Best Online Certificate in Sonography Programs
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Students who hold an associate or bachelor's degree can pursue a certificate in sonography to gain the foundational skills needed for a career in medical imaging. Sonographers use imaging and sound waves to create images of parts of the body. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of $75,920 as of May 2020.
A certificate program teaches students to analyze medical images, look for evidence of disease or abnormality, and find information relevant to health conditions like pregnancy. This non-invasive procedure provides insights into the body's health, and sonographers can provide interpretations that make diagnosis more efficient.
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Certificate costs vary widely by program depending on the school, program length, and delivery format. However, attending a top online program can help reduce costs.
This field should remain in high demand in the near future, as the BLS projects 14% job growth for medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists/technicians between 2020 and 2030. Read on to learn more about this in-demand, essential, and potentially lucrative field.
What Is a Certificate in Sonography Program?
A sonography certificate program typically offers instruction for students who already hold an associate or bachelor's degree. Colleges and universities offer this certificate program so that students can receive the training they need to sit for a sonography certification — a professional award that demonstrates professional-level skills. Upon graduation, many students sit for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers certification exam.
A certificate offers additional educational training on top of a degree. These programs aren't as long as a degree and provide more focused training to prepare students for careers in sonography. Prospective students usually need an undergraduate degree in a related field to apply for certificate programs.
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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Can I Expect From an Online Certificate in Sonography Program?
Most of these sonography programs take about one year to complete and offer students the opportunity to make a difference in patient diagnosis and care. Coursework prepares students to sit for relevant professional certification exams.
Students can complete most courses online through asynchronous or synchronous learning; however, they must also complete clinicals in person at a healthcare facility. Online students often receive support from their program in finding or choosing a location, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the student to secure their placement.
Program lengths vary, but largely depend on each student's schedule. For example, part-time students can expect programs to take longer. In addition, pursuing a specialization or concentration can add to course requirements. Common concentration options include the following:
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Focuses specifically on disease diagnosis
- Echocardiography: Focuses on heart health and diagnosis
- Vascular Sonography: Focuses on the complex vascular system
- Obstetric Sonography: Uses sonography to chart the progress of a growing fetus
- Neurosonography: Focuses on the brain and its health
Once students complete their certificate program, they must take certification exams to become eligible to practice. These professionals may need to undergo regular recertification as they progress through their careers.
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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Certificate in Sonography Program?
Introduction to Sonography
In this course, students learn the foundational principles of sonography and its tools. Students learn to recognize image markers associated with abnormalities, disease, and healthy tissue and organs. The course covers terminology as well as ethical issues in the field.
Ultrasound Physics and Tools
This course starts to train students how to use the tools they will ultimately need to master to find success in the field. Students learn how sonography works, what to look for in a diagnosis, and general operation of sonography machines and transducers.
This course takes a closer look at the anatomy of the human body and how that anatomy appears in sonography images. Students examine these images to determine any abnormalities and identify the presence of disease. Some courses include specific looks at certain body parts and systems.
All accredited sonography programs include a clinical component. During these courses, students receive training in a real clinical environment, such as a hospital, to gain supervised experience and observe procedures in real time.
Research Projects and Procedures
This course teaches students the basics of medical research procedures, preparing them for work beyond diagnosis. Participants learn best practices for conducting ethical research in the field and aiding research teams with ultrasound images and data.
What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Certificate in Sonography Program?
Students usually need an associate degree or bachelor's degree in a related field to apply to online certificate in sonography programs. Admission requirements are usually the same for on-campus and online students. Applicants may need to submit official transcripts with proof of a certain GPA to earn admission.
Some competitive certificate programs may require letters of recommendation or a college essay. Make sure to check all requirements before applying and be ready to find your own clinical placement if you live far from your prospective schools.
What Can I Do With an Online Certificate in Sonography Degree?
According to the BLS, as of May 2020, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of $75,920. That salary was well above the national average for all jobs and should represent a solid return on investment for students who only need to earn an associate degree and a certificate to qualify.
The BLS also projects 14% job growth in the field between 2020 and 2030 for medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists/technicians, which would translate to the creation of more than 19,000 new positions. Students with this certificate can find work in hospitals, OB-GYN offices, and community health centers.
The general sonography field offers students the opportunity to support healthcare teams in diagnosis and care plans. According to the BLS, this field should experience faster than average growth in the coming years, providing job-seekers with opportunities in many different healthcare settings.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $70,380
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers work directly with healthcare teams to diagnose abnormalities in body systems. They provide valuable expertise while putting together treatment plans and can make a difference in providing efficient, fast diagnoses.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $75,920
Obstetric sonographers offer insight into the health and development of a growing fetus. They work with doctors, OB-GYN centers, and other healthcare facilities, providing expert knowledge of fetal growth.
Average Annual Salary (January 2022): $66,520
Students with some work experience may decide to move back into the education field. Sonographers employed by colleges and trade programs train the next generation of ultrasound technicians and occasionally perform their own research. Depending on where they teach, professionals may also need an advanced degree to qualify for this role.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $84,710
Research and Medical Lab Sonographer
Diagnostic and medical lab sonographers process sonography images and provide research support. This position may offer job-seekers the chance to practice sonography outside of typical hospital or healthcare center settings. Workers may need an advanced degree and/or ample experience to qualify for this position.
Average Annual Salary (May 2020): $71,830
Sonography Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Students should develop a love of continuous learning in the sonography field. Technology continues to evolve, providing better imaging and diagnosis tools, so students will likely train on multiple ultrasound tools throughout their careers.
Also, sonographers need to recertify after a certain period to maintain their sonography certification. Requirements can vary depending on a professional's work environment and location. With changing technologies, evolving understandings of disease, and new best practices in healthcare, these professionals must continue to learn their entire careers.
How Do I Choose an Online Certificate in Sonography Program?
Online programs sometimes cost less than on-campus programs. For example, many schools allow online students to pay in-state tuition, no matter where they live. Students should also consider the true program cost before making a final decision about where to go to school, including the time and cost associated with traveling to in-person clinicals.
Online programs generally use one of two delivery methods: synchronous or asynchronous delivery. Synchronous programs feature live, online meetings held at a certain time; these may offer a closer experience to a traditional on-campus program. In contrast, asynchronous programs provide general deadlines but allow students the flexibility and convenience to complete work around their own schedules.
Online programs help remove geographical barriers for students who can't uproot their lives to move to a faraway campus. However, enrolling in an online program close to where you live could allow you to take greater advantage of a program's local network and connections.
Furthermore, since online certificate in sonography programs include clinical components, it may be easier to find clinical placements if you attend a nearby school.
Accreditation proves that schools and programs meet certain guidelines and regulations. Students must graduate from an accredited program to sit for certification exams. Also, you cannot receive federal financial aid to attend schools that do not hold reputable accreditation.
Support from student services can make all the difference in your experience at a school. Online students should look for schools that provide student support services like internship placements, mentorship programs, and writing services. Some universities even offer dedicated support services for online students.
Best Accredited Online Certificate in Sonography Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Certificate in Sonography Programs
How do I become a certified sonographer?
Prospective sonographers need an associate or bachelor's degree in a related field plus a sonography certificate. They must pass a certification exam before becoming eligible to practice.
Is sonography a good career?
The medical field continues to grow, and sonographers play an essential role in supporting health teams. These professionals earn a high median annual wage ($75,920 as of May 2020, according to the BLS) and have the opportunity to perform meaningful and essential work.
Is there a lot of math in sonography?
The certificate doesn't require much advanced math, but most medical concentrations require at least some math prerequisites, such as algebra. Students should be comfortable using basic math if they hope to excel as sonographers.
Is sonography a stressful job?
Sonographers typically don't work in emergency settings and don't need to move around a lot the way nurses or doctors might. They typically work set hours and can usually take breaks as needed. Students who want a less stressful job in the medical field may find sonography appealing.
How many hours do sonographers work?
Most sonography positions in a healthcare setting require a typical 40-hour workweek. Students may or may not need to work on weekends, depending on their employer. However, they may have on-call hours, especially if they work in hospital settings.
What are the benefits of being a sonographer?
Sonographers often work in calmer settings compared to many other medical professionals. They also generally receive full-time benefits, including retirement, healthcare, and dental plans. The BLS projects 14% job growth for medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists/technicians between 2020 and 2030, and job-seekers can look forward to earning solid salaries — especially considering the fact that this position does not necessarily require a four-year degree.
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