An online certificate in sonography or ultrasound technology will give you the education and hands-on experience needed for a career in echocardiography, obstetric ultrasounds, or neurosonography.
Sonographers and ultrasound technicians work on the front lines of a life-giving and life-saving profession. They produce diagnostic images of the human body that assist physicians with early disease detection, pregnancy tracking, and medical procedures. Aspiring professionals can pursue an array of training options, including ultrasound certificate programs, sonography certificate programs, and ultrasound tech certificate programs.
This field is appealing to professionals because of its accessible training requirements and positive career outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 17% job growth in this field from 2019-2029, which is over four times higher than the average rate for all occupations. COVID-19 impacted how sonographers complete their daily tasks safely, but the demand for these essential care providers has not slowed.
This page provides a detailed look at different training programs, a list of possible career pathways, and a ranking of the best accredited online sonography and ultrasound certificates.
Featured Sonography Schools
The Best Online Certificate in Ultrasound and Sonography Degree Programs
A Catholic university founded in 1924, Misericordia University is in Dallas, Pennsylvania, and has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students. Its College of Health Science and Education offers a certificate in diagnostic medical sonography (DMS). The 18-month program provides ultrasound technician certification online for working adults who require scheduling flexibility.
Classes cover content like ultrasound physics and instrumentation, abdominal sonography, obstetrical sonography, and pathology and clinical integration. The 48-hour program also requires clinical placement for hands-on learning, so students must submit background checks and immunization documentation prior to enrollment. Upon program completion, graduates demonstrate proficiency in interacting with faculty, colleagues, and patients. In addition, they comprehend and recall complex information learned in their coursework and know how to appropriately respond to the challenges that both emergencies and clinical environments demand. The program prepares students to sit for national certification exams through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, Ferris State University prepares specialists in diagnostic medical sonography through its certificate in vascular ultrasound. Graduates of this online ultrasound certification program develop skills using the instrumentation required to gather and document information concerning physiology and blood vessel anatomy. Graduates can aid physicians in diagnosing and treating vascular disorders related to the blood supply to and from the body’s vital organs. This knowledge helps when determining neurological disorders, cardiovascular pathologies, and diabetes complications.
The program targets current sonographers who wish to continue their education. Enrollees must be certified through either the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Students must earn at least a “C” in each class and pass a mock vascular registry exam with at least 77%. In addition, they must earn at least 85% on their final portfolio. Upon certificate completion, students can sit for the ADRMS registered vascular technology certification exam.
Online Sonography and Ultrasound Certificate Program Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.
Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.
Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
About Our Ranking Factors
Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.
We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.
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What Are Online Sonography and Ultrasound Certificates?
Online sonography certificate programs can look quite different depending on the school. They typically run 1-2 years and feature a blend of didactic instruction, lab work, and clinical experience. Most programs emphasize over 1,000 hours of practical clinical experience in hospitals or medical clinics, along with training in on-campus simulation centers.
Students in an ultrasound certificate program learn to operate the imaging technology and instrumentation. They also gain specialized medical knowledge to help them analyze diagnostic images. Some programs offer concentrations in cardiac, abdominal, or musculoskeletal sonography.
Prospective students typically need a two-year healthcare degree for admission. Ultrasound tech certificate programs appeal to different types of people, including students coming directly from a medical degree, medical professionals switching fields, and sonographers looking for advancement opportunities.
After completing a sonography certificate program, graduates may pursue employment as a sonographer or ultrasound technician. Many employers, however, prefer candidates with professional certification from organizations like American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Some states even require licensure, which means certification is mandatory.
Sonography and Ultrasound Certificate Program, Certification, and Degree Program Overview
Students can earn sonography and ultrasound postsecondary degrees through community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. Students can pursue certificates through technical schools, colleges, universities, and hospital clinics. Finally, students can earn certifications from industry organizations. Typically, certificate programs train students, whereas certifications test experienced professionals.
Length: 1-3 years, but this can vary.
Prerequisite Education and Experience:
- Completed associate or bachelor's of science degree in a health field
- *May already have working experience in the medical field
- *May already be a practicing sonographer
Who May Offer Them?
- Technical or vocational schools
Internship/Clinical Experience Included in Program?
- *If you're a practicing sonographer, you may only need to take supplemental courses for your certificate.
Continuing Education Required to Maintain Certificate? Yes
- Obstetrics and gynecology
- Diagnostic medical sonography
- Cardiac sonography
- Pediatric cardiac sonography
- Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS)
- Cardiovascular technology
- Vascular sonography
- Abdominal and ophthalmologic sonography
Required in Every State?
No, only Oregon, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and New Mexico require licensing. However, employers and insurance providers usually prefer that sonographers and ultrasound techs have certification.
When to Pursue:
- After students/professionals have completed an accredited sonography program, either through a certificate in sonography, associate's degree in sonography, or bachelor's degree in sonography.
- *Program must include clinical experience.
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
- American Registration of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
*ARRT certification requires at least an associate's degree to be eligible for a certification exam.
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)
Exam Required for Certification:
Continuing Education Required to Renew Certification? Yes
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)
- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
- Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer (RMSKS)
- Registered Radiologist Assistant (R.R.A.)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR)
- Mammography (M)
- Vascular Interventional Radiography (VI)
Required to Become a Sonographer or Ultrasound Tech?
No, but it makes students/professionals more competitive in the job market and allows them to pursue multiple specializations and prepare for different certifications.
Types of Ultrasound Technician Degrees:
- Two-year associate
- Four-year bachelor's
- Master's degree
- Associate of applied science in diagnostic medical sonography
- Bachelor of science in vascular ultrasound
- Bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography
- Bachelor of science in radiation science
What to Expect From Online Sonography and Ultrasound Certificate Programs
The list below highlights popular ultrasound certificate program concentrations. These tracks teach students how to take and analyze images in various anatomical regions. Students learn specialized scanning techniques for those areas of the body, along with possible life-saving disease detection techniques.
Sonography and Ultrasound Certificate Concentrations
- Vascular sonography
- Breast ultrasound
- General ultrasound
- Fetal echocardiography
- Adult echocardiography
- Pediatric echocardiography
- Obstetrics and gynecological ultrasound
- Diagnostic medical sonography
- Cardiac sonography
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Pediatric sonography
- Musculoskeletal sonography
- Midwife sonography
Sonography and Ultrasound Certificate Courses
In this course, students learn how sonography equipment works, how it impacts the body, and how it can be used safely.
This course teaches students how to provide care responsibly. Learners may also examine equipment safety protocols, communication standards, and potential health and safety risks of the profession.
Medical terminology courses teach students the language of healthcare and sonography. Enrollees learn medical terms, abbreviations, spelling, and pronunciation to ensure they can communicate effectively with patients and other professionals.
This course teaches students techniques and standards for scanning and evaluating diagnostic images. Learners examine images and test out their training in labs and clinical experiences.
In cross-sectional anatomy courses, students learn to identify parts of the body in ultrasounds, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance images.
This course focuses on the vascular ultrasound and teaches techniques for producing optimal images. Students learn the anatomy of the vascular system and the fluid dynamics in the body.
Choosing an Online Program
To choose the best ultrasound tech certificate program, prospective students need to know what to look for in an online program and how to pick a college. Learners need to consider their own career goals, interests, and academic history to find the best match.
For example, candidates should explore accredited programs with curricula that emphasize practical training and offer specializations they're interested in. Ideal programs should also feature scheduling options and admission requirements that the applicant can reasonably satisfy.
Accreditation for Sonography and Ultrasound Programs
Prospective students need to pay attention to accreditation for all college and university programs. All schools should hold regional accreditation with the proper organization or else students may lose out on financial aid and employment opportunities.
Moreover, sonography certificate programs and ultrasound tech certificate programs should possess programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This can influence postgraduate certification, licensure, and employment.
Sonography and Ultrasound Careers
Healthcare professionals in the sonography and ultrasound field enjoy a strong employment outlook. Their specialized training makes them part of a thriving workforce that the BLS projects will grow faster than the average rate for all occupations between 2019-2029. The majority of these specialists work in hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and diagnostic labs.
These professionals also tend to earn much more than the median annual wage for all occupations. As per the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers earn median annual wages of $75,920, cardiovascular technologists earn $59,100, and health technicians earn $45,620. The sections below detail possible career paths.
Diagnostic medical sonographers possess the skills and training to work in an array of sonographic fields. Rather than focus on one speciality, diagnostic medical sonography certificate programs provide comprehensive training, covering abdomen, gynecology, and vascular sonography. Students learn the skills and imaging techniques to work in various settings and with different patient types.
Prospective sonographers can specialize in abdominal imaging via degrees, certificates, and certifications. Training covers abdominal scanning techniques and image analysis, along with common diseases and ailments these scans typically look for. Many ultrasound certificate programs include abdominal sonography as one of the main components.
Students can enroll in ultrasound tech certificate programs that offer specialized training in breast sonography. These programs typically cover breast anatomy and imaging techniques, along with image analysis of benign and malignant lesions. Graduates can pursue breast sonography certification as well.
Prospective neurosonographers can pursue a degree or certificate in this field, which also qualifies them for certification. These sonography certificate programs teach learners to use specialized transcranial dopplers to examine the brain and nervous system and measure blood flow.
Many ultrasound certificate programs, diplomas, and degrees offer specialized gynecological sonography training. Students learn the techniques and tools used in obstetrics and gynecological ultrasound exams. They also examine the typical sonographic anatomy of the pelvic region, uterus, and ovaries.
Prospective echocardiographers and cardiac sonographers can pursue a certificate or degree that may also lead to professional certification. This speciality delves into the evaluation of heart images, looking at the function, chamber size, and surrounding anatomy of the heart. Students learn to calibrate tools and identify signs of heart disease and other issues.
One of the more common ultrasound tech certificate programs, vascular sonography certificate programs familiarize students with the primary anatomy, instrumentation, and typical procedures of the field. Enrollees also learn how to conduct specialized ultrasounds, such as venous duplex, cerebrovascular duplex, and arterial duplex scans.
Musculoskeletal sonography certificate programs prepare students for specialized careers and certifications. Enrollees explore the anatomies and pathologies of the musculoskeletal system and learn scanning basics. Advanced training covers scanning techniques for soft tissues and the upper and lower extremities.
Sonography and Ultrasound Organizations
Sonography and ultrasound organizations provide students and professionals alike with excellent education and career benefits. Members can access industry news and research, find scholarships, and get career support. They can also enroll in continuing education programs, attend events, and advance their careers with professional development workshops.
Sonographers and ultrasound technicians may join national organizations, but regional chapters and field specialist organizations feature a more limited membership pool. Some of the largest and best professional organizations in this field include:
Frequently Asked Questions
Most sonography certificate programs take between 1-2 years to complete, but the length can vary.
Sonography certificate programs provide much of the same training as specialized sonography degrees. Since most certificate programs require prospective students to possess a healthcare-related degree for admission, both pathways amount to a similar level of education.
While many ultrasound tech certificate programs feature online courses, clinical requirements typically need to be completed on-site at a medical clinic or hospital. Students may also need to satisfy laboratory and simulation center requirements on campus.
Many employers require sonographers to possess certification with an organization like the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). These credentials typically require candidates to pass an examination.
According to the BLS, ultrasound technicians usually need a two-year healthcare degree and certificate or a bachelor's degree for employment. Some employers may require certification or licensure as well.
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