Getting into Sonography School: An Admissions Guide

Understand the admissions process and requirements, find resources to help you along the way, and start your journey toward a new career in sonography.

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Kari Scare

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Kari Lynn Scare is a writer, editor, and instructor living in southwest Michigan. She has a master’s degree in English and uses her enthusiasm for learning to help others communicate through the spoken and written word. Kari also enjoys reading, being outdoors, travelling, and family time.

last updated

12/29/2021

Whether your goal is to help physicians diagnose cardiac issues, share the beginnings of new life with parents-to-be, or ensure other organs function properly, sonography offers the chance to make a difference. If you’re considering this path, you probably already know that most students go with an associate or bachelor’s degree in sonography to break into the field. But before your educational journey can start, you first need to gain admission to a respected program.

As with any other educational program, individual schools and departments set admission requirements. These will also vary between associate and bachelor’s degrees. The key is to start learning about individual requirements early on, so you don’t feel overwhelmed as deadlines loom. Here you can find information on institutional and program-specific requirements, learn how to wow the admissions committee, and find resources to help along the way.

General Admissions Requirements

Gaining admission to the program of your choice typically is a two-step process. In most cases, you’ll first need to apply to the school. Then, once you’re accepted and have completed any prerequisites, you’ll apply to the sonography program. Admission into a school allows you to begin your general education. A program, such as sonography, usually begins after you’ve met certain criteria and are ready for this deeper level of study.

You may also encounter a decentralized admissions process whereby individual departments handle the admissions process. After meeting all prerequisite requirements, you will apply directly to that program rather than going through general admissions steps. Regardless of the methods your prospective schools use, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the process.

Associate Degree in Sonography

Typically, you’ll attend a community college to earn an associate degree in sonography. Keep reading to learn more about community college entry requirements, prerequisites, and financial aid to give you an idea of what you need to consider before you apply.

Community College Entry Requirements

To be admitted to a community college, you’ll first need to fill out an application. Typical requirements for admission are:

  • Have a GED or high school diploma
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Complete placement tests
  • Prove residency
  • Fill out financial aid information

Community colleges usually have open enrollment policies, which means most people are accepted. Even so, your high school GPA matters, as it helps determine your specific educational path. Placement tests confirm your readiness and indicate the classes you can take. Students who struggle with basic requirements like math and writing may be required to take more remedial classes before they move into college-level courses.

While most people are accepted at a community college, some programs within a college are more selective and have limited enrollment. So while you may be accepted as a student at a school, that doesn’t mean you’re accepted into a specific program. Allied health programs like sonography often fall into this category, as they are highly competitive.

Lining Up the Finances

Most community colleges are very affordable, costing around $11,000 a year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), with residency significantly impacting your tuition rate. Some schools charge a different tuition rate for in-demand programs, which means you may end up paying more once you’re accepted in the sonography program.

Many community college students work while attending college, and they often pay for their schooling out of their own pockets. Additional funding options for students in associate degree programs at community colleges include scholarships, employer reimbursement, student loans, grants, and work-study. Grants and scholarships are funds that don’t need to be repaid, and work-study funds are received in exchange for employment. Scholarships are also available outside of those offered by your school; check community groups, faith groups, professional associations, and local businesses to see if they offer any scholarships. If you’re just finishing high school, your guidance office should be able to provide leads for you.

The first step in obtaining funding, however, should always be filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Students who don’t complete the form leave millions in aid unclaimed. The form opens on October 1 each year.

Identifying Your Prerequisites

The specific eligibility requirements for admission into a community college vary among schools but in general include having a high school diploma or GED, being at least 18 years old, and taking placement tests like the ACT, SAT, or Accuplacer. Some high school students qualify to take classes at community colleges, accumulating credits before they formally start college.

While community colleges offer extra help in areas like math and writing, most require you to demonstrate your skill level through placement tests before allowing you to enroll in college-level courses. Other requirements may include declaring a program of study, obtaining a background check, and providing records of your immunizations. Some schools also require you to attend an orientation session.

Bachelor’s Degree in Sonography

A bachelor’s degree in sonography, usually a four-year program, is open to those who meet general undergraduate requirements and who complete prerequisite courses. Read on to understand the requirements for being admitted into a four-year college or university, know where to get financing, and identify prerequisites before applying to a bachelor’s degree program.

Four-Year College and University Admissions

Bachelor’s programs are usually offered through four-year colleges and universities. While some schools have open admissions with no minimum requirements for admittance, many have stringent requirements. Admission into a four-year program may require a minimum GPA (usually at least a B average) or a GED. It also involves submitting a variety of documents, including the following:

  • Application
  • Official transcripts
  • Standardized test results (SAT and/or ACT)
  • Letters of reference

Some schools also ask for a personal essay and/or interview to decide if a student is a fit. Most schools encourage you to apply for financial aid during the admissions process.

Lining Up the Finances

According to the NCES, bachelor’s degrees cost between $20,000 and $45,000 per year. The biggest impact comes from whether the school you choose is public or private and whether you live in the state where the school is located. Keep in mind, too, that some schools have a separate (usually more expensive) cost structure for high-demand programs, which can include sonography and others within the allied health umbrella.

A variety of funding options exists for a bachelor’s degree at a four-year school. Lining up your finances begins with filling out a FAFSA so you know what federal funding (such as grants, loans, and work-study) is available to you. You’ll also want to find out about state, college, and nonprofit grants and scholarships. Information on these is available through college financial aid offices and high school counselors, though you may be able to find other opportunities by doing a search on your own. Be sure to look for scholarships and grants specifically for sonography or allied health students.

Identifying Your Prerequisites

Admission into a four-year college or university typically requires completion of certain coursework at the high school level. Though specifics vary, most require:

  • Four years of English
  • At least three years of advanced mathematics (e.g., algebra and geometry)
  • Two to three years of science, including a lab science

Many also have foreign language and history or social science requirements, and some even require an art course. Competitive grades in advanced placement and honors courses can be essential in making you a promising candidate at select schools.

If you’re interested in allied health or science fields, including a sonography bachelor’s degree, requirements typically include a high school diploma with a minimum GPA or a GED. Transfer student eligibility usually depends on performance in prerequisites; a strong showing in both high school and current undergrad work is essential.

Sonography Program Admissions Requirements

Applying and being accepted into a school means you can begin your general education requirements and take any program prerequisites. It does not, however, mean you are accepted into the school’s sonography program. Admittance into a sonography program often involves an application process separate from the one for the college. In addition, many sonography programs limit the number of students admitted, mainly due to available clinical placements, and rank students based on GPA and other factors or use a point system to determine admittance into the program. Learn more about the general requirements for different sonography degrees below.

Requirements for an Associate in Sonography

Beyond the general education courses required for most students, those seeking entrance into any sonography program usually also need health sciences classes. As with many allied health programs, sonography programs are competitive, so GPA matters. While every program is different, most programs at this degree level have admissions requirements similar to those that follow.

Completed Application Form

In addition to basic personal information, your application for a sonography program will confirm you’ve met general education and program prerequisites. You may also need to indicate any healthcare experience and include standardized test scores. Having a complete application and demonstrating any extra effort—including sonography observations, references, and additional certifications such as CPR and first aid—can help your application stand out.

Minimum GPA

An acceptable GPA for a sonography associate’s program depends on the school, with minimums ranging from 2.0 to 3.0. Many schools indicate that students who meet all qualifications and have a higher GPA will likely be admitted first. Since many of these programs have a limited number of spots, a high GPA is a great way to increase your odds of getting in.

Program Entrance Exams

Entrance into a sonography associate program sometimes requires taking the TEAS, a standardized test for admission into allied health programs, or a similar test. Since most sonography associate programs have limited openings, good scores on program entrance exams help confirm your likelihood for success in any allied health program. While the standardized tests you took before entrance into the college itself may be reviewed, they likely won’t affect whether you get into a sonography program. Your GPA in general education and program prerequisites will carry more weight.

Prerequisites Courses

Most sonography associate degree programs require you to complete certain courses before you enroll. Those include both general education and health-related courses such as:

  • College Algebra
  • College Writing
  • Communication
  • Intro to Physics or Radiation Physics
  • General Psychology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • Biology
  • Statistics
  • Ethics

Many sonography programs require minimum cumulative GPAs of 2.75 or above in these prerequisites. Some programs also require an introductory computer course since sonography requires extensive use of technology.

Observation Hours

Strongly recommended but not always required, observation hours in an ultrasound environment can strengthen your application for a sonography program. When a program requires them, they may dictate minimum hours in certain areas such as cardiac or general ultrasound environments. Some schools offer alternatives for observation, such as viewing online modules, especially if COVID-19 restricts in-person observation. These observations help you understand more about the job and get a realistic picture of what your days would be like.

Physical Health Requirements

Because of the physical demands associated with the sonography profession, students must be able to stand, walk, and sit for extended periods. They need to be able to regularly lift and move patients and equipment weighing up to 125 pounds and sometimes more. You must also be able to reach, bend, stoop, and kneel routinely.

Background Check

As with most allied health programs, sonography students must complete a criminal background check. Most programs notify students when they need to have this done; students typically are responsible for the cost of their background checks.

Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Sonography

A bachelor’s degree in sonography is a four-year program often sought by those already certified in sonography and/or who have another allied health degree. A bachelor’s degree usually commands a higher salary and opens doors to advancement. Most bachelor’s in sonography programs have similar requirements for admission. Keep reading for a rundown of what to expect.

Completed Application Form

A completed application form always includes basic personal information. You may also need to include letters of recommendation; official transcripts; any certifications, licenses, and registrations; standardized test scores; a resume or curriculum vitae (CV); and a learning portfolio and/or statement of professional goals. In some cases, a program application is required in addition to an undergraduate application.

Minimum GPA

Programs typically consider those with a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA or higher during their associate in sonography or other allied health program or during general education and prerequisite coursework. Some use GPAs as a consideration alongside an interview and/or writing assessment, recommendations, and healthcare experience. Once accepted, some programs require a minimum GPA in each course to progress through the program.

College Entrance Exams

Most four-year schools require either the SAT or ACT. Entrance into a bachelor’s degree in sonography program, which often takes place after the completion of general education and prerequisite courses, does not usually require additional entrance exams.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation for admission into a sonography bachelor’s program should be written by individuals who are not relatives but who still know you well. Possibilities include academic advisers, professors, clinical supervisors, and community associates. Letters vouching for your ability to do well in the program and that detail your success in sonography or another healthcare field can help your application stand out. Letters should look professional, be printed on letterhead, and be sent directly to the program from the writer.

Patient Care Certification

Although not always the case, some sonography bachelor’s programs require you to earn a patient care certification. Patient care certifications, such as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential, indicate your ability to complete the type of coursework needed in a sonography program. A patient care certification also helps you stand out as a candidate, especially if that certificate is accompanied by experience working in the field.

Previous Healthcare Education

While previous healthcare education is not required for admission into a sonography bachelor’s program, it may accelerate your timeline for obtaining your degree. If you already have a healthcare education, you may have met some or all the requirements for entry into a sonography program. Some sonography programs even offer special tracks for students who’ve already completed multiple healthcare courses.

Other Things to Think About

Whether you’re considering an associate or a bachelor’s degree in sonography, you’ll have lots to think about and lots to take care of as you complete your applications. In addition to the general and program requirements discussed above, here are some other key points to think about as you begin your journey.

Transfer Credits

Most schools accept transfer credits for both associate and bachelor’s sonography programs, but usually you’ll need a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the credits to count. Typically, you’ll be asked to submit any credits you’d like to transfer during the college and/or program application process and verify them with official transcripts. Transfer credits do not necessarily need to be related to sonography; remember that general education requirements, such as those for liberal arts, science, and math, may also be satisfied with transfer credits.

To find out if your credits will be accepted before you apply, talk with school and program faculty. If you have a patient care certification like a CNA, are already certified in sonography, or have an associate of science degree or allied health degree and are seeking your bachelor’s, you’ll most likely have credits that will transfer toward a degree. Some sonography programs even have a minimum number of transferrable college-level credits required before you can be admitted into the program. However, you’ll also find programs that do not accept any transfer students from other sonography programs, so check ahead of time to be sure.

Accreditation

Accreditation certifies that an institution or program meets established standards. It also helps determine enrollment standards, acceptability of transfer credits, and graduate qualifications as well as eligibility for federal and state funding. Healthcare education accreditation recognizes schools and programs for properly preparing students for certifications and for work in their chosen fields.

There are 19 accrediting organizations in the U.S., all of which are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the United States Department of Education. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the main accrediting agency for sonography and ultrasound tech programs; you’ll want any sonography program you choose to have CAAHEP accreditation. Many healthcare employers only hire applicants from CAAHEP-accredited programs. You can find your school’s accreditation information on its website.

Sonography and Ultrasound Certification

To further show that you have the skills needed in the field of sonography, you can also obtain certification from one of several organizations (see the resource list below). Currently, only New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon require certification beyond your degree, but more are considering it. Certification is worth obtaining if you want to set yourself apart in the applicant pool or to indicate specialization in a certain area of sonography (for example, cardiac, musculoskeletal, obstetrics, ophthalmology, etc.).

Resources

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)

The ARDMS administers exams and awards credentials in the ultrasound field and provides resources, learning opportunities, and career help.

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

The ARRT certifies and registers technologists. It also oversees and administers education and ethics as well as provides news, conferences, community outreach, and research.

American Society of Echocardiography (ASE)

The ASE advances cardiovascular ultrasound through education, research, innovation, advocacy, and service.

American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)

The ASRT promotes the medical imaging and radiation therapy profession through continuing education, a career center, resources, and publications.

Core Ultrasound

A host of videos, case studies, podcasts, lectures, and blog posts on Core Ultrasound help those studying for a career in a medical field better understand ultrasound literature.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA provides an overview of ultrasound imaging that includes explaining the uses and benefits/risks of ultrasound and how to report problems to the FDA. It also has resources for better understanding ultrasound technology.

Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS)

The SDMS’s purpose is to “promote, advance, and educate” on the science of diagnostic medical sonography. It assists with continuing education credits, publishes a journal, and offers career, student, and educator resources. Its foundation provides grants and scholarships.

SonoWorld

Providing ultrasound-related education materials, SonoWorld gives free access to video lectures, clinical cases, textbook chapters, and more.