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Things to Consider When Choosing an Ultrasound Technician Program

Ultrasonography is a diagnostic medical sonography procedure that uses high frequency sound (ultrasound) waves to produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissues, or blood flow inside the body. This type of procedure is often referred to as a sonogram or ultrasound scan.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography can be used to examine many parts of the body such as the abdomen, female reproductive system, breasts, heart, prostate, and blood vessels. Sonography is being used more and more in the detection and treatment of heart attack, heart disease, and vascular diseases that can lead to stroke. It is also used to guide fine needle, tissue biopsy to assist in taking a sample of cells from an organ for lab testing (for example, a test for cancer in breast tissue). Unlike X-rays, sonography is a radiation-free imaging modality.

Programs to Consider:

If you are considering a career in diagnostic medical sonography, or if you have already made that decision, you are faced with the important choice of selecting an educational program that meets your needs. You will be investing considerable time and money in pursuing your goal so it's important to take the time to find out all you can about the program.

Tuition and fees for ultrasound programs vary greatly, depending on the length of the program, type of degree or certificate pursued, and the type of school (such as public university, trade school, community college, or hospital training program). For example, a one-year diagnostic medical sonography certificate program at a state university could cost between $3,000 and $15,000, depending on whether you're a resident of the state. A 16-20 month training program at a private school may run up to $32,000 or more.

But don't let the high costs keep you from pursuing your dream of becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. Many schools offer financial aid or will assist you in obtaining federal loans. And think of the rewards after graduation: A job in a medical field that continues to see great demand for qualified workers and should continue to grow as researchers find more uses for ultrasound. In fact, there's a current nationwide shortage of professional sonographers, so hospitals often offer hiring incentives and competitive wages to attract and retain qualified ultrasonographers.

The average starting salary for a trained sonographer ranges between $32,000 and $49,000, depending on location and particular responsibilities of the job. Experienced sonographers can earn more than $72,000 annually. A great salary, solid benefits, job stability, and the rewards of a challenging and important job make the time and money you put into sonography training a sound investment.

  • Colleges and universities offer formal training in both 2-year and 4-year programs, resulting in either an associate or a bachelor's degree. Two-year programs are the most prevalent.
  • Advancement - Sonographers can seek advancement by obtaining competency in more than one specialty. For example, obstetric sonographers might seek training in abdominal sonography to broaden their opportunities and increase their marketability
  • Practical experience - How much importance is placed on supervised clinical experience?
  • School and class size - What is the average class size for most courses? What kinds of financial aid are offered (scholarships, loans, work study, grants, etc.)?
  • Graduate success - Of those who graduate from the program, how many become ARDMS certified?