If you're looking for a career in the medical field that can earn you over $64,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but doesn't take a four-year degree, consider the ultrasound field. Ultrasound technicians help doctors and other medical professionals to literally look into their patients through the use of specialized imaging equipment. Starting a career in the ultrasound field means getting a minimum of an associate degree at a community college, technical school or other similar educational institution.
Community college provides an economical way to start your ultrasound career path. Community colleges typically cost less per semester credit than do four-year institutions or private postsecondary schools. Additionally, community colleges offer certificates and associate degrees that take less time than a bachelor's-level program to complete. For example, the Community College of Allegheny County offers an Associate of Science in diagnostic medical sonography that takes two years of full-time study to complete and enables graduates to take the American Registry in Diagnostic Medical Sonography exam to become a registered ultrasound professional.
Although most community colleges offer general programs in ultrasound, some -- such as CCAC -- also provide specialization options. While these programs do offer a specialization concentration, others schools cater specifically to one area of the ultrasound field. For example, the Cardiac and Vascular Institute of Ultrasound trains imaging professionals to work in a medical office or setting with heart patients. While courses in this or any other specialization are part of a general program, a school such as CVIU provides focused training for students who are sure of their career direction.
Technical and Vocational Options
Technical and vocational schools don't feature the broad array of major options that a community or four-year college would. Instead, these schools focus on professions in areas such as health care and business or on skilled vocations such as electrician or HVAC repair professional. For example, ATI College is a career vocational school that offers ultrasound technology along with other health care programs such as medical billing and medical assisting. Like community colleges, technical and vocational schools typically offer a general curriculum that provides training in imaging for all of the body systems.
Although you can't complete the hands-on practical experience that you'll need to graduate with a degree in ultrasound technology online, you can take a partially virtual program that provides web-based lectures. The Cambridge Institute of Allied Health and Technology offers a diagnostic medical sonography degree with an online learning component. This type of program allows students who have employment, family or other obligations to take their coursework on their own time, providing a more flexible scheduling option. That said, you will have to go to campus or a field practicum site to receive clinical training.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Community College of Allegheny County: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Associate's Degree
- Cardiac and Vascular Institute of Ultrasound
- ATI College: Medical Program -- Ultrasound Technology
- Cambridge Institute of Allied Health and Technology: Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program with Online Component
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