Diagnostic medical sonography is a dynamic occupation that -- according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- is growing at a faster than average pace of 44 percent between 2010 and 2020. Sonographers use sound wave-based imagining equipment to "see" inside of the human body. If you're considering a career in this field you'll need a minimum of an associate degree, preferably from a certified school.

Certification for the Nation

Before you select a sonography school, understanding who certifies it is key to making sure that you are attending a quality program. According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredits sonography schools in the U.S. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the CAAHEP as an accrediting agency for programmatic -- or specialized programs -- post-secondary schools. The CAAHEP reviews sonography schools, who apply for accreditation, in terms of quality of educational practices.

Finding Your Match

While a school may teach sonography, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's certified. In your quest for a quality program you should get choosy and look for the CAAHEP accreditation. The CAAHEP features an accredited programs search page on their website. Simply choose "diagnostic medical sonography" as your profession name, pick your state -- or the state where you want to attend school -- and select the degree that you want to receive. The CAAHEP will give you a list of your local sonography schools that have their certification of quality.

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Learning a Lesson or Two

During your career as a sonography student you'll have the chance to learn the intricacies of using diagnostic ultrasound equipment in a medical environment. Ultrasound technicians work in an array of settings and must have knowledge of all of the body systems and imaging techniques. To meet these standards, schools often require sonography students to take anatomy and physiology along with ultrasound imaging of specific body parts such as the abdomen. Additionally, you'll need to take a clinical practicum. This type of hands-on class provides real-life experience using utrasound techniques on patients.

Degree or Not Degree

As you start your ultrasound education, you'll need to decide what type of degree you want. The SDMS notes that diagnostic medical sonography degrees range from one to four years to complete. These programs include certificates from vocational or technical schools, associate degrees from community or junior colleges and four-year bachelor's degrees. A vocational school program is typically the shortest route, taking one or two years to complete. Likewise, an accredited or certified associate degree program won't take a lengthy amount of time, allowing you to complete the curriculum in 24 months. Bachelor's-level degrees typically take the most time, requiring four years of study. The longer the program, the more in-depth the coursework will be, allowing you to specialize in one area or gain a substantial amount of knowledge on working with all of the body systems.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.