Requirements to Become an Ultrasound Tech

Demand for ultrasound and ultrasonography technicians is high and is expected to stay high for several years to come. If you are interested in a career in medical imaging, you will need to complete a formal education and training program and work towards certification in your field. Ultrasound technician requirements tend to be the same from employer to employer, but some hospitals and clinics may require their ultrasound techs to obtain specialized training in a particular area, such as breast sonography or neurosonography.

All ultrasound techs are trained to work with x-rays, MRI machines and other equipment to scan certain parts of the body and produce accurate medical images for review. Technicians are also trained to look for certain signs or indications that may be linked to a problem or disease. They are trained to convey key information to doctors and nurses they work with, complete reports and also assist with assessing the patient's condition.

Ultrasound Tech Requirements: Education

Most employers prefer their ultrasound techs to have at least a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree to fulfill the educational ultrasound tech requirement. Most of these training programs are available at tech schools, medical training centers, community colleges and universities. Some hospitals also offer specialized training programs for students who want to excel in their careers, and for those who have already had some professional training in the medical field. Even though ultrasound techs are not required to obtain a license, they do have the option to go through a voluntary registration process.

The most ultrasound techs have some training and a medical background in the medical field and have taken classes in physics, patient care, physiology and anatomy amongst others.

Ultrasound Technician Requirements: Specialized Training

Most ultrasound technicians specialize in one of six areas. Ultrasound tech requirements for specializations typically vary by hospital, medical laboratory or physician's office, but those who have received training in a particular field may have better job opportunities and higher salary ranges in the future.

The six main specializations for ultrasound techs include:

  • Echocardiography
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN) sonography
  • Breast sonography
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Vascular technologist
  • Neurosonography

Fulfilling Ultrasound Tech Requirements

In order to fulfill the basic ultrasound tech requirements needed by most employers, students must complete at least a 24 or 48-month training program and hold at least an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography. One-year certificate programs are available for students who have some training in the health care field. Students typically take courses in the following areas: radiology, ultrasound principles, physiology, instrumentation, anatomy and medical ethics.

Students must also complete an unpaid externship at an approved hospital or clinic, and this is usually about 960 hours. This includes hands-on training and performance evaluations. This type of training gives students a chance to work in the medical field, assist physicians and nurses in a real-world environment, and work with some of the state-of-the-art equipment and machines. Some schools assist students with job placement shortly after their training and externship is complete.