How to Choose a Sonography School

Three Methods:Evaluate the Types of Programs AvailableAssess the Sonography School's Accreditation, Certification and Career PlacementConsider the Sonography School's Learning Environment, Location, Facilities and Tuition

Sonography schools offer the training needed to become a diagnostic medical sonographer. Sonographers use ultrasound equipment to observe, detect and diagnose internal medical issues. Diagnostic medical sonographers also can assess fetus growth and development. Sonography schools offer certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs that prepare students for diagnostic medical sonography careers. Use these tips to choose a sonography school.

Method 1
Evaluate the Types of Programs Available

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    Consider a certificate sonography program. Certificate programs are designed for students who already have a medical field degree, or for licensed medical professionals who want to expand their medical service offerings. Certificate programs typically take less time to complete than a degree, and are offered through vocational schools, community colleges and medical training institutes.
    • Evaluate the certificate curriculum. Coursework for a sonography certificate typically includes basic physiology, pathology and anatomy courses, in addition to sonography classes like principles of sonography, obstetric ultrasound, vascular sonography, abdominal ultrasound, instrumentation and medical ethics. Certificate programs usually provide hands-on learning through clinical rotations and classroom practicums.
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    Consider an associate's degree sonography program. An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree provides the education and training needed for entry-level sonography jobs. Most AAS degree programs take about 2 years to complete at a community college, university or medical training institute.
    • Assess the curriculum. AAS degree programs typically require courses in anatomy, physiology, pathology, patient care and medical ethics. Students can expect to take sonography classes like ultrasound instrumentation and sonography techniques, as well as specialized courses in abdominal ultrasound and gynecological ultrasound. The curriculum requires classroom studies, lab work and clinical education, which is usually affiliated with a local medical center or hospital.
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    Consider a bachelor's degree sonography program. A bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography is a 4-year program at a college or university. The Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree prepares students for entry- and mid-level sonography jobs.
    • Evaluate the curriculum. A bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography usually requires courses in anatomy, pathology, physiology and medical ethics. Students take sonography courses that address the principles and methods for abdominal, vascular and pelvic sonographic examinations. Classes may include sectional anatomy, physics of ultrasound, abdominal sonography, vascular sonography, and obstetrical and gynecological sonography. Students usually participate in internships at hospitals, clinics and campus medical centers.
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    Consider a master degree sonography program. Working professionals may decide to pursue a Master Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography because they want to enhance career opportunities. The master degree is usually sought by those who want to become administrators, private industry consultants, academic or commercial researchers or teachers.
    • Review curriculum to determine applicability to achieving goals. A master degree can be earned in less than 15 months if there are few or no prerequisite courses to take. The classes are focused on topics like healthcare trends and ethics; research methods; epidemiology; writing on medical topics; clinical pharmacology; special issues connected with cardiac, pediatric or vascular sonography; and applied clinical training.
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    Consider a diploma sonography program. The diploma programs are an option for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in an area that may or may not be related to medical imaging. The students who do not have an Allied Health degree or a degree in medical imaging may have to complete more prerequisites than someone who has been working in Radiologic Technology or Nuclear Medicine. Typically, the diploma sonography program can be completed in less than 18 months.
    • Assess how the diploma program will enhance career options. Since students already have a degree, the program consists of courses that concentrate on sonography training. The typical courses include principles of sonography; imaging of the abdomen, obstetrical and gynecological areas; cross-sectional imaging; ultrasound instrumentation; ethics and legal issues; and medical management. Students will also take specialty classes if they choose a vascular or cardiac concentration.

Method 2
Assess the Sonography School's Accreditation, Certification and Career Placement

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    Ensure the sonography school is accredited. An accredited school meets the minimum educational and clinical standards set by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. If a sonography school is not accredited, graduates are not eligible to become nationally certified. Make sure the school is accredited by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
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    Evaluate the school's certification success rate. Certification is not required for diagnostic medical sonographers, but many employers require the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. In order to earn this credential, participants must pass 2 exams. Most schools track their students' success rates in achieving certification because it provides evidence of the program's ability to prepare students for sonography careers. If the certification statistics are not posted on the school's website, they usually are available upon request.
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    Consider the school's career placement success. In order to evaluate the school's sonography program, it is important to assess the success of its graduates. Most sonography schools provide data about the percentage of graduates working in the sonography field and the types of jobs they are doing.
    • Inquire about the school's career placement opportunities. Many sonography schools offer career placement assistance to their students, including resume development, job postings and career fairs. Some schools have relationships with local hospitals and medical centers, and offer local job opportunities to recent sonography graduates.

Method 3
Consider the Sonography School's Learning Environment, Location, Facilities and Tuition

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    Determine which learning environment meets your needs.
    • Consider sonography schools that offer online courses, which enable students to attend lectures, complete assignment and take quizzes through online learning platforms. However, because hands-on experience is required for most sonography certificate and degree programs, students must complete clinical rotations in person at local medical clinics or hospitals.
    • Consider hybrid programs that combine online and classroom learning. Hybrid programs provide opportunities for student interaction with the convenience of online learning. Hybrid programs require students to participate in clinical rotations at local medical facilities.
    • Consider traditional classroom learning programs. While there are many schools offering online sonography degrees, the majority of accredited programs are classroom-based. The classroom-based programs feature lectures, small group discussions and lab work, in addition to clinical rotations at local medical clinics and hospitals.
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    Assess the location of the sonography school. If you prefer an online learning program, the school's location may not be a factor in choosing a sonography school. However, if you prefer hybrid or classroom-based learning, the school's location may be a determining factor. Consider not only how far the school is from you, but also the travel time required to get to and from classes.
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    Evaluate the school's facilities. Tour the school and observe the facilities. Inquire about the type of laboratory equipment used, specifically the type of ultrasound machines. Ask how old the equipment is and how often the school updates its imaging equipment. Students should look for schools that have the latest equipment and update their equipment regularly. Be sure to inquire about ultrasound training simulators, test mannequins and other equipment used for hands-on training.
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    Consider the tuition and related expenses. Costs vary between sonography schools, and can depend on factors like the degree level and whether the school is public or private. The tuition for a 1-year sonography school starts at about $4,000, while a bachelor's degree program is typically about $30,000.
    • Ask about scholarships, financial aid and grants. Some schools offer scholarships and/or financial aid to students, ranging from partial tuition to full tuition. In most cases, students must show financial need in order to qualify.
    • Inquire about additional costs. Some sonography school tuition costs include books and classroom materials, while others do not. Other schools may charge lab or equipment fees. Some schools require students to wear sonographer uniforms, which may not be included in the program tuition. Ask about all related fees before enrolling in a sonography program.

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Categories: Health Care