Candidates interested in joining the medical industry without spending several years in college often wonder if they can become a diagnostic medical sonographer with an associate’s degree. The great news for these individuals is that not only is an associate degree all that’s required to become a diagnostic medical sonographer, but it’s the most common path towards this career. While some colleges may offer a certificate or even bachelor’s degree programs, an associate’s degree is the most common. Learn everything you need to know about becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer.
To become a diagnostic medical sonographer, an individual must pass an accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in sonography. Associate’s degree programs are generally found in community colleges and technical schools. Programs in vascular and abdominal sonography area also available at these schools. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs should accredit the sonography programs. This is important and usually a condition of certification.
The associate’s degree program takes about two years to complete and includes courses in applied sciences, medical terminology, anatomy, vascular sonography, physiology, and abdominal sonography, among others. Additionally, the student must complete clinical education to obtain hands-on training working with patients in a real work environment.
Licensure requirements vary from state to state. Some might require a diagnostic medical sonography to be licensed while another may not. In states where licensure is required, it may be obtained by passing a certification exam or a state licensing exam depending on the state requirements. Some employers also require their diagnostic medical sonographers be certified as a condition of employment.
Medicare, Medicaid and some insurance companies will not pay unless certified sonographers or technologists performed the sonography procedures. Certification, which is obtained by passing a certification exam, can be obtained through organizations like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).
Areas of Specialization
Diagnostic medical sonographers can choose to complete a training program, obtain certification and begin working in the radiography department of a hospital or clinic. They can also choose to specialize in one or more other areas of sonography to enhance their career opportunities. Here are some of the available areas of specialization an aspiring sonography can choose to pursue. Certification in these specialized areas can be obtained through the ARDMS.
- Breast sonography
- Vascular sonography
- Abdominal sonography
- Obstetrics and gynecology
With the aging population in need of professionals to diagnose medical conditions, diagnostic medical sonographers will continue to be in demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Sonographers should see employment growth of 23% during the 2016-2026 decade. A May 2018 report by the BLS states that diagnostic medical sonographers earned an average annual wage of $73,860. Those who obtain multiple certifications in various areas of sonography typically experience the highest wages.
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Diagnostic medical sonography is a field that offers many career opportunities as well as excellent wages. Diagnostic medical sonographers also have the option to advance into other areas of sonography, making it an excellent career choice. The fact that it only requires an associate degree makes it ideal for many candidates interested in joining the workforce earlier rather than later.