A person working in the field who wishes to complete the ultrasound technician certification process must start by obtaining a degree. The minimum educational requirement is a two-year, or Associate’s degree in Ultrasound/Sonography, although Bachelor’s degrees, which take four years to complete, are also offered by some schools.
An ultrasound technician can register with the American Registry of Diagnostic Sonographers (ARDMS). This not-for-profit organization was founded in 1975. It is responsible for administering examinations to ultrasound techs. ARDMS awards the following professional credentials:
• RDMS® – Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer®
• RDCS® – Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer®
• RVT® – Registered Vascular Technologist®
•RPVI® – Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation®
Within these designations are certifications for different specialties. For example, an ultrasound technician can become certified as a specialist in the following area of practice:
Obstetrics and Gynecology
With the exception of the Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation, each of the exams is three hours in length and contains 150-170 multiple-choice questions. Some exams include video cases as well. To be eligible to take an exam offered by ARDMS, the candidate must have graduated from a program that has been accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). An applicant who has attended a non-accredited program can apply to write an exam after completing a 12-month work study program under the supervision of the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS).
The Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation exam is four hours long and the person taking it must answer 200 multiple-choice questions. This designation is available to licensed medical doctors who have read and interpreted a minimum of 500 vascular studies. A person who passes the exam is recognized as an expert in interpreting cardiovascular ultrasound images and reports.
Individuals who are eligible to write the exam can fill out the application and pay the required fee online. The applicant will receive a letter from ARDMS approximately two weeks later listing the exams that he or she has been approved to write. The applicant is also given a 90-day window in which to schedule and complete one or more examinations.
Examinations are administered at approved testing sites located in the United States and Canada. They are also held in selected international locations as well.
To maintain registered ultrasound technician certification, an individual must write the examinations for his or her area(s) of specialization every five years. The five-year period starts to run from the date the licensing exam is written and includes the time remaining in that year and the next five years.
Completing the process to become a certified ultrasound technician is not mandatory, but doing so can make an individual a more attractive candidate to a prospective employer and open up more lucrative career opportunities for him or her.