Now that you’ve decided to become a sonographer, you’ll have to start looking for a school where you can get the appropriate levels of training. While there are many schools to choose from, it is important for you to find an institution that will properly prepare you for the certification exam you’ll sit for after your program is complete. The best way to do this is by choosing an accredited institution.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is the process used to make sure educational institutions are held to the same high standards as the professionals they aim to train and the certification committees they claim to be preparing students to face. The process of accreditation applies only to programs, institutions, and services and never applies to individuals.
Adult and post-secondary programs can undergo one of two types of accreditation. They’re either receive programmatic accreditation or institutional accreditation. A college or university may receive institutional accreditation, proving that all of their programs meet the set standards. They may also have programmatic accreditation, proving that one of their specific programs (like those for diagnostic medical sonography) meet the standards that have been set.
Who is Responsible for Accreditation?
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) recognize the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) as the main accreditation agency for postsecondary programs in the field of allied health. CAAHEP was formed in 1995 and is has given accreditation to more than 2,100 different health and science programs.
The Board of Directors for CAAHEP consists of 15 members. These individuals are elected by the commissioners and are responsible for either awarding or denying applications for accreditation. They deal with a wide variety of medical professions, including not only Diagnostic Medical Sonography but Anasthesia Technology, Cardiovascular Technology, Personal Fitness, Medical Assisting, and several other programs.
Finding an Accredited Sonography Program
It is obviously important to find an ultrasound technology program that is held to high standards so that you will be properly prepared for the real, working world. You may have some schools in mind based on the research of your local area. You can start by looking at their websites or calling to ask them if they are accredited. If they say no, move on. If they say yes, you’ll want to visit the CAAHEP website to see if you can find the school in their listings in order to confirm that they have the accreditation they claim to have.
The same goes for those who do not have a school chosen. A quick visit to CAAHEP (www.caahep.org) will give you access to a program directory you can use to search for programs at institutions in or around your area.
Is Accreditation Necessary?
While attending an accredited program is certainly recommended, it may not be mandatory depending on the career path you have chosen. You’ll need to check the requirements in your state and with the specific testing board you have chosen to find out if the completion of an accredited program is a prerequisite to taking an exam. You should not start any Diagnostic Medical Sonography program without doing this research first. There is no reason for you to waste your money on a program that will not allow you to sit for certification.
Some students have complained about the programs they start losing accreditation while they are still taking classes. The CAAHEP rules mandate that if your program has its accreditation at the time you start classes, you will be considered a graduate of an accredited program. The problem is that the certification board may not see things in the same light. You’ll need to contact your certification board right away if your program loses its accreditation. They’ll be able to help you to determine if you are still eligible for testing or if you should try to get your money back and find another program.
Accreditation is incredibly important, especially for those considering allied health careers that will involve regular contact with patients and other people. The more sophisticated your Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, the higher your chances of passing your certification test on the first try. Do a little bit of research and you’ll have no trouble finding a great program.