What Do I Need to Be an Ultrasound Tech?

Considering a career in ultrasound technology? Find out what you need to get started in this rewarding field.

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In order to become an ultrasound technician, you need to have at least an Associate’s degree in health science or a related field.

What are the prerequisites for an accredited program?

Most accredited schools have similar prerequisites for their ultrasound technician programs. In general, you will need to have a high school diploma or GED, although some schools may require you to complete a few basic college courses first. You should also be prepared to take and pass a criminal background check, as this is often required by clinical sites. Once you have completed an accredited program, you will need to obtain licensure or certification in order to work in most states.

What is the length of an accredited program?

Program length for ultrasound tech schools vary, but most accredited programs can be completed in two years or less. There are some hospitals that offer on-the-job training for those who already have a two-year degree in another field, but this is becoming less common. The majority of ultrasound tech programs are found at community colleges, technical schools and some four-year universities.


A certification in diagnostic medical sonography is the most common credential ultrasounds technologists earn. Certification is not required in every state, but some employers prefer or require certification. The ARDMS grants three primary credentials: Registered diagnostic medical sonographer (RDMS), Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS), and Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS).

What is the difference between certification and licensure?

Licensure and certification are both voluntary processes used to validate an individual’s qualifications for practice. Certification is a process by which a nongovernmental agency grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by the profession. State licensure, on the other hand, is a process by which state governments grant legal permission to an individual to practice within the state. Most states require licensure for individuals who want to work as ultrasound technicians or sonographers.

What are the requirements for certification?

In order to be certified, you will need to complete an accredited ultrasound program and pass a national certification exam. Once you have completed your training and passed the exam, you will be able to use the title of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).

There are two main organizations that offer certification in the United States, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Both organizations offer a variety of exams, so you will need to decide which one is right for you.

The ARDMS offers exams in eight different specialty areas, including abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, musculoskeletal, neonatal brainstem auditory evoked responses, obstetrics and gynecology, pelvic floor dysfunction, and vascular technology. You can choose to take one or more exams, depending on your interests and career goals.

The ARRT offers exams in six different specialty areas: abdominal sonography, breast sonography, cardiac sonography, neurosonography, obstetric sonography, and pediatric sonography. You can also choose to take an exam in multiple specialties if you wish.

Once you have passed your exam(s), you will need to renew your certification every two years. This can be done by taking continuing education courses or by retaking the exam(s).

Clinical Experience

You’ll probably need to have some sort of clinical experience before you can start working as an ultrasound tech. This could be in the form of an internship, working as a medical assistant, or even just working in a hospital. It’s important to have some hands-on experience with patients before you start working as an ultrasound tech.

What is the difference between an internship and externship?

An internship is a form of on-the-job training where a student or recent graduate works in a particular company for a fixed period of time. Usually, an intern is paid for their work, but this isn’t always the case. An externship is similar to an internship, but it’s usually shorter in duration and the extern isn’t necessarily paid for their work. Externships are often done in order to gain experience in a particular field or type of work.

How many hours of clinical experience are required?

Most ultrasound technician schools require students to complete a minimum number of clinical hours as part of their training. This allows students to gain hands-on experience working with patients and using ultrasound equipment. The number of clinical hours required can range from as little as 100 to more than 1,000, depending on the program.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for ultrasound techs is quite positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the occupation will grow by about 24 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is much faster than the average occupation. As the population continues to age, there will be an increased need for diagnostic imaging, which will require more ultrasound techs

What are the projected job growth and salary statistics?

The BLS reports that the job outlook for ultrasound technicians is bright, with a projected employment growth of 44% from 2012-2022. The median annual salary for ultrasound technicians in 2013 was $66,390, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

As an ultrasound tech, you will need to complete continuing education courses on a regular basis to keep up with the latest technology and advancements in the field. You may be able to find some courses that are offered online, but many of them will require you to attend in person.

What are the requirements for continuing education?

Ultrasound technicians must complete a certain amount of continuing education credits every year in order to maintain their certification and stay up-to-date on the latest technology and procedures. The amount of credits required varies by state, but most states require between 20 and 40 hours of continuing education per year. Some states have additional requirements, such as completing a certain number of credits in specific subject areas.

What are the benefits of continuing education?

CE is important for multiple reasons. For one, it helps maintain credibility and professional stature. In many cases, CE is required to renew licensure and/or certification, and certain employers may prefer or require employees to take courses on a regular basis. Additionally, staying abreast of advancements in the field can make you a more effective ultrasound technician and potentially improve patient care. As technology changes, continuing education ensures that professionals are able to use the latest equipment and techniques.

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