Vascular Technologist

More than 100,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries in an adult human body move 5.6 liters of blood every three minutes. Blood coursing through the vessels carries waste away from cells, transports oxygen, and fights infections. As with any other part of the body, numerous diseases can affect blood vessels, including aneurysms, embolisms, and deep vein thrombosis.

Allied health professionals called vascular technologists have the training and skills to use ultrasound equipment to examine blood vessels in order to aid doctors in making clinical diagnoses. Cardiac vascular technologists work with just the heart and its related vessels, while general vascular technologists can examine blood flow on the entire body. They are employed in hospitals, outpatient clinics, physicians’ offices, and medical imaging centers.

Professionals in this field must complete a vascular technologist program where they attend both classroom and lab coursework to learn vascular imaging fundamentals. Once didactic education is completed, students then move on to intensive clinical experiences to gain hands-on experience working directly with patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022), jobs in the medical sonography and cardiovascular tech field are expected to swell 10 percent nationally between 2022 and 2032. This is more than double the national average for all occupations during the same period (3 percent).

Continue reading to learn how to become a vascular technologist, including a step-by-step guide and top programs.      

Vascular Technologist Specializations & Degree Types

Since the work of a vascular technologist is so specialized, education and training are essential. Programs professionals can complete include a certificate, associate, bachelor’s, or master’s. Most certificate programs require applicants to have already completed a two-year healthcare-related degree or hold a diagnostic medical ultrasound credential from a national certification agency. 

While vascular technology is in and of itself a specialization, professionals in this field can further specialize in cardiac vascular technology with additional education and certifications. 

Admissions Requirements for Vascular Technologist Programs

Admission to vascular technologist programs is generally very competitive. Requirements for admission vary based on the program but can include prerequisite coursework, work or shadowing experience, a minimum GPA, a completed application, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. 

Some programs may require students to complete an interview as part of the application process as well. Since programs are so competitive, applicants should strive to exceed the requirements. 

Vascular Technologist Program Accreditation

Students should ensure the program they are attending is accredited as this guarantees a minimum level of quality in the faculty, facilities, and curriculum. Vascular technologist programs are accredited nationally by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In the absence of CAAHEP accreditation, a program should be regionally accredited by an organization recognized by the United States Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

On-Campus Vascular Technologist Degree Programs

Loma Linda University – School of Allied Health Professions

Students can earn a bachelor of sciences in diagnostic medical sonography at Loma Linda University’s School of Allied Health Professions. This program offers either a general vascular or cardiac emphasis. 

In order to graduate from this program, students must take and pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Graduates will be eligible to sit for the vascular technology (VT) specialty examination. 

Applicants must complete the general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree before admission. Required coursework includes humanities, science, communication, and health and wellness. Applicants must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA. 

  • Location: Loma Linda, CA
  • Duration: 27 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $33,720 per year

Concordia University Wisconsin

The bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography at Concordia University Wisconsin features small class sizes, a clinical internship, and a 100 percent work placement rate six months post-graduation. 

Students can choose between a general vascular emphasis or a cardiac one. Required coursework includes vascular sonography, foundations of ultrasound, and sonography principles and instrumentation. As part of the first two years of study, students will earn a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate. 

Admission to this program is competitive, and requirements include 100 hours of CNA patient care work, a personal essay, a 3.0 GPA or higher, eight hours of shadowing diagnostic sonography, and references. 

  • Location: Mequon, WI
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $700 per credit 

Howard Community College

In two years, students can earn their associate of applied science (AAS) degree in diagnostic medical sonography at Howard Community College. This career-ready degree not only prepares graduates to enter the workforce but also readies them to sit for the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT), or the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) certification. Students can choose to complete either a general, vascular, or cardiac track, depending on their interests and career goals. 

In addition to completing general education classes such as anatomy and physiology, biology, composition, and statistics, students must take sonography-specific classes. These include vascular ultrasound, ultrasound physics, and clinical sonography. Four required practicums ensure students gain the hands-on skill necessary to succeed in this field. 

  • Location: Columbia, MD
  • Duration: Four months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $322 per credit

Triton College

In addition to a full diagnostic medical sonography degree, Triton College offers a certificate in vascular technology sonography. This two-semester intensive program is designed for professionals who have already completed a diagnostic medical sonography program and currently hold an ARDMS certification. By completing this certificate, students will gain the skills they will need to specialize in vascular technology. 

To apply for this program, candidates will need to provide proof of an already completed program as well as their current ARDMS certification. Other requirements include current work in vascular sonography and a physics review course. Required classes students will complete are peripheral venous imaging, cerebrovascular imaging, and specialized vascular imaging.

  • Location: River Grove, IL
  • Duration: Two semesters
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $148 per credit hour (in-district); $377 per credit hour (out-of-district); $480 per credit hour (out-of-state)

Rush University – College of Health Sciences

Rush University College of Health Sciences offers a two-year bachelor’s of science in vascular ultrasound. Skills gained in this program include image analysis, reporting findings, and ultrasound scanning. The first year of this program is dedicated to classroom learning, laboratory work, and patient observation. During the second year of the program students will work directly with patients performing vascular ultrasounds under the supervision of faculty and clinic staff.

As this is just a two-year bachelor’s program, candidates for this program must have 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of college credit prior to applying. Applicants must also have extensive prerequisite coursework in algebra, biology, physics, chemistry, and human anatomy and physiology. Students can apply for this program while they are still completing their prerequisites. However, since this is a competitive program, it is recommended that students have completed all of their courses before they apply.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Duration: 20 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $847 per credit

Online or Hybrid Vascular Technologist Degree Programs

Oregon Institute of Technology

The bachelor’s of science in vascular technology degree at Oregon Institute of Technology was the first in the nation. Students have the option of completing this program online or on campus. With two-and-a-half decades of experience educating students in this field, this program is one of the best. Since 2014, 100 percent of graduates have passed the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) certification exam. 

The first year of this program is prerequisite coursework, which must be completed before applying to the program. The last three years are professional courses such as cardiovascular physiology, patient care in sonography, physics of med imaging, vascular anatomy, and technical report writing. 

  • Location: Klamath Falls, OR
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $12,686.70 per year  

Jackson College 

Jackson College offers a two-year associate’s of applied science in vascular technology for those new to this field and a one-year certificate for diagnostic sonographers who want to earn a vascular technologist credential. While coursework can be completed entirely online, students will need to attend a pre-clinical lab orientation in person on campus as well as complete a clinical internship at a site near their home. 

Admission to this program can be quite competitive, so applicants should interview well, have high GPAs, and have either shadowing or work experience in diagnostic sonography.  

  • Location: Jackson, MI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $277 per credit 

Valencia College

Diagnostic medical sonography professionals who are looking to advance their skills and further their careers can complete the online advanced technical certificate in vascular sonography at Valencia College. Graduates of this program go on to work in private practices, vascular labs, vascular surgeon offices, research facilities, and hospitals. Upon completing the program, students will have the skills and knowledge to sit for the ARDMS vascular technology exam.

Candidates for this program must already hold a professional credential in sonography either through ARDMS, ARRT, or CCI.  students must enroll in this program within one year of graduating from your diagnostic medical sonography program or provide proof of employment within the past year in this field. Currently, this program is only open to students who have an address in the state of Florida. 

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 
  • Tuition: $266 per credit 

Carnegie Institute – School of Allied Health Technology

At the Carnegie Institute School of Allied Health Technology, students can complete a hybrid vascular technologist program. During this program,  students will learn the principles of diagnostic ultrasound and Doppler testing procedures, as well as how to provide preliminary interpretation of venous, carotid, and arterial blood flow and imaging. Didactic classes are offered through online learning, while hands-on practical experiences are completed at a school-approved clinical site.  

Applicants for this program must have a minimum of an associate’s degree. They must also have training in an allied health field, recent clinical work experience, and prerequisite coursework in math, science, and anatomy and physiology. Core courses all students must take include pathology, hemodynamics, pharmacology, IV administration, and therapeutic communication.

  • Location: Troy, MI
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $25,895 for the entire program 

Washburn University

There are three tracks in the online diagnostic medical sonography program at Washburn University. They are general, cardiac, or vascular sonography.  Required classes for the vascular track include sonography principles, instrumentation, and vascular sonography procedures.  In total, students must complete 34 credit hours and 1104 clinical hours to earn this certificate.

The online format of this certificate allows students the ability to complete their degrees without having to relocate. Didactic coursework is completed online and clinicals are completed at a faculty close to the student’s home. Washburn University has an affiliation with various medical centers, doctor’s offices, and clinics to help place students in their clinicals.

  • Location: Topeka, KS
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $15,504 per year

How Long Does it Take to Become a Vascular Technologist?

Typically, it takes at least two years of education post-high school to become a vascular technologist if an aspiring professional completes an associate degree. It takes four years to enter this field if pursuing a bachelor’s degree, which most employers prefer.

How To Become a Vascular Technologist – Step-by-Step Guide 

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Completing high school or obtaining a GED is the first step towards a career as a vascular technologist. Not only does a diploma or GED demonstrate a minimum level of education, but it is also required by most vascular technologist programs. Due to the competitive nature of vascular technologist programs, high school students should strive to keep a high GPA, take college preparatory classes, and gain volunteer experience in health care. 

Step 2: Complete Vascular Technologist Education (Two to Four Years) 

Most vascular technologist programs can be completed in two years if earning an associate’s and four years if earning a bachelor’s. Students will take extensive coursework in sonography principles, instrumentation, vascular sonography, and more. All programs also have a clinical experience component where students gain hands-on experience working directly with patients. 

Step 3: Earn a Vascular Technologist Certification (Timeline Varies)

While certification is optional for vascular technologists, it is industry standard to hold one and is required by most employers. The primary certifying bodies are the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). 

Step 4: Obtain State Licensure (Timeline Varies)

Licensing requirements for vascular technologists vary by state. It is essential that candidates contact their local boards to learn what requirements they need to meet to be licensed.

What Do Vascular Technologists Do?

Vascular technologists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical imaging centers, and physician’s offices. Job responsibilities can vary based on place of employment but typically include:

  • Preparing patients for diagnostic procedures
  • Answering patient questions about procedures
  • Performing ultrasounds on blood vessels, veins, and arteries 
  • Writing reports about ultrasound findings so a physician can make a diagnosis
  • Monitoring patient blood flow during surgery 
  • Maintaining careful client records 

Vascular Technologist Certifications & Licensure

Certification for a vascular technologist is optional, although may be required for employment. 

Certification can be earned through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Requirements vary by organization, but all include education, clinical experience, and an exam. 

Licensing requirements for vascular technicians vary by state and how a state classifies this field. Some states consider vascular technicians to be radiologic technicians, while others may classify them as diagnostic sonographers. Vascular technicians should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary education and training for licensure. 

How Much Do Vascular Technologists Make?

Vascular technologists (typically classified as cardiovascular technologists and technicians) earn $65,490 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022). The percentages for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $33,950
  • 25th percentile: $39,430
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,020
  • 75th percentile: $81,740
  • 90th percentile: $102,000

Vascular Technologist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a vascular technologist: 

Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Some medical treatments involve the use of radiopharmaceuticals. Nuclear medicine technologists ensure patients get the right dose of their medication and that the medication is handled correctly. They also monitor patients during treatment and collaborate with prescribing physicians to ensure the highest level of patient care.  

  • Typical Education: Associate’s
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

Become a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses have completed a general education nursing program and can provide a wide variety of patient care, most often under the supervision of a physician. They work in hospitals, schools, clinics, government agencies, non-profits, and even correctional facilities. Currently, in the US, there are over 3 million employed nurses. 

  • Typical Education: Associate’s or bachelor’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: State nursing board

Become a Pharmacy Technician

Well-run pharmacies need a variety of staff at all levels. Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists to dispense medications according to physician prescriptions. Not only can they help manage much of the daily workload, they often catch mistakes and can help improve patient safety. 

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PCTB)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

At HealthcareDegree.com, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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