Innovators Guide

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Training

Diagnostic medical sonography is an occupation to which there are multiple paths of entry. Formal education in sonography, training, or a combination of these are accepted by employers. Employers do prefer sonographers who have received education from an accredited program or completed training in an accredited practice, and who are registered.

Education and training. There are several avenues for entry into the field of diagnostic medical sonography. Sonographers may train in hospitals, vocational-technical institutions, colleges or universities, or the Armed Forces. Some training programs prefer applicants with experience in other healthcare professions or high school graduates with courses in mathematics, health, and science.

Colleges and universities offer formal training in both 2-year and 4-year programs, resulting in either an associate or a bachelor's degree. Two-year programs are the most prevalent. Coursework includes classes in anatomy, physiology, instrumentation, basic physics, patient care, and medical ethics. In 2008, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredited over 150 training programs. Accredited programs are offered by colleges and universities. Some hospital programs are accredited as well.

A few 1-year programs that typically result in a vocational certificate also are accepted as proper education by employers. These programs are useful usually only for workers already employed in a healthcare occupation who seek to increase their marketability by training in sonography. One-year vocational-certificate programs are not accredited by the CAAHEP.

Certification and other qualifications. No States require licensure in diagnostic medical sonography. However, sonographers may become credentialed by one of the professional certifying bodies. Most employers prefer to hire registered sonographers because registration provides an objective measure of an individual's professional standing. To become registered, one must first become eligible to take the examination by completing the proper education, training, or work experience. The exam typically includes a physics and instrumentation exam in a sonography specialty. Typically, sonographers must complete a required number of continuing-education hours to maintain registration. For specific details on credentialing, contact the certifying organization.

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) certifies each person who passes the exam as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS). This credential can be obtained for several different specialty areas like the abdomen, breast, or nervous system. The ARDMS also credentials cardiac and vascular sonographers. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologist offers credentials in breast and vascular sonography. The Cardiovascular Credentialing International credentials cardiac sonographers.

Sonographers should have good communication and interpersonal skills, because they must be able to explain technical procedures and results to their patients, some of whom may be nervous. Good hand-eye coordination is particularly important to obtaining quality images. It is very important that sonographers enjoy lifelong learning, because continuing education is crucial to workers in the ever-changing field of diagnostic medicine.

Advancement. Sonographers can seek advancement by obtaining competency in more than one specialty. For example, obstetric sonographers might seek training in abdominal sonography to broaden their opportunities and increase their marketability. Sonographers also may seek multiple credentials—for example, being both a registered diagnostic medical sonographer and a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer.

Sonographers may advance by taking supervisory, managerial, or administrative positions.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Employment
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Training
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Job Outlook
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Income


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