How Does One Become an Ultrasound Technologist?

If you're interested in a career in medical sonography, you may have wondered how to become an ultrasound technician. Ultrasound techs, or ultrasound technologists, are responsible for using advanced computer equipment and medical imaging technology to produce accurate images of organs, tissues and other parts of the body. Ultrasound technician training programs typically run between 24 and 48 months, and prepare students for an entry-level position as an ultrasound technologist at a medical center, hospital, medical imaging center, clinic or physician's office. Many accredited programs are available at community colleges and universities, but students may have the option to take some courses online.

How to Become an Ultrasound Technician

Educational and training requirements for an ultrasound technician don't vary by state, but some employers may require advanced training or certain types of certification. Those who already have a degree in a medical field or have had some training in a related field may be able to complete a two-year or accelerated certification program to receive their credentials.

The first step in becoming an ultrasound technician is to complete an accredited training program. These programs typically include classroom training and a clinical requirement where students get to work with some of the latest medical imaging equipment and computer programs. Some programs include an externship or internship component where students can work in a hospital setting or medical imaging center to get work experience.

Some training programs are designed to prepare students for a career in a specific field. For example, an ultrasound tech could take specialized courses in neurosonography if they wanted to work in setting where they scan images of the brain and spine. The ultrasound tech could specialize in obstetrics or gynecology if they only wanted to work with pregnant women or women who are dealing with gynecological problems.

After completing all courses and hands-on training, the student will need to complete an ultrasound technician certification exam. Passing the exam grants the student official credentials in their field.

Training Required to Become an Ultrasound Technologist

General training requirements to become an ultrasound technologist include completing a two-year or four-year degree program, passing the certification exam, and obtaining credentials from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

Some of the key skills learned when you become an ultrasound technologist include:

  • Operating advanced medical imaging equipment
  • Directing patients into the correct position and explaining different procedures
  • Noting patient medical histories
  • Sorting, selecting and reviewing appropriate images
  • Performing equipment maintenance checks and following safety protocol
  • Assisting radiologists, nurses and physicians with the diagnosis
  • Cleaning and maintaining ultrasound and sonography equipment for the department

There are currently over 170 accredited training programs available for ultrasound technicians in the United States. The Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs is the accrediting body for these programs, so it's important to make sure that the school or training center you choose has been approved by the Commission. Most employers look for graduates of accredited schools, and not all ultrasound technician programs - including online and correspondence course programs - have received accreditation.

Some schools and training centers do give students the option to complete a portion of their training online. When you are training to become an ultrasound technologist or sonographer, consider the benefits of completing some of your coursework over the Internet or by taking correspondence courses.