Sonography technicians are health-care professionals who use specialized sound-wave technology to see inside a patient's body while conducting imaging test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, diagnostic medical sonographers are in demand, with a projected field growth of 44 percent between 2010 and 2020. Becoming a sonographer requires a minimum of an associate degree, including courses in hands-on skills as well as biological and scientific classes.
Starting with the Right Stuff
Before you begin sonography school, you'll need to fulfill any prerequisite requirements that your academic institution has. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs -- the agency that accredits diagnostic medical sonographer schools -- notes most two-year associate programs requires students to have taken high school-level science, physics and algebra. Some schools require students to complete college-level courses prior to admission. For example, the Community College of Allegheny County near Pittsburgh, Pa., requires applicants to complete prerequisite college-level courses in biology and medical terminology.
The prime focus of your ultrasound academic career is on learning how to conduct and interpret sonography images. Ultrasound technicians work in a variety of medical environments, providing imaging services for cardiac, gynecological and other types of patients. Requirements for an associate-level program typically include specialized courses in using ultrasound equipment for cardiac, OB/GYN and abdominal procedures. These types of classes help the future ultrasound tech to learn about specific body systems, anatomy and the sonography imaging applications.
Prior to stepping into the procedure room and trying to figure out what you're looking at on the ultrasound equipment screen, you'll have the chance to practice your skills on real patients in a hospital or medical setting. During the course of a diagnostic medical sonography program the school will require students to complete clinical practicum courses. During conicals you'll work under a faculty supervisor or professor, practicing ultrasound procedures in the real-world setting of a health-care environment. Keep in mind that this isn't the same as actually working as a sonographer. You won't receive payment and you will need to have a supervisor watch over your work.
Learning Where Everything Is
Getting the right image means understanding the human body and its typical structure. Given that you'll need to know where certain organs and other parts of the body are to start an ultrasound procedure and interpret what you're seeing, most schools require students to complete a cross-sectional anatomy class. In this type of science class, you'll learn about the landmarks of the human body and what you'll find inside, underneath the skin.
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.