It’s an exciting and joyous part of a family’s life. But you may not know about the many other ways medical sonographers play a vital role in the health care team. Sonograms are used to diagnose a host of medical problems from kidney stones to heart conditions. And sonographers are a vital part of care in specialized fields that range from obstetrics to neurology to oncology.
Medical sonography isn’t just an important part of health care. It’s also a growing career field. With a current unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent, sonographers are in demand now. They’re well paid, with a median salary of $67,530. What’s more, the profession is expected to grow, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting a 26 percent increase in jobs from now until 2024.
If you’re just getting started in sonography, the first step is to obtain an associate’s degree from a community college program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. An accredited degree, including both classroom study and extensive practical experience, is needed to sit for the licensing exam administered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
For ARDMS registered medical sonographers who are ready to take the next step into management or teaching, a handful of schools offer online programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography. Your medical sonography certification can also lead to a bachelor’s degree in radiation science technology and related medical imaging fields. With this degree, you’ll be qualified to move into a supervisory role in the hospital, or undertake further graduate study in your field that leads to a teaching position.
Before applying to a particular school, you’ll want to find out their requirements for practical laboratory experience, as well as verify that your state allows online education in this field. Many programs are only open to currently employed sonographers with access to a hospital ultrasound lab, and regulations can vary from state to state for online study in the allied health professions.
Oregon Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 100
Cost per credit hour: $227
Located in Klamath Falls, OR, Oregon Tech offers an online bachelor of science degree in diagnostic medical sonography. Applicants must be ARDMS certified in both abdominal and OB/GYN ultrasound. In addition, you’ll need to have current access to a hospital ultrasound lab to fulfill the clinical didactic requirements for the degree. Three semesters of laboratory work are required, in addition to a two semester externship in your chosen area of specialization. Along with further coursework in ultrasound technology and diagnostic pathology, other professional development courses include electives in the following areas:
- Health care systems and policy
- Total quality in health care
- Health care management
This comprehensive program includes courses in basic medical science and diagnostic imaging along with a general education core. Oregon Tech offers transfer credit based on prior coursework as well as your professional certification, possibly reducing the number of credits needed to complete the degree. With this program, you’ll become a leader in your chosen field while also developing your skills in written and spoken communication. Oregon Tech is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
College Choice Score: 97.0
Cost per credit hour: $690
Students with current ARDMS certification and at least an associate’s degree looking to expand their competence to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are eligible for two programs. The first is MCPHS’s online advanced certificate program in MRI technology. While this 12 month program does not lead to a degree, it may be right for students looking for a shorter commitment and particular skills in advanced diagnostic imaging.
Students living in New England can complete the required clinical placement at an approved MCPHS extension site. If you live outside New England, however, you’ll need to arrange a placement for clinical rotations. This internship will be coordinated with MCPHS faculty and staff to meet the necessary requirements.
MCPHS also offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program for certified students with an associate’s degree in any of the health professions, including medical sonography. This program is delivered 100% online and requires no internships or clinical courses. MCPHS is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Adventist University of Health Sciences
College Choice Score: 93.7
Cost per credit hour: $430
For some students, working in health care is more than a job. It’s part of their commitment to Christian ministry. If you’re looking for a medical sonography program that includes faith-based commitments, the online bachelor’s program in medical sonography at Adventist University of Health Sciences may be right for you.
As the program description states, students who complete this degree will be able to:
- Execute proper procedures and document results for analysis by a physician
- Educate patients in the procedures and usage of medical ultrasound
- Acquire, evaluate, and incorporate relevant patient records and clinical information to provide the most accurate diagnostic outcomes
- Provide high-level professional services in the practice of sonographic procedures
- Reinforce healthy principles and lifestyles for patients
Altogether, this program consists of 61 trimester credit hours, including 34 credits of imaging and sonography science courses and 27 credits of general education courses. Students can complete the online BSDMS degree in as few as 2 years. A minimum of 120 credit hours, including transfer credits, are required for graduation. AUHS is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Thomas Edison State University
College Choice Score: 84.5
Cost per credit hour: $445
Thomas Edison State University offers an online bachelor of science degree in medical imaging sciences through a cooperative agreement with Rutgers University’s School of Health Related Professions. The program is designed for nationally-certified students with an associate’s degree who are already working in the medical imaging field.
The TESU joint program with Rutgers offers the option to specialize in a number of fields, including the following areas of professional practice:
- Cardiac sonography
- General diagnostic medical sonography
- Nuclear medicine technology
- Radiologic imaging modalities
- Vascular sonography
The TESU bachelor’s in medical imaging program is structured to broaden the skills of medical sonographers and prepare them for leadership positions within their discipline. To apply to this program, students should contact Rutgers for more information on specific admissions requirements and curriculum options. Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College
College Choice Score: 83.1
Cost per credit hour: $617
Blue Ash College is a suburban regional college of the University of Cincinnati located in Blue Ash, Ohio. It offers more than 50 degree programs, including health professions degrees in emergency medical services, nursing, and medical diagnostic imaging. Participants in UC Blue Ash programs are able to benefit from the convenience of online learning, while also being a part of the larger student community of the University of Cincinnati.
Students with an associate’s degree in medical sonography as well as national certification are qualified to apply for the online bachelor of science in radiation science technology at UC Blue Ash. The approach is multidisciplinary and focuses on professional development as well as instructional and leadership skills within the medical context. It is especially intended for those students looking to broaden their professional expertise into a wider range of imaging technologies beyond diagnostic ultrasound.
This program is also noteworthy for offering a focused internship in either management or education, depending on your interests and career goals. With this degree, you’ll be prepared to serve as an instructor or supervisor in a number of health care settings as well as educational institutions. The University of Cincinnati and all its regional colleges are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accreditation body for the upper Midwest states.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
College Choice Score: 77.1
Cost per credit hour: $561
Part of the University of Arkansas system, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is the only institution in the state focused only on graduate and professional education in medicine and related fields of study. The UAMS College of Health Professions offers a number of programs for undergraduates and graduate students, including an online bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography.
Like the other programs in this list, UAMS expects students to have already passed their licensing exams and achieved ARDMS certification. They invite applications from sonographers who have been certified in these areas:
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS): Sonography Principles and Instrumentation and Abdomen or Obstetrics & Gynecology.
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT): Sonography Principles and Instrumentation and Vascular Technology.
- Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS): Sonography Principles and Instrumentation and Adult Echocardiography.
A total of 120 credits are required for the degree, many of which can be achieved through transfer or, in some cases, by examination. While the program is delivered 100% online, students are required to travel to campus at least once during their first year. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Nebraska Medical Center
College Choice Score: 76.0
Cost per credit hour: $292
Certified graduates of accredited sonography programs are eligible to apply for the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s online bachelor’s program in radiation science. This program is highly individualized, and students work with an advisor to develop the course of study that best suits their professional goals. Required courses include extensive work in health care management and ethics, to best prepare students to lead in a changing healthcare environment.
Online students have access to the faculty and resources of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, a major teaching hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. You’ll be part of a learning community of 3800 students across the health professions. While the program can be completed in as little as three semesters, students have up to five years to finish their degree. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
College Choice Score: 74.8
Cost per credit hour: $337
The online bachelor of science in diagnostic imaging from UW-Milwaukee’s College of Health Sciences is one of the most flexible programs we evaluated. While its requirements are equivalent to a 120-hour bachelor’s degree, this degree is offered as part of the University of Wisconsin’s Flexible Option program. This is a competency-based learning approach that, according the the UW website, “turns the traditional model on its head.” As they explain, “instead of awarding credits based on how much time students spend learning, this model awards credits based on whether students can prove they have mastered competencies—the skills, abilities, and knowledge required in an area of study.”
Students with significant prior experience and a lot of motivation can finish their degree at UW-Milwaukee in a shorter time than under traditional learning models. In addition, studying for a bachelor’s degree under the Flex Option can cost considerably less – but again, this depends on your motivation. If you’re a self-starter, this highly individualized program may be ideal for you. However, if you need a lot of structure to accomplish your learning goals, it might be more of a struggle. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Northern Arizona University
College Choice Score: 74.5
Cost per credit hour: $387
There are more than 7,600 students at Northern Arizona University’s Extended Campuses, 40% of whom are studying online. As part of this extensive portfolio of online education, NAU offers a bachelor’s program in health sciences with a specialization in medical imaging and therapy. This degree is open to ARDMS certified technicians who hold an associate’s degree in medical sonography, as well as other imaging professionals such as x-ray and CT technicians.
Although it’s a 120 credit hour program, up to 90 credit hours can be transferred from other institutions. Degree requirements include classes in general studies, basic medical sciences, and health care management, and the program culminates in a capstone leadership course. With a number of options for elective courses, this program is best suited for aspiring clinical managers looking for a broad and flexible undergraduate education. Northern Arizona University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Southern New Hampshire University
College Choice Score: 74.0
Cost per credit hour: $320
SNHU’s bachelor’s program in health sciences is open to students with an associate’s degree in a broad range of allied health professions, including medical sonography. With your degree and other prior coursework, you may be able to transfer up to 90 credit hours towards the 120 credit hour degree. Required classes focus on healthcare management, finance, policy, and ethics, so this is an ideal program for those intending to enter supervisory positions with their current employer.
If your goal is to obtain a broad education in healthcare management, this may be the program for you. If you’re looking for specialized classes in advanced diagnostic imaging, however, SNHU may not be a good fit. Southern New Hampshire University is a private, non-profit institution accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.