Certification Exams for Ultrasound Technologists

As an ultrasound technologist, or sonographer, you’ll be required to complete an educational program at the institution of your choice before you can begin working. Educational programs for ultrasound technologists can range from anywhere from 2-4 years depending on the type of school you choose.

Once you have finished your educational program you’ll want to begin to seriously consider obtaining a formal certification. While there are currently no state laws that require certification, there are several organizations offering general and specialty exams to those who would like to work in the field of sonography. Despite certification not being mandatory, obtaining certification will show your dedication to your field and may be required by employers, either to obtain work or for future advancement.

There are several organizations offering certification examinations for ultrasound technicians, or sonographers. The two most widely recognized are the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography was founded in 1975 as a non-profit organization. ARDMS specializes in administering certification examinations for a wide variety of sonography specialities, including the RDMS, RDCS, RVT, and RPVI credentials. The organization us run by a staff of professionals and is overseen by a board of directors made up of sonographers, vascular technologists, scientists, doctors, and public volunteers.

Specializations and Credentials

ARDMS offers a wide variety of credentialing examinations. All potential sonographers take the base exam, known as SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation). They’ll also take one of a series of Corresponding Specialty Examinations. These include:

RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer) – The examination includes abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, neurosonology, and OB/GYN.
RDCS (Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer) – The examination includes adult echocardiography, fetal echocardiography, and pediatric echocardiography.
RVT (Registered Vascular Technologist) – This exam prepares you for a career in vascular technology.

Physicians may also opt to sit for the PVI (Physician’s Vascular Interpretation) exam in order to earn the RPVI (Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation) certification.

As the field of sonography is always changing, ARDMS aims to evolve as well. The organization hopes to have a MSK (musculoskeletal sonography) credentialing examination prepared by 2012.

Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)

Cardiovascular Credentialing International is another widely recognized non-profit, formed in 1968. Their goals are to offer professional “competency-based examinations” that display the professionalism, integrity, and ethics of their applicants. The organization is overseen by a board of trustees with members from several different advisory groups and supports a wide variety of allied health credentials, including the RCCS, RCS, RphS, and RVS certifications.

Specializations and Credentials

CCI offers 9 different certification examinations. The credentialing exams that apply to the field of sonography include:

RCCS (Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer) – These individuals work with pediatriac and adult patients and specialize in congenital heart ultrasounds.
RCS (Registered Cardiac Sonographer) – These individuals work in the field of echocardiography and take part in non-invasive procedures.
RphS (Registered Phlebology Sonographer) – These individuals specialize in the study of the blood and the way it runs through the veins and arteries.
RVS (Registered Vascular Specialist) – These individuals specialize in vascular care as well.

Sitting for a Certification Exam

Both organizations have similar procedures for applying for certification. You must register and pay for testing, choose a testing location, and complete any pre-testing requirements (including criminal background checks) before your credentials are issued. Both have procedures and waiting times for those who fail and wish to retake the test, usually requiring a 72 hour delay before allowing you to attempt the exam again.

Both organizations have continuing education requirements that must be fulfilled in order to maintain your credentials as well.

According the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the ARDMS examination seems to be more popular, but both are widely accepted as proof of your education and professionalism. Completing any of these examinations will prove your dedication to your career, no mater which avenue you choose to pursue.

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