how to become a sonographer in california

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Omoyeni Adeniyi

Diagnostic medical sonography is one of the rapidly growing fields within allied health and can be a great career choice, particularly in California. It’s popularity is due in part to the relatively short training period, the high availability of jobs, and the high salary available even at entry-level.

If you’re been considering pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician in California, begin by requesting information from a school you’re interested in, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions to ensure they can help you meet your long-term career goals.

Is Sonography a Good Career Choice in California?

Yes, there are many different factors that make becoming an ultrasound technician in California a great choice:

  • Job Growth and Availability: California has the highest employment level in the country for sonography. In 2019 there were over 6,600 working sonographers in the state.
  • Salary: Ultrasound techs in CA earn the 2nd highest salary in the nation. In May of 2019, the mean annual wage for sonographers was $100,960*. In addition, the top 10 paying metro areas in the country are all in California.
  • Education: Entry level jobs typically require just a two-year Associate’s degree. There are twelve accredited sonography programs located across the state.

Connect with Educational Programs near You

Connect directly with California colleges and universities. Click below for affiliate/sponsored program information and to speak with an individual school’s admissions representative. Find Schools Near You

CAAHEP Accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography Programs

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing where to pursue your sonography degree in California is the accreditation of the program. A school or program becomes accredited when they have undergone rigorous review from a reputable outside agency in order to ensure that the quality of education meets identified standards.

For the field of sonography and medical imaging, the primary and most widely recognized accreditation agency is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

If you’re currently enrolled in or have been accepted to a CAAHEP accredited program, you’re also eligible to apply for the UltrasoundSchoolsInfo semi-annual $1,000 scholarship. Click here to learn more.

12 Accredited Sonography Programs in California for 2021

The following colleges in California all offer sonography degree programs that have been accredited by the CAAHEP, as of August, 2020.

CBD College

The medical sonography program at CBD College offers a flexible course of study which can be completed in 22 months. The Associate Degree program is one of the few to offer both day and evening classes, as well as some on-line courses. There are also a variety of externship opportunities and locations to participate in. The CAAHEP accreditation is for a general course of study, and the successful completion will make students eligible for the ARDMS SP&I exam. The online application can be found here.

Community Regional Medical Center

The CRMC in Fresno is one of the state’s few hospital-based sonography programs. Its CAAHEP accreditation applies to general and advanced cardiac sonography. There are some eighteen-month accelerated programs for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree or a two-year allied health degree with a license.

CRMC’s general track costs $25,576, and the adult cardiac track costs $25,317. They also offer an advanced cardiac sonography program, which costs $8,700 (costs are subject to change).

Four accredited tracts to choose from: 

  • General Sonography
  • Adult Cardiac Sonography
  • Pediatric Cardiac Sonography
  • Vascular Sonography. 

Click here for the general program’s details and prerequisites, and click here for details on the advanced cardiac program.

Cosumnes River College

Cosumnes River College is the only community college in North East California offering an accredited Associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography. It’s a rigorous course of study over a six-semester period, which must be completed sequentially with full-time attendance. 

In order to apply, the student must have already completed at least an Associate’s degree at an accredited college, and must have a minimum of eight hundred hours, paid or volunteer, in patient care. There are also several courses that must have been taken and passed with a “B” grade or better. The full list of prerequisites can be found here.

Click here for the student handbook.

Cypress College

Cypress College, which was named the #1 community college in California for 2020 by Niche, offers a CAAHEP accredited sonography program on campus. The minimum educational standard to apply is a high school diploma or GED, and the applicant must be 18 by the start of their clinical training. Admittance is limited and selective, and is based on a point-system.

All applications must be completed online during the month of February, with materials delivered in-person by March 15th of each year. The DMS Brochure provides more information on prerequisites, the application period, curriculum, and more.

“The advice I would give to aspiring medical imaging students is that you have to have excellent communication skills to work in the health field.”

Lynn Mitts
Director of Radiologic Technology and Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Cypress College, California

Foothill College

Foothill College offers an eighteen-month Certificate of Achievement in DMS program, as well as an Associate’s degree program in DMS.  There are assigned locations throughout the Sacramento and Central California area.

Applicants must have a minimum of direct patient care experience. This can be met through the completion of a two-year allied health degree program, or through clinical experiences taught in an accredited institution (this qualifier will be approved on an individual basis).  There are also a variety of course requirements that must be met prior to application.

Applications are accepted from October 1st – May 1st of each year, and will last through April in 2021.

Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences

The medical sonography program at Kaiser Permanente is a Bachelor’s of Science program in both general and cardiac concentrations. It requires 18 months of full-time sequential study.

Applicants must have already completed an Associate’s degree in any discipline, and have at least 8 hours job shadow in a sonography or ultrasound department. Graduates are eligible to sit for the ARDMS Sonography Principles and Instrumentation exam. Click here to see the academic catalog to learn more.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda has held CAAHEP accreditation since 1985, which makes their sonography program one of the longest running accredited institutions in California. In 1991, they added a cardiac sonography program, and later added a vascular sonography program in 2003. They offer numerous programs in medical imaging at the Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degree levels. The Bachelor’s in DMS is a full-time, 27 month program, which includes both classroom and online learning, as well as clinicals. 

They admit 12-24 students each year once they have met the course and degree prerequisites that must be completed within five years of when they submit their application. Click here to learn more about prerequisites.

Merced College

The accredited program at Merced College prepares students for entry-level sonography positions in hospitals, clinical offices, and imaging centers. It is a full-time, five-semester Certificate of Achievement program in General Sonography (Abdomen and Ob/Gyn track). Applicants must have an Associate’s in Science degree in a related field, or a Bachelor’s degree with five hundred hours of patient care experience. Click here for more information on prerequisites and the application process.

Mt. San Jacinto College

MSJC’s campus in Menifee offers an Associate’s in Science degree in General DMS. Admittance to the program is competitive, and is determined by a point-based system. The program will require 5 sequential semesters and full-time attendance. Graduates will be prepared to sit for the ARDMS SPI exam, plus abdomen, small parts, and Ob/Gyn specialty examinations.

The DMS brochure provides more information on prerequisites, tuition and fees, admission, and more.

Orange Coast College

Since 1992, students at OCC have had the opportunity to earn an Associate’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which is a full-time, 5 semester program. A maximum of 24 students will be admitted to the program each year, and it costs approximately $5,200 to attend. Applicants must complete the Allied Health A010 course at OCC prior to applying to the program. Click here to see the DMS catalog and an overview of the program.

Santa Barbaba City College

SBCC offers an accredited General DMS program, where students will receive a Certificate of Achievement upon completion. Prerequisites for the program are either a two-year Allied Health education program in a patient-care related field, a Bachelor’s degree in any field, or a MD from outside the U.S. There are also several course requirements that must be completed with a grade of “C” or better. 

The certificate program takes 21 months of full-time attendance to complete and must be taken in sequential order. Tuition costs approximately $6,500.

University of California San Diego Medical Center

The UCSD Medical Center offers a 12-month certificate program in General Sonography and limited Vascular Sonography.  It is a rigorous program that accepts only 6 students each year. Tuition is approximately $13,000 plus fees.

There is a heavy focus on clinical training, and students will do clinical rotations 32 hours each week, plus one 8-hour day of class room instruction. Clinical rotation sites will take place in the San Diego area. 

Prerequisites include either the successful completion of a Radiologic Technology Program and passing the registry exam, or a Bachelor’s degree in any area with certain prerequisite courses. Bachelor’s degree applicants must provide documentation of 80 hours of direct patient contact in a hospital or clinic. Volunteer hours are also acceptable. 

“California employs more Diagnostic Medical Sonographers than any other state.”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Ultrasound Tech Certification Requirements in California

Is Certification or Licensure Required in CA?

The state of California does not require that ultrasound technicians become licensed or certified.  However, most employers do require or prefer it, and insurance regulations are making it more difficult for employers to hire sonographers who don’t have certification.

For sonographers, professional certification comes primarily from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). The only way to earn certification is by taking and passing their exam.

In order to be eligible to take the ARDMS exam, you must meet their prerequisites.

Besides graduating from a CAAHEP accredited school, the second easiest way to qualify for the exam is 12 months of full-time clinical experience. Request information from several ultrasound technician schools in California to ensure that they meet the certification requirements you’re looking for. Request information from several ultrasound technician schools in California, and do the research to make sure that they meet the certification requirements.

Additional Certification Information

Certification overview
About the ARDMS

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Paying for college is one of the top concerns for many students and their families. Colleges offer merit and needs-based scholarships, as do many private companies and institutions that can ease people’s financial worries. Financial aid and student loans are available for those who qualify.

If you’re an undocumented student wishing to attend a sonography program in California, it’s especially important to understand your options and know that help is available. You can learn more about the financial assistance available to you from the state of California through the California Dream Act, as well as from many colleges. 

Below are some available scholarships in California:

ScholarshipAward AmountEligibility RequirementsHow to Apply

Ultrasound Schools Info
$1,000Semi-annual, non-renewable scholarship awarded to an aspiring sonographer currently attending or enrolled in a CAAHEP accredited diagnostic medical sonography program.
Ultrasound Schools Info
Attn: Scholarship Committee
PO Box 3026
Bellingham, WA 98227

Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program
Up to $8,000Applicant must be currently accepted or enrolled an allied health program (ex. DMS)Click here for more information.
eQuality Scholarship$6,000eQuality Scholarship Collaborative awards scholarships to honor and encourage California students for their service to the LGBTQ+ community.Scholarship Committee
P.O. Box 191311
San Francisco, CA 94119-1311
California Student Aid CommissionVariesVariety of scholarships, grants, and financial aid provided by the State of California to eligible students.Attn: Program Administration and Services Division
P.O. Box 419027
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9027
[email protected]
(888) CA GRANT

How Much do Ultrasound Techs Make in California?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California is the 3rd highest paying state in the country, and has 9 of the top 10 highest paying metropolitan areas in the nation. Sonographers in California earn a mean annual salary of $100,960, and an average of $48.54 an hour as of May, 2019*.

General medical and surgical facilities pay the highest salaries, and often offer better benefits packages. Traveling sonographers earn different rates and benefits than those working permanently in one facility.

Which Areas of California are the Best for Ultrasound Techs?

Where you live affects how much you earn. The table below shows the mean annual salaries for ultrasound technicians by county in 2019*. You’ll find that most areas of California offer extremely competitive salaries.

County2019 Mean Salary
Los Angeles$98,030
San Diego$99,780
San Francisco$115,280

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Ultrasound Technician Sch

There are several ultrasound technician schools in the Los Angeles area, and a number are accredited by the CAAHEP. Completing a sonography program in this California locale allows you the opportunity to complete clinical externship hours at one of the many facilities in and around Los Angeles. At least 19 of the hospitals and centers in L.A. are even accredited by the American College of Radiology for ultrasound or breast ultrasound modalities.

Sonographers are an important part of the healthcare team, and Los Angeles County has one of the highest employment levels for ultrasound technicians in the country. The State of California Employment Development Department reports that employment for sonographers in Los Angeles County is projected to increase by 25.2% by 2026.

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