What are the most affordable traditional and online sonography schools?
The affordability of sonography programs is determined by 3 main factors: the type of school, the degree level and whether the program is online or on-campus:
Type of school. Affordability ranges from public and private schools to community colleges. Generally, sonography programs at community colleges are the most affordable because their cost per credit hour is lower.
Degree level. A certificate program is generally more affordable because it is the shortest program, usually lasting 13 to 18 months. Bachelors and associates degrees require more credit hours and increase tuition.
Online or on-campus programs. Pursuing an online sonography degree allows more flexibility but it usually costs more too. Generally, a school for sonography that offers both online and on-campus programs results in increased tuition for the online sonography program. The increased costs are most likely attributed to the costs for creating additional class materials, digital media and recorded lectures.
Washburn University, which is among just one of four accredited online schools for sonography, offers one of the more affordable online programs at approximately $15,000. By comparison, Vanderbilt University’s on-campus certificate program is about $10,000 for an 18-month program, and the Community College of Rhode Island offers its on-campus associates degree program for about $9,000 for in-state tuition. If you are looking for an affordable online or on-campus bachelors degree program, Mountain State University’s program is economical at roughly $66,000 for all 4 years.
How can I connect with other on-campus or online students who are also studying at my school for sonography?
Several schools have formed student organizations specifically for students of sonography. Many have an ultrasound society or a diagnostic imaging student association that allows you to network and interact with other sonography students.
In some cases, like Mountain State University, sonography students participate in the Student Radiologic Technologist Association, which connects all diagnostic imaging students. Other student organizations for sonography are similar to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Diagnostic Imaging Student Association or George Washington University’s Ultrasound Society.
You can also connect on a national level through Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), a national organization for high school and college students interested in allied health care professions.
Each June, HOSA hosts a conference in different cities across the United States where students can participate in educational, social and leadership activities. HOSA advocates creative learning techniques and sponsors team events like HOSA Bowls to test medical knowledge and terminology in a game-like environment. It is an ideal place for deciding which career path is right for you or to simply socialize.
Student associations for those specifically enrolled in online programs are not offered. However, Aunt Minnie serves as a frequent online meeting place for working sonographers and students. It provides updated information on the industry and offers a forum for radiologists and sonographers to interact and discuss related topics.
What resources should my brick-and-mortar or online school offer me when I am studying sonography?
Several grants and financial aid opportunities should be available to you, especially if you are pursing a degree for the first time. Your program should also offer hands-on clinical training each week. This is usually scheduled for you, but online accredited schools will allow you to schedule your own clinic hours at an approved location. Your program should offer internship opportunities at a hospital or research center to supplement your training by allowing for a hands-on experience.
An online sonography school should also offer counseling, even if students and counselors do not meet face to face. A program coordinator can help you choose from the many tracks available in sonography, including the general track, cardiac track and cardiovascular track.
Finally, if you are attending a sonography school online, your school should provide you with an enrollment specialist. Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences designates each prospective student with a distance enrollment specialist. Much like an admissions adviser, these specialists assist you with the enrollment process. Once enrolled, you are assigned to a distance student manager who becomes your coach throughout the program, answering questions and providing guidance.
Are there any nonprofit online sonography schools or programs that I could look into?
One of the benefits of nonprofit programs is that they have several options for financial aid. In fact, 82% of students enrolled in a nonprofit program receive some form of financial aid. Nonprofits also generally have more name recognition than for-profits, which are more interested in serving lower-income, minority and first-generation college students.
For-profit schools tend to be more focused on job-specific curricula whereas many nonprofits create their own curriculum. This can affect the accreditation of sonography programs since curricula must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health (CAAHEP). However, nonprofit accredited online programs do exist. Mountain State University, for example, has a nonprofit status and its online program is CAAHEP accredited.
Accreditation is one of the most important factors when choosing a sonography school. An article in the New York Times suggests that many employers are reluctant to hire sonographers who graduated from programs that are not accredited by CAAHEP. This is not because the schools do not teach professional skills but rather because a lack of accreditation implies less qualification and weaker skills.
Alternatively, graduates from accredited schools appear more knowledgeable and prestigious because their program has been scrutinized, reviewed and approved. As a result, employers have more confidence in their students’ skills and believe they will require less on-the-job training.