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Unaccredited vs Accredited Sonography Programs

Hello hello sonography friends!

It feels like forever since I've written, I need to remember how to do this. I hope everyone has had wonderful holidays and the new year is being kind.

I have been wanting to write this for a long time now. Daryan and I have discussed it, and one of the most common questions we both get from you all is regarding unaccredited programs. So, I want to clear some things up and ensure that you fully understand what the difference is. Please remember, as always, that this blog post comes from my brain and my perspective only. Daryan also has a blog post about how to choose the school that's right for you, so I suggest checking that out as well.

The ARDMS is the governing body for sonography certification. They decide who takes which examinations and ultimately, who becomes sonographers. In order to sit for the ultrasound board examinations, there are certain prerequisites that need to be met. That list is in the link above. Here's the bottom line for the typical human entering the sonography field: If you graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited sonography program (or CMA/HSO-accredited for Canada), you are eligible to sit for exams up to 60 days prior to graduation. That means that you are eligible to work as soon as you throw your cap in the air. The exception to this is if you receive a Bachelor's degree in sonography - in that case, you are able to take the exam as soon as you have 12 months of clinical experience with your program, up to a year before graduation.

For the average, unaccredited sonography program, you are unable to sit for board exams once you graduate. In order to meet the prerequisites outlined by the ARDMS, you must first A) get 12 months of full-time clinical experience, or B) get your ARRT or other credentials to be eligible to sit for the ARDMS exam. From our experience speaking with the general public, it seems that those sonography students who graduate from unaccredited school are having an incredibly difficult time finding work because they have to work before they can take the exam. On the other hand, they have to take the exam for anyone to be willing to hire them.

Let's think of it this way: Sonographer Susie goes to an unaccredited school for $60,000. She gets

all of her prerequisites done, gets into the program, cries her way through it, but excels. Top of her class. Best new sonographer you ever did see coming out of school. Susie lives in an area where the hospitals will not hire someone unless they are registered or able to be registered within 60 days of hire. Susie now needs to find a place willing to look past paperwork to hire her based solely on her skills for a year until she is able to sit for the board exams. That means she needs someone to take the time to talk to her and see her scan to see how good she is, beyond just looking at her resume to see that she isn't registered. See the multiple conundrums?

Sonographer Savanna goes to an accredited school for $60,000. She gets all of her prerequisites done, gets into the program, cries her way through it, but excels. Top of her class. Best new sonographer you ever did see coming out of school (behind Susie). Savanna goes to and has her pick of the litter. Now, of course, she has the task of finding an employer who is willing to hire a new grad, but that's fairly common in our line of work. Her resume shows that she is a registered sonographer, and should have no problem at least getting an interview somewhere.

Now, personally, I don't want to deal with all that when I'm done with school. School was supposed to be the hard part.

Let's take a look at CAAHEP now. Who are these people who decide how frustrating my life is upon graduation?

The accrediting body to whom we all answer has a very specific process they use to determine whether or not they will award accreditation to a sonography program. The process is this way to ensure that the people coming out into the world as sonographers are competent enough to have lives in their hands. I am glad they do. Here's the basic process, as outlined on their website:

The program submits their proposal, along with a review of how they are meeting the standards within their program. A Committee on Accreditation (CoA) reviews the documents and provides the program feedback and performs a site visit to compile all necessary information. The feedback is shared with the program, who may then respond to any issues. The CoA will either make a recommendation for accreditation to CAAHEP, or they will address any problems with the program, resulting in withholding accreditation, probation, or withdrawal of accreditation. The program can then submit additional documentation when things are fixed. Once the recommendation is made, CAAHEP can award accreditation and perform continuous site visits to keep up the accreditation.

There are currently 391 accredited programs in 44 states.* I would highly recommend looking there for an accredited program before you give any money to an unaccredited program. Compare costs, prerequisites, location, curriculum, and everything else you need to compare. Keep accreditation as a high priority on your list.

*State count is subject to my tally counting.

We've had so many new grads come to us asking for guidance because they are unable to find work after graduation. It makes us sad that there's nothing we can do for you all. All we can do is write this, and hope that people entering a DMS program will look here before making a final decision. Please tell your friends. We really are here to help.


EDIT: Hello again! I've had so many of you reach out through Instagram asking about specific circumstances. Here is my best resource:

While I absolutely love when you guys reach out and chat, that's the link I go to every single time to find the answer. That document contains the specific prerequisites needed to sit for the registry exams based on various situations.

Keep in mind as you read my blogs, I am a sonographer, but I'm not an expert on all things ARDMS! I have taught ultrasound, and I have worked in hospitals all over the country, and these are things I've come across based on interactions with you guys and based on my experience. Many facilities that are located in areas in which there are only unaccredited programs are going to be more willing to hire you uncertified and give you the year of experience. you need. However, if you have the option, I would always recommend doing the accredited program in order to A) take the tests while the didactic part is fresh in your head, and B) be marketable anywhere in the country as soon as you graduate!

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