Basic X-Ray Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for x-ray technicians. Get the facts about education requirements, salary and certification requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an X-ray Technician?

X-ray technicians use medical radiation equipment to perform diagnostic imaging of patients' bodies. They must be able to follow specific instructions from doctors in order to capture the correct image. These professionals prepare patients and position them to get the best image. They also protect exposed areas of the patient from the x-rays. X-ray technicians must communicate well with patients as they answer any questions they may have, as well as with doctors, since they discuss and analyze the images to determine if any need to be retaken. They also keep detailed medical records for their patients. The following chart provides an overview about becoming an x-ray technician.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Radiologic technology, x-ray technology
Key Responsibilities Properly position imaging equipment and patient; operate x-ray machine to take an accurate image of the affected body part; use radiation safety protocols
Licensure or Certification Some states require licensure or certification; professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for radiologic technologists*
Median Salary (2015) $56,670 for radiologic technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Do I Need to Become an X-ray Technician?

Before you begin thinking about becoming an x-ray technician, you should be at ease in hospitals and around the sick and elderly, as you will be in this environment daily. You will need a strong physique and stamina in order to stand for most of the day and move heavier patients for x-rays. You should be good with your hands and quick to understand technology and machinery. An ability to adapt, be it to new procedures, doctors or continuing educational requirements, is a must.

How Do I Get Certified?

Your road to becoming an x-ray technician will begin in high school, where it is a good idea to focus in the areas of chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics. You will also want to seek out a program in radiography that meets the education requirements of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Most choose an associate's degree at a reputable technical or community college. Other options are a certificate or a bachelor's degree.

From here you will look to attain state requirements for x-ray technicians and/or ARRT certification. The ARRT will require you to comply with acknowledged rules and ethics, and familiarize yourself with any competency or didactic requirements not included in your education. You then will take the ARRT exam, and upon passing, you must register and continually attend sustaining education classes so you can renew your certification every two years.

Is There Room to Advance?

More and more x-ray technicians are going back to school for bachelor's degrees after completing their associate's degree or certificate. Certificate programs will most likely be obsolete by 2015, when ARRT will accept only associate's degrees or higher for its educational requirement. Higher credentials will give employers an added incentive to hire you for managerial and staff instructor positions. Top positions often require a master's degree in health or further ARRT specialized certification.

Some avenues for advancement involve branching into other areas of medical imaging, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mammography. Familiarity with these techniques and the medical equipment involved will help diversify your daily duties and broaden your employment horizons.

How Difficult Will It Be to Find Work and Make a Living?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for radiologic technologists is projected to increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024. As of 2015, the annual median income was $56,670 for radiologic technologists and technicians.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Diagnostic medical sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists all have related careers in the healthcare field that require an associate's degree. Diagnostic medical sonographers create diagnostic images for patients, but use ultrasounds. Nuclear medicine technologists create diagnostic images as well, but they use radioactive chemicals to make abnormal areas of the body stand out from the normal parts in the image. Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to patients suffering from various diseases and illnesses, such as cancer.

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