Here is a frequently asked question about becoming an ultrasound technician: “I have been looking into going to school to be a Ultrasound tech and I was wondering how long it take from start to finish?” or “How many years of school to become a ultrasound technician?” It’s a good question. There are several paths to being a Diagnostic Ultrasound Technologist. The quickest way is the DMS Certificate in a private program that is accredited by the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation Of Allied Health Education Programs).
Then there are the private program that are not accredited by the CAAHEP. Next is the AS degree from a community college and lastly there is the BS degree from a university. Then there are the online DMS Ultrasound Tech programs. It is impossible to become a DMS Ultrasound technologist without intensive hands-on training and some online Ultrasound Tech programs don’t offer internships but tell you to find one in your area (no hospital or imaging center would take you on without hands-on training in an internship).
In all the mentioned paths, the potential student would have to take an entrance exam and have at least one interview with the program’s director. In order to be hirable at most healthcare institutions, the graduate must pass at least 2 ARDMS exams (one must be SPI Physics).
Let’s take a look at each program path individually.
The quickest path is with a private program that is accredited by the CAAHEP and accepts high school graduates with a heavy emphasis in sciences and algebra. The student would attend fulltime (either days or evenings) for approximately 19 months. This doesn’t include the prerequisites that are specifically designed for the program, which tacks on approximately another 2 months to the program’s length. The CAAHEP accredited private program has somewhat of a waiting list because they aren’t that widespread and are very desirable.
If the program is not CAAHEP certified, then please listen carefully. You must have an AS degree in a healthcare field or a BS degree in any major from an accredited university and the program’s internship must be at least 960 hours in length. Go to the ARDMS website (ARDMS.org) for specific requirements. You must be incredibly careful with non-accredited private programs. Go on any ultrasound blog and read the sad stories of these graduates who are unable to find jobs and basically just threw away their tuition money with nothing to show for it. What happened?
The unaccredited program directors didn’t tell the potential students that unless they have an AS degree in a medical field or a BS degree, in order to sit for the ARDMS exams, they would have to work fulltime as an ultrasound technologist for one year. Here is the sticking point and the thing that ruins so many graduates’ dreams. Rarely will an imaging center or hospital take a chance and hire an unregistered ultrasound technologist, so there’s no way for the graduate to get that one year of employment in order to qualify to take the ARDMS exams.
As for the AS and BS degrees, those are offered by community colleges and universities and will require general education to be satisfied, as well as the major’s course load. In order to declare a major in DMS, prerequisites must be satisfied with a high GPA. The normal prerequisites are Microbiology, Physics, and Human Anatomy. And these prerequisites have prerequisites such as Algebra, and Biology/Chemistry for health majors. The AS degree would take 2-3 years (including prerequisites) and the BS degree, 4-5 years.