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How Do I Get a Sonography Degree?

Sonography is a non-invasic diagnostic technique used to capture images of internal organs.
Graduates of sonography degree programs may continue their education to become a diagnostic medical sonographer.
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  • Written By: Lucinda Watrous
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Sonography, also called ultrasonography, uses sound waves to produce a picture of the structures inside a patient's body. There are a number of different ways to learn sonography, and a sonography degree may take anywhere from 2 to 4 years to complete, depending on the course of study. With the increase in online courses, students may also have the option to earn their sonography degree from home. Workers in other healthcare-related fields may also consider getting a certificate in sonography to assist in switching careers or to make themselves more marketable to employers.

As part of their coursework, students learn the skills to use various types of sonography equipment to obtain images of a patient's organs. These images are used to diagnose a number of different conditions, depending on the reason for the ultrasound. In addition to operating the machinery, sonographers may also be required to read the results of the images to assist the physician in delivering a diagnosis for the patient.

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Graduates of accredited sonography degree programs may be able to continue their education to become a diagnostic medical sonographer, where they will be able to choose a specialty, such as neurosonography or obstetric sonography. A neurosonographer specializes in ultrasounds of the central nervous system and brain. Obstetric sonography is the most common specialty, and focuses on the female reproductive system. It is used throughout pregnancy to monitor the growth of the fetus or to find potentially dangerous issues that could harm either baby or mother. Other specialty areas include opthalmologic sonography, which is related to the eyes, and abdominal sonography, which focuses on the kidneys, liver, and other abdominal organs.

The typical work environment for sonographers is a 40 hour work week, though weekends, evening shifts, and on-call shifts may be required for sonographers who work in a hospital environment. Sonographers usually work directly with patients, keep patient records, and adjust equipment. Aside from hospitals, sonographers may be able to find employment in the offices of physicians and gynecologists.

In the United States, students who have earned a sonography degree may consider testing to become part of the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) to increase their chances of landing a position in the field. ARDMS is an independent organization, which certifies that sonographers have a certain level of training in the field. Employers often look for this certification when sorting through applications; however, this may or may not be a requirement in order to secure a position.

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ceilingcat
Post 9

I think that you need to be really careful when choosing sonography schools to get your degree from. There are a lot of programs being advertised by tech school these days that promise a new career very quickly! However, not all of these programs are accredited. You might complete one and still not be able to get a job!

Before you get sucked in, definitely check there accreditation and also see what their track record is as far as helping their students get jobs. And of course see if you can talk to students that have attended the school to get a firsthand view of the program.

SZapper
Post 8

@Azuza - Yeah, I feel like as a general rule, online degrees in the medical field aren't a great idea. You need clinical experience to get most medical certifications, and you can't very well get that if you take your program online! I think a lot of people just look for shortcuts though, so they want to get done as quickly as possible.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that there are both associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs accredited by ARDMS. So if you don't have a lot of money to spend, you can get an associate's diagnostic medical sonography degree and still be eligible for certification.

Azuza
Post 7

I was actually looking into becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer, so I did a little bit of research as far as the educational requirements. I looked at a bunch of job ads in my area, and all of them require a certification through ARDMS! I'm not sure if it's like that everywhere though.

I checked into the requirements for sitting for a credential exam through ARDMS, and they're pretty stringent. They require clinical experience, so I don't think an online diagnostic medical sonography degree would be the way to go if you want to get certified through them.

Honestly, if I decide to become a medical sonographer I'm just going to make my life easier and attend a program accredited by ARDMS!

bagley79
Post 6
I have my associate degree in sonography, and have found I really like working in this area. I need to work full-time, but am hoping to continue my education and eventually get my bachelor's degree.

I work in a gynecologist's office and enjoy the patients I have contact with. Working in a doctor's office has great hours and I never have to work nights or weekends.

You are limited on what you can do with just an associate's degree, but I am hoping to get to the point where I can read the results and have more of an active role in the whole process.

LisaLou
Post 5

My niece went to school to get her bachelor's degree in sonography. Now she works at a hospital as an abdominal sonographer.

This is a job she really enjoys. She has a good balance of patient contact and paperwork she is required to do.

The only downside is she still has to work a lot of weekends and nights. Sometimes her schedule can be kind of crazy, but the longer she is there, the more seniority she gets.

It took her four years to get her bachelor's degree, but this makes her more marketable for other positions she might be interested in later on down the road.

myharley
Post 4

@julies - Has your step-daughter looked into any of the online sonography degree programs? I know there are many companies who are offering degrees like this where you can complete the program online at home.

I don't know how this works as far as any on-the- job-training, but this might be something for her to look into.

I know she would want to do her research before making any decisions. I think there are some programs that are much better than others and would be more qualified.

Another thing to consider is the chances of employment after completing an online degree program. Many times when you complete a degree at a specific school, they have good job placement programs after you graduate.

julies
Post 3

@MrsWinslow - My step-daughter was also looking at getting a medical sonography degree for the same reasons. She is interested in the health care field and her mom is a nurse.

She realized she wasn't quite cut out for a nursing job, but was interested in the 2 year degree program and high pay of working as a sonographer.

The only problem was there was a long waiting list at the school where she could complete this medical sonography degree. Since she didn't want to wait that long, she went ahead and started working towards her medical lab technician degree.

I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere down the line she ends up going to school to get her sonography degree. I think a lot of the classes she has already taken would transfer as credits, so it wouldn't take her as long the complete the program.

MrsWinslow
Post 2

@MissDaphne - I think they're the same thing. I'm pretty sure that you need at least an associate's degree in sonography before they let you put the gel on anyone!

This is one of those lesser-known health care fields that has good pay, often decent hours, and good job growth. A friend of mine got into it because she really wanted to work in health care, but nursing just seemed a bit too rough for her. She works mostly in doctor's offices during the day, but she also is sometimes on call for overnights and on weekends.

She specializes in pregnant women and says it's usually pretty enjoyable. They get to tell expectant parents the sex of the baby. Every once in a while, though, she sees something really wrong. That she *can't* tell them, because the image has to be reviewed by a doctor. That, as you might imagine, is the worst part of her job, seeing these happy expectant parents who are about to have their dreams shattered.

MissDaphne
Post 1

I'm thinking of the scene in the movie Juno where the teen mom is having an ultrasound and the person doing it expresses relief that the girl intends to place the baby for adoption. The stepmom lights into her for assuming that her "idiot stepdaughter" would make a bad mother and asks the woman what her job title is. She says she's an "ultrasound technician" and the stepmom makes fun of her.

So my question is, are ultrasound technicians and sonographers the same thing? Would an "ultrasound technician" have a degree in sonography?

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