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:
Because 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.