What Is an X-Ray Tech?

If you break a bone, chances are your doctor will order an x-ray of the bone in order to see the extent of the break. The person who takes that picture of your broken bone is an x-ray tech, also called a radiographer or radiologic technologist. Read on to learn more about these professionals' job duties, requirements and economic outlook. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

X-ray techs are medical personnel trained to perform diagnostic imaging of parts of the human body with ionizing radiation. The image is produced by applying radiation with an x-ray machine, which creates a negative film. These professionals may also perform fluoroscopies: x-ray imaging of human body systems over time, like a TV show.

Some common job duties include:

  • Preparing the patient for the x-ray
  • Ensuring patient safety during the x-ray
  • Developing the image for a radiologist to interpret
  • Positioning the patient so that the body part being imaged can be seen clearly
  • Covering the rest of the body with a protective apron to reduce harmful radiation exposure
  • Ensuring the equipment used is maintained
  • Keeping records up to date for patients

Important Facts About X-Ray Techs

On-the-Job Training None
Key Skills Mathematical background, critical thinking, physical stamina, technical ability, interpersonal
Work Environment Hospitals, physicians offices, laboratories, outpatient care centers
Similar Occupations Radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists, diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Education and Training

X-ray techs generally need an associate's degree in radiography, which takes around two years to complete and is available from community colleges and technical schools. Required courses include anatomy, physiology, patient care, clinical procedures, principles of radiation and radiographic technology.

Many x-ray techs specialize in different types of imaging technology, such as computed tomography (CT or cat scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mammography. Specializations require additional classes, usually resulting in a certificate. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) provides accreditation for programs in this field.

Certification and Licensure

Some states require certification or licensure for x-ray techs. According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), 39 states require licensure or certification for radiographers (www.asrt.org). These professionals may become certified as registered technologists in radiography by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), which requires completing a formal training program and passing an exam.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that radiologic technologist employment will increase 21% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). These professionals will be needed to diagnose medical conditions, especially in the aging population. The BLS expects hospitals, outpatient imaging centers and physicians' offices to offer the most jobs. X-ray techs with experience in at least two different types of diagnostic imaging have the best job prospects.

Radiologic technologists earned $57,510 on average in May 2014, reported the BLS. While the bottom 10% of earners made $37,610 or less, the top 10% were paid $80,080 or more.

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