How Can I Become a Sonographer?
The right education, certification and hands-on training are key to becoming a sonographer, and there are many avenues available to enter the field. Medical sonography programs vary in length from one to four years, depending on what degree or certification you are pursuing. Some programs require you to have your high school diploma or GED; others want certain qualifications from a related health profession as a prerequisite for admission.
Sonographers get trained in hospitals, vocational/technical institutions, colleges and universities and even in the military, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those colleges and universities offer 2- and 4-year programs, where a prospective sonographer can earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. The 2-year programs are more common, however. There are a few 1-year programs, but these programs are not usually accredited and are generally more useful for those already in the health care field who want to make themselves more desirable in the workforce by training in sonography, the Bureau says.
In 2006, the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredited 147 sonography training programs, many of which are offered by colleges and universities. Some hospital’s programs are also accredited. You can choose from a list of accredited CAAHEP programs here.
You don’t have to be licensed in any state to be a sonographer, but it is important to be registered. Various organizations exist to validate the skills and knowledge of medical sonographers through offering credentials and registration. One of such organizations is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The ARDMS measures a sonographer’s professional standing independently and objectively, and ARDMS registration is preferred by many employers. To become registered with ARDMS, you must pass an exam on general principles and instruments, and an exam in a specialty, which could be anything from OB/GYN sonography to neurosonography. To keep up their registration, sonographers must maintain continuing education hours that keep them aware of their occupation’s technological advancements.
Other necessary skills
You won’t last very long in a sonography career without good communication skills and the ability to show compassion to patients. Many patients will be anxious about the exam, which greatly invades their personal space, and about the results the exam could uncover, such as cancer, heart disease or other serious conditions. As a sonographer, you need to be able to communicate clearly what you will be doing and listen effectively to patients’ concerns to help them feel more at ease.