The Masters Degrees (M.S.) in Sonography is primarily pursued by students that want to move into administration, private industry, research, teaching or a highly specialized ultrasound technology field. For this reason, there is a limited selection of CAAHEP accredited ultrasound technician programs in 2014 that are offering the masters degree option: University of Missouri and Nova Southeastern University. It is important to regularly check for additions when ready to find and select a program. However, it is important to attend one of the CAAHEP accredited programs and maintain ARDMS registration because these are the best credentials that sonography students can claim.
Advantage of Earning a M.S. in Sonography
The main advantage of earning a M.S. in Sonography is that it enables professionals to pursue a wider range of opportunities. The masters degree qualifies sonography specialists to publish in medical journals, teach at a college or university, do research or work in private industry as a consultant. Some students choose to pursue the master’s degree because they want to achieve the highest educational level in their chosen career.
Tips on How to Choose the Best M.S. in Sonography
To earn the masters degree that is most valued and recognized in the ultrasound healthcare industry, students need to attend a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. Though there are only two, the advantages of earning degrees from any educational facility that is CAAHEP accredited include increased employment opportunities, greater professional recognition in the industry and assurance the highest national instructional and training standards are met.
- Make sure minimum admission requirements can be met before applying
- Thoroughly understand program requirements because that will impact curriculum or required courses
- Schedule an appointment with the appropriate program administrative representative to determine transferable undergraduate credits
- Gain clear understanding of the career advantages a masters degree in sonography will bring the students
- Ensure clinical training can be completed
What to Expect from a M.S. Program in Sonography
The masters degree is unique from other degrees in that it focuses on additional sonography topics like education, research, management and problem solving.
Only students who have earned a bachelors degree can apply to earn a M.S. in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Admission requirements may require a minimum TOEFL score, a minimum undergraduate GPA, a minimum GRE score and completion of designated prerequisite classes like chemistry and medical terminology. In addition, students will need to complete all departmental applications as required.
The masters degree typically takes one year to 15 months to complete when attending school full-time. That is the equivalent of 35 to 40 hours per week for 52 weeks. However, if the student needs to complete required courses outside the master’s degree curriculum at the same time, it can take up to two to three years to complete the program. This is true at the University of Missouri when the student earned a bachelors degree in a medical healthcare specialty other than ultrasound technology.
The CAAHEP accredited masters degree program in sonography at Nova Southeastern University leads to a concurrent degree. The student earns a Master of Health Science and a Bachelor of Science in Cardiovascular Sonography. However, admission requires the student already hold a bachelors degree.
Tuition Fees and Costs
Tuition and fees for masters degree programs are quite different for public versus private schools and in-state versus out-of-state residency. A private school could charge as much as $40,000 per year, while a public school could be considerably less at approximately $15,000 per year. Graduate scholarships are available to help pay for graduate level studies, but are not as plentiful as scholarships for other types of sonography degrees. It is important to check with the school and current employer, who may offer an ultrasound scholarship in exchange for a long-term employment commitment.
The curriculum may include a mix of general, cardiac and vascular graduate level courses plus masters degree level classes. It depends on whether the student’s undergraduate transferred credits meet the graduate program minimum educational requirements. The general sonography classes are the same or similar to the courses required for a bachelors degree. Students will choose courses from the general concentration plus courses related to their chosen cardiac or vascular concentration.
Salary and Job Outlook
Many Diagnostic Medical Sonographers holding a masters degree work in the educational industry at colleges, universities or professional schools as faculty, researchers or administrators. This group of sonographers earned average annual wages of $74,950 or $36.05 per hour as of May 2013 per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The sonographers working in general medical and surgical hospitals, which does not require a Masters Degree, earned an annual mean wage of $67,540 or $32.47 per hour. The sonographer with a masters degree has other employment options that include self-employment, working for private business or becoming an administrator.
The M.S. in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is not needed for many positions, but it will expand employment options. The projected job openings for sonographers for the period 2012 to 2022 are 35,300, representing a 22 percent growth rate. There is likely to be a growing demand for sonographers with a mastersdegree as the national healthcare program continues to expand, leading to more ambulatory facilities or outpatient care centers and specialty medical centers. This will create more administrative and training positions for sonographers.