Diagnostic medical sonography, commonly known as ultrasound, uses high-frequency sound waves to examine the developing fetus, heart, abdomen, pelvis, and blood vessels. Each patient comes with unique needs and, as a student, you will learn diagnostic problem-solving and team collaboration skills to give each patient the highest quality of care.
About the program
The BCIT Diagnostic Medical Sonography program draws students from across the province. Our program provides access to state-of-the-art equipment and the latest in ultrasound technology so that you are ready to start your career the moment you graduate.
- Twenty-seven-month, full-time Diploma program
- Lectures and labs provide you with theory and active practice on campus
- Forty-six weeks of clinical experiences in BC hospitals and/or clinics
- Includes both areas of study – general and cardiac
- Graduates may decide to work in either general or cardiac sonography, or to practice both
This program is in demand. Visit Program Details to learn more.
Who it’s for
This program is for individuals who:
- Take an inquisitive approach to solving problems
- Enjoy working directly with patients and teams in a hospital environment
- Have strong technical skills and hand-eye coordination
- Have completed one year of post-secondary education or higher level of education
- Are BC residents
See Entrance Requirements to find out more about applying to BCIT’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.
What grads can do
Diagnostic Medical Sonography grads find work soon after they graduate. Learn more about career opportunities at Graduating and Jobs.
Note: In alignment with public health orders, this program requires that students be vaccinated for a number of communicable diseases – including COVID-19.
The Dual Option of the diploma program is 27 months in length. The program includes theory, labs and clinical training in general sonography (abdomen, superficial structures, pelvis, pregnant female pelvis, carotid arteries, and peripheral veins) as well as cardiac sonography (heart). While on campus, students will scan each other’s hearts (chest area), abdomens, arms, legs, and necks. All students should be prepared to be patients for these types of exams. Care is always made to keep all sensitive areas covered at all times.
In their second year, students will continue studies and undertake clinical placements in both general and cardiac sonography. The sonographic specialties are supported by instruction in physical principles and instrumentation, patient care, communication, human behaviour, and research principles.
Graduates of the sonography program should be prepared to scan all body parts, including endo-vaginal, endo-rectal, trans-esophageal, and breast exams.
Students will have the opportunity to attain all of the required skills in the Sonography Canada National Competency Profile (NCP) for the Generalist Sonographer and Cardiac Sonographer. Students will complete the Sonography Canada Canadian Clinical Skills Assessment (CCSA) for the Generalist Sonographer and Cardiac Sonographer during the program.
Students are advised that travel to clinical placements at their own expense is required. Students are asked to identify site preferences, but it may not be possible to accommodate all requests. All students will be assigned to at least one placement site outside of the lower mainland (Vancouver Island, northern or interior BC). Some lower mainland students may be required to attend placements that are lengthy commutes from their homes, or difficult to access by bus, yet still considered a local placement. It may be possible for applicants with permanent residences outside of the lower mainland to access some clinical placements in their home area.
Students are expected to have access to a computer with a high-speed internet connection and a printer, and to be proficient in the use of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel).
Our graduates get work
You will graduate ready to work in general or cardiac ultrasound, or both. Our grads have the people, academic, technical, and problem solving skills to be active members of the healthcare team. Patients and doctors rely on their expertise to give the best patient care possible.
Graduates of the program are eligible to take the Sonography Canada Generalist and Cardiac examinations (SC Examinations) and are also eligible to take the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography specialty examinations (ARDMS Examinations) in Abdomen, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Adult Echocardiography just prior to graduation.
Grads primarily work in hospitals and private clinics. Careers can be found in casual, part-time, and full-time positions and many move into full-time employment within a few months of graduating. Salaries start at approximately $32 per hour in careers like:
- Medical sonographer
- Echocardiographer or cardiac sonographer
- Commercial sales
- Research and development
Our grads join a community of health specialists dedicated to professional development and continuous learning.
Our students become members of Sonography Canada, a leading organization for our industry. Their annual conference provides networking and skill building opportunities that can help with career advancement.
The British Columbia Ultrasonographers’ Society (BCUS) offers seminars to help diagnostic sonographers keep their skills current and stay connected with the latest news and trends in the industry.
- What are the physical requirements for a sonography career?
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography includes cardiac and general scanning. Can I choose to do just one or the other?
- Are the three program options completely separate?
- Why would I choose a single option rather than the dual?
- Why would I choose a dual option rather than a single option?
- If I choose a single option, can I complete the other one later?
- Is there a pathway to degree completion?
- What are the workload requirements of the program?
- Can I do this program part time or online?
- Are there any breaks in the program?
- Where will my clinical placements be located?
- What is scheduling like for clinical portions of the program?
- Am I responsible for costs throughout clinical placement?
- Will I need to have use of a car?
What are the physical requirements for a sonography career?
Sonography is a demanding profession with a number of physical requirements, including:
- Good upper body strength, overall stamina, and flexibility to manage a high level of activity throughout the workday.
- Ability to exert constant pressure for extended periods of time
- People with current or previous injuries/conditions
limiting strength and/or endurance involving hands, arms, shoulders, neck and/or back may have difficulty managing the work requirements.
- People with current or previous injuries/conditions
- A high level of manual dexterity and coordination. Anyone with poor eye-hand coordination may have difficulty with these tasks. Sonographers in this program must be able to scan using either hand.
- Good vision with the ability to distinguish subtle shades of grey
- Ability to distinguish colours (i.e. not colour-blind)
- Ability to distinguish sounds to ensure accurate performance of Doppler studies
- Ability to work in a low light environment for most of the day
- Ability to effectively manage stressful, busy environments
Diagnostic Medical Sonography includes cardiac and general scanning. Can I choose to do just one or the other?
Since the September 2018 intake, we have offered three options to students. Most students complete a combined general and cardiac (Dual-option) program. Others choose a cardiac-only or general-only option. Students will select their option at the time of program application. Note: The Cardiac-only option is suspended for the September 2022 intake. Please see the Program Admission FAQs and the Program Entry page for more information.
Are the three program options completely separate?
No. All students complete the first year of the program together. This will provide foundational information and skills that will serve the students well regardless of their chosen option. In Level 3, the start of the second year, students will stream into their specific options, which will allow them to devote time and energy to those skills. Some common courses will also occur during Level 3.
All students will commence their final clinical experiences in January of their second year. The total clinical time will vary:
- General-only: 26 weeks
- Cardiac-only: 26 weeks
- General and cardiac combined: 39 weeks
Why would I choose a single option rather than the dual?
There are several reasons:
- Some students know they want to work in cardiac or general, and this allows them to focus on that area.
- The Level 3 course load is lighter for the single options and the clinical time is shorter.
- Some students find it difficult to “switch” between cardiac and general scanning.
- Some people prefer the variety of general imaging while others prefer the focus of cardiac.
- A large number of departments offer only general or cardiac scanning, so if you choose to work there, your additional clinical time and skills will not be utilized.
- Cardiac sonography is often performed in cardiology departments where no general scans are performed. Many of the larger, tertiary care diagnostic imaging departments perform only general studies. These specialized sites can be very rewarding in terms of diagnostic challenges and learning opportunities.
Why would I choose a dual option rather than a single option?
There are several reasons:
- The dual option may provide a wider range of employment opportunities.
- Some students may prefer the variety of performing a broader range of exam types.
- Some departments may give preference to dual trained sonographers.
- Some students wish to gain work experience in both areas of sonography before making a final decision on their preferred area.
If I choose a single option, can I complete the other one later?
Students who have successfully graduated from either the Cardiac or the General Sonography option may return to complete the other option within 3 years of graduating. Interested graduates should apply for what is called ‘Direct Entry’ to the Dual option. A special registration form can be found on the Advanced Placement page of the Dual-option program website. Direct Entry seats are limited. BCIT will accept those deemed to have the best opportunity for success. Acceptance is not guaranteed, and is dependent on available seats and clinical placements. Students who are offered Direct Entry to the Dual option will need to wait until the next offering of Level 3 courses, and will join in with the current cohort of students. Upon successful completion of all courses, the student will return the original diploma from the single option in exchange for a diploma from the Dual option.
Is there a pathway to degree completion?
The BCIT DMS program has entered into an articulation agreement with Thompson Rivers University for credits toward a Bachelor of Health Sciences. This is a distance education program that will allow you to complete your degree while continuing to work.
What are the workload requirements of the program?
The program schedule requires attending approximately 25 hours of classes/ labs or 35 hours of clinical each week. Expect several hours of homework and preparation each evening. You will also need to plan time for library research and group work.
This is a very demanding program. Working at a job during the school year is not recommended. Any work hours must accommodate class, lab and clinical hours.
Can I do this program part time or online?
The program is offered only in a full-time format commencing each September. Students complete the program as a cohort, based out of the BCIT Burnaby campus. Should you need to leave the program for any reason, you will be required to re-apply. Some online courses are administered during portions of the program.
Are there any breaks in the program?
In addition to Christmas and spring breaks, there is a six-week vacation in June-July after the first year for all students, and a seven-week vacation in the summer of the second year for Dual-option students.
Where will my clinical placements be located?
The BCIT Diagnostic Medical Sonography program arranges clinical training for the students. In order to attain a well-rounded clinical experience, students can expect to be placed in 4-8 different clinical sites during the program. Some of these clinical rotations will be outside of the lower mainland. Students will be requested to provide their preferences for out-of-town clinical placements, but there is no guarantee that they will be assigned to one of their preferences. Training sites are located in all parts of the province and students are responsible for arranging their own accommodation and transportation. Note: Student learning during clinical training is supported by BCIT via Learning Hub. Students will require internet access other than that at the clinical site.
What is scheduling like for clinical portions of the program?
Clinical experiences have historically been comprised of regular 8 hour days Monday-Friday; however, as the hours of sonography departments extend, students will likely be expected to work some afternoon shifts or weekend days as required.
Clinical term 1 occurs in early July to late August of the first year. Over this 7 week period, students will complete the equivalent of 3 weeks of clinical. This clinical may occur at one site or may be divided between 2-3 sites to assure a well-balanced experience.
Clinical terms 2, 3 and 4 occur in the final year of the program. Each rotation is 13 weeks in length and spans January through June for single option students followed by a rotation late August through November for dual option students. In order to assure an adequate variety of clinical experiences, each of these terms is divided into 2 distinct rotations of 6-7 weeks in length. Students are expected to attend two of these rotations in a site outside of the lower mainland.
Am I responsible for costs throughout clinical placement?
Students are responsible for all personal expenses, including food, accommodation and transportation throughout the clinical experiences. No stipend is available for any portion of the program.
Will I need to have use of a car?
Student clinical placements occur in a variety of hospitals and clinics throughout the lower mainland as well as in other parts of the province. Students move through a variety of sites over the program and many of these sites may not have access by public transit. Each student is responsible for arranging his or her own transportation.
- When do I have to choose my option?
- Why do I have to choose my option when I apply?
- Can I change options during the program?
- How can I make my application more competitive?
- How competitive is the program, and is there a waitlist?
- Can I apply to the program whilst I’m working on meeting the prerequisites, or do I need to wait until all are complete?
- I did not receive a ‘B’ in English 12. Will my post-secondary English marks be considered?
- Do you consider GPA within the selection process?
- What can I do to prepare myself for success in the selection process?
- I have met all prerequisites for the program. What post-secondary courses can you recommend to support my success in the selection process and in the program?
- Can I apply for transfer credit for my college/university courses?
- If Admissions requires proof of BC residency, what may I be asked to provide?
When do I have to choose my option?
Applicants must choose their option at the time of application. Applicants are requested to provide a second and possible third choice. In the event that their preferred option has no remaining capacity, they may be offered a seat in another option. Note: The Cardiac-only option is suspended for the September 2022 intake.
Why do I have to choose my option when I apply?
Because the clinical spaces for each option are limited, the numbers of students in each option must be set at the start of the program. This will prevent any of the options from being over-requested which could result in students being placed in an undesired option later in the program.
Can I change options during the program?
Changing options is unlikely and will be possible only in the event that a space opens up in another option. However, because the first year of the program is common, single option students can potentially return to complete the other option following graduation.
How can I make my application more competitive?
Admission to the program is highly competitive. In addition to completing all of the prerequisites, successful applicants typically have the following profile:
- Post-secondary education with a focus on human anatomy and physiology and/or health. Physics courses are also an asset. Many successful applicants have university degrees.
- Demonstrated ability to manage a full course load at the post-secondary level
- Strong, consistent academic performance
- Job experience in a fast-paced customer or patient related area
- Volunteering or work in a patient environment that includes hands-on physical care of elderly or ill patients/clients. Extracurricular activities such as team sports are also an asset.
- Demonstration of a clear understanding of the profession and the program
- Excellent communication skills
The questionnaire that is included with the application should exhibit thoughtful, articulate answers to all questions, as these are carefully reviewed in the short-listing of candidates.
How competitive is the program, and is there a waitlist?
We receive anywhere from 140 to 280 complete applications each intake. We accept 32-40 students into the program. Historically, we have invited 80-100 students to participate in the second stage of the selection process. Acceptance into the program is based on the ranked score achieved during the selection process. Some applicants who are not among the top 32-40 will be placed on a waitlist for the current intake in the event that a seat becomes available. The waitlist is cleared once the program intake is full and the first program term has commenced; unsuccessful applicants must re-apply to be considered for next year.
Can I apply to the program whilst I’m working on meeting the prerequisites, or do I need to wait until all are complete?
You should only apply when you have fully met all the academic requirements. If you apply without having completed all minimum entrance requirements, your application will be marked incomplete by Admissions. Incomplete applications do not go forward into the competitive selection process.
I did not receive a ‘B’ in English 12. Will my post-secondary English marks be considered?
Admissions will assess post-secondary transcripts for courses that fulfill the English language proficiency requirement.
Do you consider GPA within the selection process?
Preference will be given to applicants with a strong GPA, post-secondary education, a demonstrated interest in the field, and related volunteer/work experience. It is important that transcripts demonstrate an aptitude for success in past academic courses.
The program selects, from a large pool of complete applications, only those candidates deemed to have the best opportunity for success. Meeting minimum entrance requirements and having a high GPA does not guarantee you will be selected for the second stage of the competitive entry process.
What can I do to prepare myself for success in the selection process?
The program looks for well-rounded individuals who will be successful as students and as future diagnostic medical sonographers. Ensure that you have researched what it means to be a sonographer and are aware the scope of the work involved.
I have met all prerequisites for the program. What post-secondary courses can you recommend to support my success in the selection process and in the program?
Post-secondary health-related courses and those in human anatomy and physiology, pathology and physics will strengthen your application and would support your overall success in the program. Be aware that many successful applicants have completed university degrees, so post-secondary education is an important factor.
Can I apply for transfer credit for my college/university courses?
Most courses are program specific. Typically only patient care and communication courses will be considered. If you feel you have completed courses equivalent to the Sonography program courses, you may apply for individual transfer credit within the first two weeks of the program start. Please note: If individual course transfer credit is granted, this will not reduce your tuition or the duration of the program; it will only reduce your course load.
If Admissions requires proof of BC residency, what may I be asked to provide?
Proof of residency may be requested to confirm status in BC, documentation such as utility, cellular or insurance bills (automotive or otherwise) would be required.
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