Sonographers and ultrasound technicians have some of the most essential jobs in medical facilities. Through their work, which involves using sound waves to form images of the human body, doctors can get a clear look inside the human body to determine ailments and the best course of action to treat them.
And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, the demand for medical professionals, including sonographers, grows.
The number of jobs for medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians is expected to increase by 12% from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The field pays well, too. The bureau puts the average salary for diagnostic medical sonographers at $74,320.
Undergraduate sonography programs look to prepare students to not only pass their licensing or board exams but also to succeed in their careers.
Many colleges offer training in general sonography, with opportunities to take a closer look at different specialties, like neurosonography or obstetric and gynecologic sonography, available during clinical training.
Several schools offer separate tracks of study for people interested in echocardiography, which involves imaging of the heart. Students also learn how to work with patients and in various medical facilities appropriately.
Here we’ll take a deep dive into our picks for 10 of the best sonography and ultrasound tech schools in the U.S.
Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls, OR)
Oregon Institute of Technology has two types of ultrasound degrees available.
First is the bachelor’s degree program in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which focuses on imaging parts of the body like the brain and breasts. Or, students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in Echocardiography, aka ultrasound of the heart.
Both bachelor’s programs are available at the Klamath Falls campus, where students learn on cutting-edge technology in the schools facilities before moving on to training in a real-world setting. Students spend their senior year working full-time alongside professionals in a clinical externship.
People already working in the field who do not have bachelor’s degrees in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Echocardiography also can complete their degrees at Oregon Tech. Because these programs are offered online, students must be working in a facility where they can access the required lab equipment to complete their studies.
Seattle University (Seattle, WA)
Seattle University students can choose from three tracks in the Diagnostic Ultrasound bachelor’s degree program.
The university lets students specialize in general, vascular, and cardiac sonography in the four-year program. After taking classes in various sciences and math, students wrap up their degree with clinical experience.
The university has partnered with several clinical sites for these hands-on opportunities that expose students to inpatient and outpatient hospitals and other facilities. Transfer students also are welcome in the program.
In addition to the bachelor’s program, Seattle University offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in Diagnostic Ultrasound geared toward people who already have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field related to the field. Beginning in fall 2022, certificate students also will get to choose one of the three specialty tracks. Students need to earn at least 44 credits to receive their certificate.
Lewis University (Romeoville IL)
Students at Lewis University finish their undergraduate studies with a year of training in a hospital setting.
The Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography starts with three years of on-campus classes before moving to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, about an hour away from Lewis, for a final year of professional instruction.
But Lewis also offers other ways to earn a sonography degree. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology and then complete the Diagnostic Medical Sonography certificate program, also based at the hospital. Or, they can choose to double major in Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Biology, which would take five years to complete and involve training at the hospital as well.
Students can expect a program that mixes science with technology, including courses ranging from biology and chemistry to computer technology.
Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI)
Students decide to study either heart-related or general sonography in the Department of Diagnostic & Treatment Sciences at Grand Valley State University.
The Cardiovascular Sonography program shows students how to do echocardiography (imaging of the heart) as well as vascular sonography, which looks at the channels fluids move through in the human body.
The general Diagnostic Medical Sonography track, meanwhile, focuses on abdominal and obstetric-gynecologic imaging.
In addition to offering small class sizes, Grand Valley has laboratories where students can learn on state-of-the-art equipment. And when it’s time to gain real-world training, students rotate around different sites during their clinical placements to get an array of experiences. It all aims to prepare students to sit for their national board exams once they graduate.
St. Catherine University (St. Paul, MN)
Both programs take four years to complete and start with two years of liberal arts and sciences classes. Students then begin courses in their specific major, including labs with small class sizes as well as clinical experience to give them a feel for the career in a real-world environment.
Clinical opportunities are available at facilities in Minneapolis-St. Paul and even outside Minnesota. Graduates should leave the program prepared to sit for different national registry exams so they can begin their careers.
High-schoolers interested in joining the program can get an advantage for early admission through the Guaranteed Admission Program (GAP), in which the university gives priority consideration to applications received on or before Feb. 15 of the student’s senior year.
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, WI)
Concordia University gives students two specialties to choose from in its undergraduate program in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
After two years of prerequisites and other courses, students apply to move on in the program and choose a concentration: General/Vascular or Cardiac/Vascular. All cardiac/vascular applicants apply through Advocate Aurora Health (Aurora St Luke’s Medical Center), the university’s partner program. General/vascular applicants, meanwhile, apply through the university, which makes its selections and forwards the applications it did not accept to Advocate Aurora Health.
The university offers small class sizes and an ultrasound lab just for sonography students who experience a combination of classroom-based learning and clinical rotations.
Concordia has not only a 100% program completion rate but also outstanding results. One-hundred percent of its alumni earn their credentials within a year of graduating and find a job within six months of earning their degree.
Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
Students gain firsthand knowledge of the sonography field in an ultrasound scanning suite armed with cutting-edge equipment at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
This modern lab is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, giving students lots of opportunities to take what they learned in the classroom and put it into practice.
Before they get to that point, though, students in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound) bachelor’s degree program take classes in science, math, and more.
Students also spend one year doing a clinical internship, which takes them to at least two medical facilities. The internship experience kicks off on campus, where students participate in a two-week, intensive program in which they continue their practice and prepare to work with patients.
RIT also offers two sonography certificate programs: one in diagnostic medical sonography and another in echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound).
Quinnipiac University (Hamden CT)
Quinnipiac University students spend more than 1,400 hours gaining clinical experience at five medical facilities on their way to earning a bachelor’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
The university is the only school in Connecticut that offers this type of program. Its students learn not only the technical side of actually performing sonography but also how to work alongside medical professionals and with patients.
The variety of clinical settings students work at gives them a chance to check out different specialties and discover what they enjoy, such as OB/GYN or musculoskeletal. Working at facilities such as Gaylord Hospital and Southern Connecticut Vascular Center, students gain valuable knowledge to help them sit for different board and certification exams.
The university notes that the bachelor’s degree program even forms a strong foundation for students who hope to one day attend medical school.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (Boston, MA)
Prospective students have lots of options for pursuing a sonography degree at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
In the general track, students learn about the imaging of several parts of the body, including the vascular system and breasts, as well as pediatric imaging. Meanwhile, the echocardiography track focuses on imaging of the heart for patients of all ages and vascular imaging.
Students who already have a bachelor’s degree or who are transferring into the college can earn their degrees more quickly through the “fast track” program, available at the Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, campuses. These programs take either 16 or 24 months to finish.
Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sonography students can earn their degree in just over two years at Nova Southeastern University.
The school’s bachelor’s degree program in Medical Sonography takes 27 months to complete, with 15 months of coursework preceding a year-long clinical externship. The program gives students a strong foundation in general and vascular sonography.
Students will find small class sizes and state-of-the-art equipment at Nova, where they can practice in the on-campus laboratories. Nova also offers several classes online. And when it’s time for their clinical education, students can choose from dozens of facilities in Florida and around the country.
Students who already have a bachelor’s degree can enter Nova’s dual bachelor’s/master’s program, which also takes 27 months to complete. These students then graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Medical Sonography and a Master’s of Health Science.