Ultrasound technicians conduct diagnostic medical imaging that can be used to monitor illness and other health conditions. Ultrasound technology is commonly used to establish and to date pregnancy. To become an ultrasound technician, you must complete at least an associate degree or post-secondary certificate. The length of these programs varies by the school that offers them, but it typically takes two years to finish them.
An ultrasound technician must have a strong math and science background. Coursework may include calculus, anatomy, biology, physics and physiology. Classes specific to ultrasound technology are also included, such as the physics of ultrasound, application of the technology and an overview of ultrasound equipment. Some programs require that you complete some of the math and science courses before you enter the program, giving you a strong foundation on which to succeed. Others may require admissions testing.
Certificate and Degree Programs
There are many pathways to becoming an ultrasound technician. You may complete a certificate program, an associate degree or a bachelor's degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most ultrasound technicians receive either a certificate or an associate degree. Both programs take about the same amount of time to complete -- two years -- depending on the school. Some accelerated programs can be completed in a year to 18 months.
Just like doctors, ultrasound technicians can specialize. Technicians may specialize in vascular ultrasound, echocardiography ultrasound, breast ultrasound and other areas. Specialization requires taking coursework that focuses on the area of choice. Some schools offer programs for specialization, with all of the coursework already outlined. Specialization may help you be more competitive in the job market when applying for certain positions.
Most ultrasound technician programs require a certain number of clinical hours. Students use ultrasound equipment on actual patients. Students often complete clinical requirements in a hospital or outpatient facility under the supervision of a medical professional. The number of required clinical hours varies by program. Some programs may also grant credit hours for clinical work.