How Can I Become an X-Ray Medical Technician?
Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in X-ray medical technology. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information.
What Is an X-Ray Medical Technician?
X-ray medical technicians, also known as radiologic technologists or radiographers, specialize in using x-ray equipment to perform diagnostic imagine examinations. X-ray machines and computed tomography (CT) scanners create images that can help with the diagnosis of an illness or injury. X-ray medical technicians are responsible for patient positioning, ensuring patient safety by shielding portions of the body that do not need to be imaged, operating equipment and keeping careful records of the procedure. X-ray medical technicians work in hospitals, imaging centers and doctors' offices.
See the table below for more information about X-ray medical technicians.
|Degree Required||Certificate or associate's (2-year) degree|
|Education Field of Study||Radiography|
|Key Responsibilities||Explain X-ray process and position patient for exam|
Adjust settings on equipment
Perform X-rays on numerous body parts as per physician's orders
Utilize techniques to minimize patient exposure to X-rays
Process exposed radiographs for interpretation
|Licensure/Certification||Licensure is required in most states; certification is typically a prerequisite for licensure|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||9% for radiologic technologists*|
|Mean Salary (2018)||$59,520 for radiologic technologists*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Education and Training Do I Need to Become an X-Ray Medical Technician?
To work as an X-ray medical technician, you need to have earned either a certificate in radiography or completed an associate degree program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that a majority of radiology technicians have an associate degree (www.bls.gov). Courses offered in these programs may include anatomy, medical ethics, radiobiology, pathology and principals of imaging. Additional coursework in clinical settings will cover body positioning and proper care of patients.
A certificate program in radiography requires a high school diploma and can be completed in 21-24 months. An associate degree can be earned in two years, and some classes are available online. Additional training will be necessary if you choose to specialize in certain types of imaging technology such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MR) or mammography. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) has compiled a list of accredited radiology programs offered by technical schools and universities (www.jrcert.org).
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers a certification in radiography that some employers want their technicians to have achieved. To earn the certification, you must complete an approved and accredited training program and pass an exam. Because patient care is highly regulated by the government, most states will require you to be licensed. According to the BLS, specific requirements will vary between each state, and many states use exams administered by ARRT in their licensing process.
What Job Duties Will I Perform?
You will communicate with patients on a daily basis and must speak clearly and be a good listener. You will explain procedures and assist in preparation and positioning. Other responsibilities include minimizing patient exposure to radiation, capturing and processing the image and providing it to a radiologist for diagnosing purposes. You may help the doctor evaluate the quality of the image in order to determine whether further tests are necessary.
Job Outlook and Advancement Opportunities
Due to population growth and aging, the BLS expects the demand for radiologic technologists to increase by 9% between 2018 and 2028, a rate that is faster than average. The mean salary for radiologic technologists in 2018 was $61,540. Technicians who choose to specialize in CT, MRI or mammography will find more opportunities for employment and may command a higher salary. With additional education, training and experience, an X-ray medical technician can become a radiologist assistant or chief radiologic technologist.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
For individuals who want to pursue diagnostic imaging careers, two other potential job options are MRI technologist and nuclear medicine technologist. MRI technologists specialize in using MRI scanners to create diagnostic images, while nuclear medical technologists prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients for imaging purposes. Both of these jobs usually require at least an associate's degree. Another option in the radiation technology field is a job as a radiation therapist. These professionals are experts in the use of linear accelerator machines, which apply radiation to treat cancer and other diseases.