What Are the Different Types of Ultrasound Degree Programs?

Maggie J. Hall

Associates of Science and Bachelor's of Radiology are some of the different types of ultrasound degree programs. Students with degrees in a health care profession might also attend a 12- to 18-month ultrasound certificate program. Upon completing the necessary requirements, students typically apply for the actual ultrasound degree program. As sonography is a competitive field, students gain an advantage by maintaining a high grade point average. Schools may interview prospective candidates and require letters of recommendation and a history of work experience.

A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.
A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.

Two to three years of study and the accumulation of around 80 credit hours from an accredited school are required for an associate's ultrasound degree program. Prior to acceptance into the sonography program, students must complete a variety of required science and math courses, in addition to general studies. The majority of schools require anatomy, physiology, and physics classes, and some also recommend biology and chemistry. Necessary math classes include college algebra and statistics. Any career in the medical profession requires students to take medical terminology.

A sonographer doing an ultrasound.
A sonographer doing an ultrasound.

After acceptance into associate's ultrasound degree programs, students spend a year learning about the maintenance and operation of the equipment. They learn the difference in the appearance of normal and abnormal tissue structures located in the abdomen, breast, and heart and gain experience in obstetrics and gynecology and in viewing neurological and vascular tissues. Along with attending lectures, students must obtain hands-on clinical experience for the required number of hours. During clinicals, students explain procedures to patients, position patients properly, and perform actual ultrasound procedures.

Students may bachelor's ultrasound degree programs after completing an associate's degree program or after obtaining an associate's degree and acquiring work experience. Graduating from a bachelor's program generally requires completion of around 120 credit hours. Many schools require specific math and science prerequisites before students attend the full year of advanced sonography courses. These courses provide more in-depth knowledge pertaining to all the fields of sonography, or students may choose to specialize in one or more particular areas.

Upon completion and graduation from ultrasound degree programs, students generally take the state board examinations offered by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Successfully passing the state exam allows students to submit fees and acquire professional certification. Maintaining certification requires reapplication for certification according to state regulations in addition to acquiring 30 continuing education credits every three years.

Ultrasound technicians can answer questions about anatomy, however only a doctor can deliver a diagnosis that relates to an ultrasound's findings.
Ultrasound technicians can answer questions about anatomy, however only a doctor can deliver a diagnosis that relates to an ultrasound's findings.

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