According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one job that pays an average of more than $64,000 per year and is growing faster than many other career fields is medical sonography. These professionals use equipment to create images from people's bodies for diagnostic purposes. To get into this field as an ultrasound technologist, you will likely need a two-year associate degree.
Coursework for an associate degree in ultrasound technology typically helps students learn to communicate well with patients and other medical professionals, understand the mechanism of ultrasound, and adhere to safety and ethical requirements. Sonographers deal directly with patients, who may be dealing with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, and may be uneasy about undergoing frightening medical procedures. Therefore, ultrasound technicians must demonstrate people skills and professionalism in addition to being able to manage the equipment involved.
Associate degrees generally include some general education or core classes. The core is typically comprised of classes in communications such as composition and speech; science classes focusing on physics and human anatomy; and mathematics coursework like algebra and basic calculus. Students may be required to take classes in critical thinking, medical terminology and social sciences such as psychology. Some schools add several further elective courses to requirements, allowing students to choose from these broad categories.
All ultrasound technicians need to understand how to use the imaging equipment. After the introductory technical class, potential course titles include Human Cross Section Anatomy, Abdominal Scanning and Techniques, Ultrasound Physics and Instrumentation, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Many schools offer several levels of each course, allowing students to learn more in-depth information about the equipment and ultrasound techniques as they move further into the program. Students typically include a practicum to get hands-on experience at each stage of study.
Some schools such as ECPI University and Cambridge Institute of Allied Health and Technology teach a broad-based ultrasound program, while others like Bellevue College allow students to specialize in a certain type of sonography such as vascular technology or echocardiography. These courses focus on administering and reading these particular types of ultrasound. If you don't know what area you want to specialize in, choose a general ultrasound program to get well-rounded coursework that touches on each area.
Schools sometimes offer additional courses that allow students to get a certificate or coursework for a particular aspect of sonography. For instance, Bellevue College presents several courses on mammography. Professional ultrasound technologists may need to get certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, so some programs also include classes to help students prepare for the certification exams from that agency. The coursework in sonography programs typically follows the guidelines from the ARDMS for general and specialty certifications.
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.