How to Become a Certified Ultrasound Technician

In most fields, certification is either required or is voluntary but recommended. That is to say, in any field with a high skill level, there are tests which prove the credentials of an individual, and while passing these tests may not be a legal requirement, it is often highly advantageous in gaining employment.

The field of medical ultrasound technology is one of the professions in which certification is not legally required. Ultrasound technologists, also called sonographers, do not have to be certified in order to work. They also do not have to be licensed. This is often a natural corollary of certification. A license is generally a legal document that shows that a professional has fulfilled various credentialing requirements to practice in their field. That said, credentialing in the form of a certification from a professional organization is recommended and helps an individual find a well paid and interesting job. So how does one become certified as an ultrasound technician?

The ARDMS Certifications

The primary and most respected certifications in the field are offered by a professional organization called the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). This is a nonprofit professional organization that was incorporated in 1975 and offers certification testing on a national level to ultrasonographers.

There is not just one certification exam offered by the ARDMS. There are in fact four. The first “level” and most general is the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer exam/certification. Students passing this exam attain the RDMS certification title. This is helpful in proving to employers that a certain general level of competence has been achieved by a student.

Further certifications offered by the ARDMS include the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS), Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT), and the Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI) certifications.

There are in fact other professional organizations that offer ultrasound certifications. But the ARDMS will serve as a good representative example, and indeed is one of the most widely known. For information on other organizations and their certifications, look for them on the internet or talk to your state’s Department of Education.


The first step to getting certified is to get educated. In fact, to work as an ultrasonographer at all you have to have some kind of degree. In fact, this is required to be eligible to sit for one of the ARDMS examinations. These must be Associate degrees or Bachelor’s degrees in ultrasound.

Associates (2 year) and Bachelor’s (4 year) programs in ultrasound are offered at a wide variety of educational institutions. These may include community colleges, junior colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and regular academic four year colleges.

Clinical Practicum

Once you have completed your educational program and attained either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree you need to fulfill one more requirement before signing up to take the ARDMS exam. You need to get at least a year’s worth of clinical experience. This is a prerequisite to taking the examination.

If you’ve enrolled in a fairly thorough program, some or all of this “clinical practicum” as it’s called will have already been fulfilled. Usually the more thorough academic programs are ones accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Allied Health Education programs (CAHEEP), so this is something that it helps to keep in mind when searching for schools. A common complaint by people who have taken programs that are not as thorough or which are non accredited is that they must seek employment as a medical ultrasonographer in order to fulfill the practicum and that with the fairly “entry level’ education they have achieved in school this employment is somewhat hard to find. People may have trouble finding well paid and full time work. Thus a year’s worth of field experience takes much longer than a year because someone is working, say, only 10 or 15 hours a week.

It would seem your best bet is not to get involved in this kind of cycle. Find a program at a university or teaching hospital that offers substantial clinical experience as part of the curriculum. This will allow you to more quickly sit for your ARDMS certification exam when you leave school.

Taking the Exam

Once you’ve completed all the educational/field work requirements, you’re ready to sit for the ARDMS exam and get certified. This is done by simply contacting the ARDMS or visiting their website and filling out the necessary registration application. This is a registry, which means people that successfully complete the exam are entered on a list of registered practitioners. Passing the test and becoming certified is a prerequisite for registration.

You also need to supply the ARDMS with what is known as a clinical experience letter. This is a letter sent by the supervisor of an accredited program saying that you have completed the clinical practicum (or externship as it’s also known). It can also be a letter from a supervising physician or ultrasound technician if you’ve completed the practicum by simply working in the field.

Finally, with the application you have to also include proof that you have completed your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Again, this is a requirement – you cannot take the exam without it.

Once you’ve gotten certified, you’re ready to move on to higher paying, higher level ultrasonography jobs. Good luck!

Here is some other great articles to check out on my site:

How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
Top 5 Ultrasound Technician Schools
Types of Ultrasound Technician Training
Ultrasound Technician Schools
What is the Difference between a Radiology Technician and an Ultrasound Technician?

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