry-level job as an ultrasound technician. Because most people who pursue this route already have medical training and knowledge, they do not require the same intense study of an ultrasound technology associates degree program. Successful completion of an ultrasound tech certificate program, along with your first degree, will be enough to prove to a potential employer that you are worth hiring.

A certificate in ultrasound technology can be earned from a number of accredited colleges, but this course is only recommended if you are cross-training from a related medical field, such as radiology or nursing. Here is some information that might help you assess a potential program:


ultrasound technician certificatesBecause you will already have a medical background, you can expect to complete an ultrasound technician certificate program in about 1 year. Some programs might last 14 months. You will also need to factor in time to sit for your board exams, which will vary depending on the schedule in your state. If you require further certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or the appropriate professional organization for your specialty, that will demand extra time as well.


There are 98 schools in the U.S. offering either a diploma or certificate, or both, which are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). It is critical that you select an accredited ultrasound technician certificate program if you want to be considered for the best jobs. There are only 2 online ultrasound tech certificate programs that have received accreditation. While this number might be expected to grow, online coursework is really only useful for didactic work. You will be better served looking for a campus-based program that accommodates your schedule needs.


Costs of ultrasound technician certificate programs can vary widely, from a few thousand dollars (especially if you are a resident of the state) to $15,000 per year. You will also need to factor in the cost of the application fees to take your exams. However, once you have achieved your certification, you will be able to command a much higher salary, so do not be deterred from an excellent program because of cost concerns.


Most ultrasound technician certificate programs will have the same curriculum, combining study in sonography and ultrasound equipment physics with clinical lab work. As most people in this program will already have medical training, basics such as patient care may not be one of the requirements. You can expect to study abdominal, OB/GYN and vascular sonography and practice them in the clinic. You will master precision, accuracy and the ability to read images for abnormalities.


A certificate in ultrasound tech will allow you to start practicing sonography at a hospital or other healthcare facility. You may only be eligible to work in 1 or 2 areas at first, depending on the program, but you will have the foundation you need to learn on the job and gain further certifications. The more experience you have, the higher a salary you can command.


Certificates in ultrasound tech are generally only earned by those cross-training into ultrasound from another medical field. You can obtain a certificate in about 1 year and begin working in basic sonography departments. You will have the foundation to train on the job in more advanced techniques. If you are interested in pursuing further education in the field, associates degree and ultrasound tech bachelors degree programs are available as well.

Ultrasound Technician Bachelors Degree

An ultrasound bachelors degree is usually earned in 4 years at either a college or university. It is the standard professional undergraduate degree, although it is not a very common degree to earn in ultrasound technology. Instead, most students opt to enroll in ultrasound tech associates degree programs or, if they already have medical training, complete a certificate in ultrasound technology.

Those who do pursue bachelors degrees will be able to practice the profession at a much higher level. A bachelors degree in ultrasound technology usually prepares students to enter or continue in a more advanced position, like working in healthcare management or shaping healthcare policy.

Several of the programs take only 2 years to complete because they expect you to have already earned an associates degree in ultrasound technology. You will still be expected to take academic coursework and clinical rotations in sonography, among other requirements. If you are interested in doing research or teaching, you might thinking about continuing on into a ultrasound technology masters degree program.

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While there are a only a handful of schools offering an ultrasound technician bachelors degree, it is still useful to get a sense of what the degree entails:


A standard bachelors degree is completed in 4 years, although it may be more or less depending on factors such as taking time off or receiving early college credits. The amount of time required complete your bachelors in ultrasound tech will depend on your experience and education, as well as the structure of the program. Some programs are only 2 years because you are expected to have already completed 2 years of associates degree work. You might also be required to have some certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or another professional sonography organization, or expected to earn certification during your course of study.


Only 27 U.S. schools are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to offer ultrasound technician bachelors degrees. There is only 1 accredited program that offers the ability to do some work online. While you may find other programs that look respectable, bear in mind that most employers will expect you to have attended an accredited institution in order to be considered for top jobs.


You can expect to spend about $15,000 a year on tuition for your ultrasound technician bachelors degree, although this will also depend on location and the nature of the program. This will not include the cost of books, supplies and fees, or room and board. There may be financial aid available through the school, government or 1 of the professional sonography organizations, so you should not be deterred from pursuing this degree because of costs.


Since you may already be expected to have worked as an ultrasound technician, the coursework for earning an ultrasound tech bachelors degree will most likely not include the basics learned in an associates degree program. Some programs may be specialized, so that your sole focus is on a complex area of sonography such as cardiac. You will most likely need to take classes in general sonography and complete at least 1 clinical rotation. Other coursework will focus on management, health policy, current issues in the healthcare field in general, leadership and ethics.


Students who earn ultrasound tech bachelors degrees will be eligible for the most advanced work in the field and earn top salaries. The degree will also position you to enter management positions within the department and upper areas of the facility where you work. You might also work in government positions in healthcare management or public policy.


While earning a bachelors degree in ultrasound technology is not common, it is useful for those who want to practice the profession at the highest level, as well as engage in healthcare management and have a voice in the shaping of healthcare policy.

Ultrasound Technician Associates Degree

An ultrasound technician associate’s degree is the most common educational qualification for entering the profession. An associate’s degree is normally earned in 2 years and conferred by a community college, technical college or sometimes a college or university that also awards higher degrees. Your coursework will include classes in Sonography, coupled with a number of clinical rotations. These, combined with courses in patient care, physics and anatomy, among others, will prepare you for work as an ultrasound technician.

You will usually be expected to have fulfilled certain prerequisites in high school before being accepted to begin work on your ultrasound technician associates degree. Programs will vary, so you will have to investigate the 1 in which you are interested, but good grades in classes like algebra and physics are standard. If you do not have enough high school prerequisites, you can always fulfill these requirements at college before you are accepted into the ultrasound technician program.

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If you already have medical experience, you can cross-train in Sonography by doing a 1-year ultrasound technology certificate program. You might also be interested in doing a 4-year ultrasound tech bachelor’s degree program, or even a master’s degree, but these courses are really only for those who are looking to teach or conduct research in the field.

Over 100 colleges throughout the U.S. offer programs for you to earn an ultrasound technician associates degree. As you are considering different programs and schools, think about each of the following aspects of study:


ultrasound technician associate’s degreeMost students will earn their ultrasound technician associates degrees within the standard 2 years. Some programs might last a few months longer. Most states will also require that you receive licensing or certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or the appropriate professional organization for your specialty as well. You will have to factor in extra time to apply for and take these exams before you are ready to pursue a job.


To date, there are 111 U.S. schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) that offer ultrasound tech associates degrees. Of these, only 2 offer online education. If you have a difficult schedule, you may prefer this option for completing your coursework, but you will still need to be on site for your clinical rotations.


 The cost of earning your associates degree in ultrasound tech will depend on location, whether you are a resident of the state and what support the school provides. On average, you can expect tuition to be $15,000 per year, although it might be considerably less and there will often be some financial aid available.

While you must factor in additional costs such as books, supplies and exam application fees, bear in mind that once you have earned your ultrasound tech associates degree, salary expectations will be at least $44,000, so the investment you make in school will pay off quickly.


Programs conferring ultrasound tech associates degrees have rigorous curricula. You will take a number of didactic modules in the various forms of Sonography, such as vascular, OB/GYN, neural and musculoskeletal, applying all these in clinical rotations. You will also take courses in physics, anatomy and patient care.

You will be expected to demonstrate a certain amount of physical strength to handle machines and assist patients on and off tables while maintaining your own health and safety. You will learn medical terminology and be thoroughly grounded in the ethics and standards of the profession.


Students who earn an associate’s degree in ultrasound technology will be eligible to enter the Sonography department in most hospitals or healthcare facilities. Depending on the number of rotations you undertook as a student and what certifications you have earned, you may not be allowed to work in some of the more complex areas of the field. As you will be expected to undergo continuing education and earn further certifications, you will see your career advance with your practice.


A 2-year associate’s degree will qualify you to work as an ultrasound technician in a hospital or other healthcare facility. A combination of on-the-job training and your pursuit of further education and certification will help you advance your career quickly.

Ultrasound Technician Masters Degree

A masters degree is the first graduate degree you can earn once you have earned a bachelors degree. It is only conferred by universities. An ultrasound technician masters degree will give you the grounding to work in highly specialized areas of sonography, along with the expectation that you will contribute submissions to medical journals and learn the intricacies of management and public health. In ultrasound technology, masters degree are very rare.

A masters degree is useful for people working in the field who are interested in pursuing research, teaching or high levels of healthcare management or public policy. While the most common educational qualification for working as an ultrasound technician is a 2-year associates degree, you can also do a 1-year certificate program and cross-train into the field. Other students enroll in ultrasound tech bachelors degree programs, which, like the masters degree, can allow them to further pursue ultrasound technician career advancement by working in management or public policy.

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If you are interested in a masters in ultrasound tech, here is some information to keep in mind:


Ultrasound Technician Masters DegreeThe coursework and clinical experience for an ultrasound technician masters degree will usually take 24 to 26 months to complete. However, you may also be expected to research and write a thesis or dissertation as part of your degree program, and how long this takes will depend on you. While you will likely already have a license and certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or another professional sonography organization, you may need to take exams for further certification before you re-enter the field.


As of 2012, there are only 2 U.S. schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) that offer ultrasound technician masters degrees. These are the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri and the College of Health Care Science at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Nova Southeastern offers the option to take some courses online, but you are also expected to be on campus as well.


Tuition for an ultrasound tech masters degree program will cost about $20,000 per year, not including assorted fees and costs for materials, supplies, and room and board. Both Nova Southeastern and the University of Missouri have campus financial aid available, and you might also seek government financial aid. If you are applying for a masters degree, it is likely you already belong to one or more of the professional organizations for sonography, and these may be able to provide you with financial aid as well.


Ultrasound tech masters degree programs are comprised of upper level academic work in the more complex areas of sonography such as vascular and cardiovascular, clinical work and courses such as statistics, composition, communication and sociology. You will be expected to undertake independent research and write papers worthy of submission to medical journals.


Successful holders of ultrasound tech masters degrees might go back into the field to work at the highest level, earning top salaries. You might manage your department and be involved in general hospital management as well. You can work as a consultant, take a government position in healthcare management or public policy, or focus on research and teaching.


The few people who pursue a masters degree in ultrasound technology are interested in researching and writing about the field and contributing to the knowledge and growth of the profession. You will be in a position to enter the top levels of the profession, contribute regularly to medical journals and work for the government shaping healthcare policy.

Benefits of Ultrasound Technician School Online

Increasingly, online education is becoming a viable option for students who have complicated schedules or work and family obligations. Doing an online program is also a useful way of participating in a class in a particular program that would otherwise be inaccessible to you. However, there are more disadvantages than advantages if you want to earn your ultrasound technology degree online. In an online program, you must work harder to stay motivated and on schedule, you do not get immediate feedback or interaction with teachers and classmates, and you may be obligated to do your own work to find a facility for your required clinical rotations. You should really only consider online coursework as a supplement to, rather than as a replacement for, a campus-based program.

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There are only 2 certificate programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) that allow you to earn an online ultrasound technology degree. Roughly 55 students total graduate from these programs every year. While they are accredited, these programs are still not considered to provide the same level of rigor as campus-based programs.

Pros of Getting an Online Certificate in Ultrasound Technology

The main advantage cited for attending an ultrasound technician online school is that it is less expensive. This is no small consideration, as the cost of a traditional 2-year program can be high, thanks to all the expensive books and equipment you will work with. For many students, the ability to save some money on the cost of attendance is what allows them to pursue a degree at all.

As it takes a lot of time and effort to become an ultrasound tech, online schools also offer the advantage of allowing you some flexibility for fulfilling the lecture component. Students pursuing a certificate will be cross-training from another field of medicine and may be working close to full time, so being able to do didactic work at night or on weekends can be what allows them to earn their qualification.

You can only attend accredited online ultrasound technician schools. Look for a program that offers the same didactic curriculum as a campus-based program. Ideally, your program will have a relationship with a clinical program so that you will not have to arrange your own rotations. You also want to be sure there are online discussion forums with the professor and that you are able to arrange discussion sessions and study groups with your fellow students.

Cons of Getting an Online Certificate in Ultrasound Technology

Ultrasound-Technician-Programs onlineWhile you will probably do extra research online, ultrasound technician school is such an intensive program that you will get the most out of it if you opt for campus-based courses. As you will likely already be in the medical field and cross-training into ultrasound, you may feel the didactic courses will be complementary to those you took in your initial training, but the precision demanded by sonography requires complete focus. As you are probably still working, you will find motivation easier if you go to a physical classroom.

The nature of the program requires you to spend long hours in clinical rotations. Even accredited online ultrasound technician schools, which are the only ones you should consider attending, will not necessarily assist you with setting up your on-site training. They will also not guarantee that any healthcare facility appropriate for training will be within easy access.

You will also not get the opportunity to engage in classroom discussion online. Ultrasound technician school can be very exciting for medical professionals who are exploring the body in a new way. The give and take of in-class discussion is part of the learning experience. An online discussion forum, though handy, will not replicate that energy.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) only cites 2 accredited online ultrasound technician schools that offer associates degrees. As this is the most common educational qualification to secure entry into the field, there are plenty of campus-based programs from which to choose, so you do not need to opt for a distance-learning program that might not even guarantee you will be qualified to sit the licensing or certification exams.

Pros of Getting an Online Associates Degree in Ultrasound Technology

The main advantage offered by ultrasound tech schools online is some cost savings. You will still need to purchase books and other supplies, as well as whatever costs are necessary for your clinical work, but you will save money on didactic coursework.

You will also be able to organize your class schedule to suit your other needs. If you are working or have other responsibilities that preclude attending lectures during the day, you can attend class online at night or on the weekends instead.

Cons of Getting an Online Associates Degree in Ultrasound Technology

While you can study ultrasound technology online, schools may indicate that the course will not necessarily guarantee you are prepared to take your licensing and certification exams. If you are not prepared to take these exams, you will not be able to work as an ultrasound technician, thus defeating the purpose of pursuing a degree program in the first place.

The online programs also may not be able to arrange clinical rotations for you. These rotations are the most crucial part of your education and you will get a better education if your campus-based accredited program has a relationship with a medical facility and guarantees you an automatic rotation placement when you begin schooling.

You will also not be able to ask immediate questions and create a dialogue between yourself, your professor and your classmates with online schooling. This can be some of the most fun you have in your program. While you will usually have an online discussion forum, it will not have the same energy as you get with personal interaction.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits only one program in the U.S. that offers an online bachelors degree in ultrasound technology. The degree is not very common, as only 27 schools offer it in the traditional format. If you are going to commit to obtaining a higher qualification in the subject, it is better to do so on campus.

Pros of Getting an Online Bachelors Degree in Ultrasound Technology

Since there are so few opportunities to earn this degree, it might make more sense to use an online option for some of your theoretical courses, rather than having to move to another state in order to attend school. It will also be considerably less expensive than the tuition costs of the campus-based programs.

Cons of Getting an Online Bachelors Degree in Ultrasound Technology

With the degree being so rare and intended for those who are going into management, research or publication, it is helpful to get the best degree possible. The specialized nature of the clinical and academic work necessary to earn a strong degree will demand the attention and commitment of a full-time, campus-based program. While this will be more expensive, it will ultimately pay off with an excellent credential.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) does not currently accredit any online program offering a masters degree in ultrasound technology. You should only pursue accredited degrees because it means that the education meets the standards set my leaders within the professional field.

How Employers View An Online Ultrasound Technician Degree

Overall, online ultrasound technician degrees are not attracted or encouraged by employers. Being an ultrasound technician demands precision, commitment, attention to detail and an excellent capacity for patient care. While much of this can be taught in your clinical rotations, it will all be supplemented in your academic coursework if you are in a campus-based program. While employers know what to expect if someone has a top traditional ultrasound tech degree, online coursework done exclusively, rather than as an occasional supplement, will not convince them that you are the best candidate for an ultrasound technician job.

Many traditional schools have strict requirements for applicants to the program, including a certain level of fitness and the ability to lift at least 50 pounds, which will be demanded by employers as well. Online ultrasound tech degree programs will not necessarily mandate such requirements, and if they are not asked to be met in your clinical rotations, an employer might think you do not meet the fitness standards required to perform basic work tasks.

online ultrasound technician degreesHowever, there are a few ways to convince an employer to consider you for an ultrasound technician career even if you have earned an online ultrasound technician degree. If your clinical work is outstanding, with supervisors noting your excellence in every aspect of Sonography, this can go a long way to helping you get hired. You can further improve your chances if you have undertaken extra internships. With such supplementation for ultrasound technician degrees, online coursework will look much less weak. Furthermore, your degree must be earned from a properly accredited school. If it has not achieved accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), you will have a very hard time securing a top job.

For higher ultrasound technician degrees, online work might be more acceptable because it is understood that you might be trying to further your career while also holding down a full-time job, making distance learning one of the few viable options. In addition, because there are so few accredited programs that offer a bachelor’s degree at all, you may have no choice but to earn an online ultrasound technician degree at a higher level if you do not want to move to another state to go to school.

You should be aware, however, that CAAHEP only accredits 2 schools offering online courses for a bachelor’s degree in ultrasound technology and does not accredit any programs offering an online master’s degree in the field.

But there are also continuing advances that make online education more effective and acceptable. In this article from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the discussion revolves around innovations in hand-carried Sonography equipment that improves distance learning. As the field continues to develop, online ultrasound technician degrees will become more acceptable to employers. However, you will still be expected to have excellent hands-on experience, and you must be ready to prove yourself worth hiring from the outset, regardless of the degree you present when you apply for a job.

Ultrasound Technician Education

Diagnostic sonography, also called ultrasonography or ultrasound, is an imaging technique used for visualizing internal body structures. Images obtained during sonography examinations assist clinicians to arrive at a medical diagnosis. The medical personnel conducting diagnostic sonography examinations are referred to as medical sonographers, sonographers, ultrasound technicians, and sonography technologists or technicians. Sonographers are allied health professionals who, through formal education and clinical experience, have the knowledge and practical skills necessary to obtain quality images with ultrasound and sonography equipment. Ultrasound imaging examinations are highly operator-dependent, and require that sonography technologists possess extensive knowledge about normal anatomy and physiology so that abnormal conditions can be easily recognized. For example, if the technologist fails to correctly perform examinations, this may put patients at risk of having further unnecessary tests and may even lead to an inaccurate diagnosis. Due to the highly technical and complex nature of acquiring sonography images, those who operate the equipment must have adequate classroom education and clinical “hands-on” training.


Sonography programs are available in hospitals, community colleges, universities, career vocational-technical schools, and the Armed Forces. Colleges and universities offer both 2-year and 4-year programs, leading to either an associate or a bachelor’s degree. The most widely available education is a 2-year associate’s degree program. For those who have previous education in another allied health field and are seeking to gain marketable skills in sonography scanning, 1-year sonography programs are available and provide a vocational certificate. The 1-year program provides practical sonography scanning skills for other allied health professionals such as nurses, medical technologists, radiologic technologists, and emergency medical technicians. Sonography training can be expensive and factors such as cost of program tuition, books, supplies, uniforms and certification examinations should be considered for each type of training program.

Online sonography-training programs provide an alternative for those who cannot attend traditional classroom programs. Online learning requires self-discipline and motivation to complete the assignments within the course timeline. Anyone considering online sonography education will need to have moderate to advanced computer skills and a dependable technology connection to access classes and return homework assignments on time. Before enrolling in an online sonography program, find out if it is accredited by an agency recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), and if the program arranges for hands-on clinical internship.


High school students preparing for a sonography program should take courses in biological and physical sciences, algebra and computer literacy. The most difficult part of getting into a sonography program is getting accepted. Admission to a school or college is the first step, and after certain basic requirements have been met, application can be made for admission into the sonography program. Getting accepted is a competitive process, because each sonography program has an admission quota based on the number of clinical internship affiliation sites such as hospitals and medical clinics.

Depending on whether the program is associate’s or bachelor’s degree, sonography students will take algebra, physics, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ethics of medicine, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and public speaking. Because most sonography imaging equipment is digitally programmed and uses computer functions and software, computer proficiency is a very important skill that should be acquired prior to admission to a sonography program.


Sonography education prepares students to perform 21 types of examinations. These include the specific body areas such as the abdomen, pelvis, superficial structures, gynecologic structures, and obstetrics. Sonography education also provides basic training in interventional procedures, special scanning techniques, and patient care skills. Students may choose 5 additional skills from a list of 10 elective procedures, which are considered specialty competencies. The 10 elective competencies include the gastrointestinal tract, adrenals, prostate, abdominal wall, breasts, superficial masses, musculoskeletal, fetal biophysical profile, amniocentesis, and pediatric or neonatal studies. After attaining general sonography skills, qualified sonographers may decide to acquire additional specialized training at a later time. Specialized training may focus on breast sonography, abdominal sonography, obstetric and gynecology sonography, neurosonography, and cardiac or vascular sonography. Upon completion of specialized training, the sonographer may be qualified to take additional certification examinations in the specialty area.

Sonography education consists of both didactic (book learning) and clinical knowledge, and covers three major domains: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. The cognitive domain includes behaviors requiring various levels of thought: knowledge, understanding, reason and judgment. The psychomotor domain includes behaviors involving physical actions, neuromuscular manipulations and coordination. The affective domain includes behaviors guided by feelings and emotions that are influenced by an individual’s interest, attitudes, values, and beliefs. Curriculum for sonography programs is based on essential knowledge and hands-on skills required for entering the career field.

Theory or knowledge classes may be delivered by “live” instructor lecture, taped instructor presentation, and online self-paced instruction. Laboratory classes also provide students with opportunities to participate in simulated patient care situations and various scanning examinations. While in the clinical internship environment, students are observed and mentored by a qualified diagnostic sonography supervisor. An accredited sonography program bears the responsibility for providing all of the required essential education and clinical internship experiences.


Reliable information about accredited sonography programs is easy to obtain. There are several resources including accreditation agencies, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). The U.S. military also offers accredited medical sonographer training programs.

Professional sonography organizations and societies can provide helpful information about colleges and schools that offer specialized training in cardiovascular sonography, breast sonography, and advanced specialized scanning techniques. Professional organizations represent the interests of various groups to the public and to governmental bodies. The American Healthcare Radiology Administrators (AHRA) is the professional organization that promotes management practice in the administration of imaging services. The organization (www.ahraonline.org) is concerned about labor shortages in radiology and is a source of information about the availability of jobs in the U.S. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) is the professional organization representing x-ray technologists. The ASRT (www.asrt.org) produces educational curricular guides and other materials that promote the profession. The Association of Educators in Imaging and Radiologic Sciences (AEIRS) publishes educational information and provides data about the profession (www.aeirs.org).

The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) are the premier professional organizations concerned with songraphy training and career opportunities. These societies are concerned about recruitment for the sonography technology and make special efforts to serve students and provide scholarships and mentorships to individuals interested in entering the career.


The need for consistency of sonography education led to the establishment of guidelines, called essentials to ensure minimum training and competency skills of those entering the workplace. Today, the way a sonography program demonstrates that they provide the necessary essentials is through a review process called accreditation. In the U. S, the organizations that recognize accredited sonography schools include:

  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine (JRCNMT)
  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS)
  • Six regional accrediting divisions that accredit degree-granting institutions, and
  • The U.S. military also offers accredited programs diagnostic sonography training.


Students, who successfully complete an accredited sonography program, are eligible to take a national examination in sonography offered by three organizations; the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).

  • Resident Expert
  • Jeana Fleitz, M.Ed., RT(R)(M)

Online Ultrasound Technician Classes

Ultrasound technician careers are becoming increasingly popular because they pay well and are relatively easy with which to get started. All you need to do is take some ultrasound technician classes and you can be well on your way to getting started quickly. This career involves helping doctors by applying the ultrasound to certain patients. When you go to school to pursue this career, you will begin by learning how to use the ultrasound machine, while having some knowledge on the diagnostic process as a whole.

If you want to get started as quickly as possible, you can take ultrasound technician classes that lead to a certificate program. This is the fastest way to get started in this industry, as you will learn the fundamentals involved with ultrasound. Most of these certificate programs last about one year and it is possible to take many of the courses online. You might need additional schooling to get some of the higher paying jobs in this industry, but it is a good way to get your foot in the door. Once you have some experience, you can go back to school and get yourself a higher paying job very quickly.

An Associate’s degree is one of the more common methods that individuals use to get started in this industry, as the ultrasound technician classes are a little more thorough. This degree will generally take you about two years, so you can get started with your job relatively quickly. Many of the theory courses can be taken online, as you will learn everything that you need to know through this method of teaching. Keep in mind that some of the more practical applications of this knowledge must be learned in person, so you will have to make these arrangements once you get started with these ultrasound technician classes.

ultrasound studentsThe Bachelor’s degree programs are much more advanced and will take you four years to complete. The majority of people do not need some of the ultrasound technician courses that are included with a Bachelor’s degree because they involve other types of medical imagining. If you want to focus solely on ultrasound, many of these courses are completely unnecessary. Keep in mind that, once again, many of these ultrasound courses can be taken online, which makes it much easier for you to get through your degree. Those who go through with a Bachelor’s degree will often branch out into other areas of medicine later on, so it creates more options for you going forward.

Those who want to learn at a faster pace should take their ultrasound technician classes in a teaching hospital. These hospitals will provide a great deal of hands-on experience, so it is a great way to learn how to operate this equipment. Although many other classes will teach you how to use this, learning in a hospital environment can be very rewarding, since it will teach you exactly what you will be in for once you get started.

As was mentioned before, many of these courses for ultrasound technicians have online versions, but you must be careful when selecting these options. This is because you can only learn the theory portions of this education online, since ultrasound is such a hands-on career choice. The training that you will receive online is good, since it will teach you how to handle the equipment, but it is vital that you actually use the equipment before starting a career. Some online schools will help you to find a practicum once you have completed the coursework, as this allows you to experience the practical side of this career. Therefore, you should only use online ultrasound techn classes as a base, rather than as your entire educational background when entering this career.

Since there are so many different educational options available, you will have some choices to make before starting your career. These classes are very rewarding and once you get started as an ultrasound technician, you will spend your days helping people. There are countless jobs available once you finish your training, so make sure that you receive the training that hospitals in your area desire. Every hospital needs ultrasound techs, so you will never run out of potential employers once you begin.