The demand for ultrasound technicians is expected to grow by about 18 percent by 2018 as medical technology becomes more sophisticated. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, trained ultrasound technicians can expect to earn around $62,000 per year (as of 2008).
The most common degree for aspiring ultrasound techs is an associate's degree. Most associate's degree programs can be completed in five or six semesters (18 to 24 months), with the first year focusing on classroom learning and the second year mainly devoted to a clinical internship. However, most ultrasound technology programs have a significant number of prerequisites that must be completed before a student can be admitted. For example, it would take about two semesters to complete the necessary prerequisites for Laramie County Community College's program in Wyoming, and students who are not prepared to take college-level math and English courses would most likely need at least one extra semester.
Although they are less common than associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees in ultrasound technology do exist for students who aspire to be leaders in the field or just want a well-rounded liberal arts education along with their technical training. Bachelor's degrees typically take four years to complete, but a degree in ultrasound technology may take slightly longer because of the clinical requirements. For example, students in Seattle University's program are required to take general education courses during the summer between their junior and senior years in order to stay on track for graduation.
Practicing ultrasound technicians can earn a variety of certificates to refresh their skills or become proficient in a specialty area. For example, Bellevue College in Washington has a certificate program for technicians who want to be certified in breast ultrasound. This certificate takes nine months to earn, with students taking one class per term so that they can continue working while in school.
- control panel of ultrasound scanner image by starush from Fotolia.com