What Does an X-Ray Technician Do?
X-Ray technicians, also called radiologic technicians, take images of various body parts using special equipment. After a technician has taken these films or images, a radiologist reads them to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. Precautions must be taken to ensure technicians’ and patients’ safety when working with radiation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for radiologic technologists and technicians was $60,510 as of May 2019. If you are interested in learning more about how to become an X-ray technician, read on to find out about specific requirements for this profession.
X-Ray Tech Requirements
Degree Level Certificate or associate degree; bachelor’s or master’s for advancement
Degree Field(s) X-ray technician program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or another accrediting agency approved by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
License/Certification State licensure required; voluntary certification available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
Experience Hands-on experience preferred
Key Skills Interpersonal communication, mathematics, and science skills; proficiency with medical and patient database software; ability to operate and maintain imaging equipment; stamina and strength to work standing and to assist and position patients
Median Annual Salary (2019) $60,510 (for radiologic technologists and technicians)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Individuals interested in this growing field often need an associate’s degree or a certificate in radiology as well as state licensure to gain employment. Requirements for licensure vary by state. They also can earn voluntary certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). There are a number of different specializations available for X-ray technicians, though these may involve further training and X-ray tech school time. Potential specializations include:
X-ray technician requirements include at minimum a certificate and usually an associate
To work in this field, you need to attend X-ray technician school programs and cultivate the following personal skills:
Mathematics and science skills
Proficiency with medical software and patient database software
Ability to operate and maintain imaging equipment
Stamina and strength to stand on your feet for long periods of time and to assist patients into moving into proper positioning
Steps to Becoming an X-Ray Technician
Here are the steps you need to take to become a certified x-ray technician.
Step 1: Complete an X-Ray Tech Education Program
Those who plan to seek certification should complete x-ray technician training through a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or another accrediting agency approved by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). X-ray technician certification programs are available at the certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree levels, although an associate’s degree is most common among technicians. On all levels, coursework typically consists of classroom and laboratory instruction. It covers anatomy, medical terminology, patient positioning, radiation protection, infection control, and radiation pathology.
Maximize hands-on experience during your certificate or degree program. Some colleges offer externships at hospitals or imaging centers as part of the radiographic technology program.
Step 2: Earn X-Ray Tech Certification
After completion of an X-ray technician program, graduates can pursue certification through ARRT, which awards the Registered Technologist (RT) credential. Although the process is often optional for employment, many employers prefer hiring technicians who are certified. Further, some states require certification as a step to licensure. To be eligible for certification, applicants must graduate from an accredited program and pass a written exam. This 4-hour test contains 220 multiple-choice questions and is scored on a pass/fail basis.
Don’t forget the biennial recertification process. ARRT requires individuals to complete 24 continuing education credits or pass an examination every two years in order to maintain certification. This requirement offers assurance that the individual is up to date on radiological technology and shows a commitment to expertise in the profession. Finding out how to get an X-ray license in your city or state is an important part of the program.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
Most states require X-ray technicians to attain licensure before applying for employment. Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada regulate mammography (X-ray imaging of the breast) separately. Licensure requirements vary by state, with licensure periods in most states ranging from 1-4 years. Eleven states have no laws about licensure of X-ray technicians, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. As of 2012, all states that require licensure accept ARRT exams for licensure purposes. Several states also provide for alternatives, such as a state-specific exam or the American Registry of Clinical Radiography Technologists exam.
Step 4: Gain Employment
Licensed X-ray technicians typically work a 40-hour week in such facilities as hospitals, physicians’ offices, imaging centers, and rehabilitation centers. Technicians also might work for an agency that will send them to multiple different medical facilities to generate X-rays.
Step 5: Consider Advancement Options
Experienced, certified X-ray technicians may obtain additional certification from ARRT to become a radiologist assistant or to specialize in a type of diagnostic equipment, such as a CT scanner or MRI machine. A technician can also advance his or her career by teaching at a community college, becoming a sales representative for a radiologic equipment manufacturer, or being promoted to department director.
You may want to explore additional education for career advancement. Some facilities may require an individual to possess a master’s degree in health care administration before applying for a director’s position.
How Long Does It Take to Become an X-Ray Tech?
Now that you understand how to become an x-ray tech, consider how much of a time investment this career will be. Becoming an X-ray technician requires at minimum a certificate, which typically takes at least a year to complete. Licensure takes at least one additional year, although for many x-ray technicians, especially those who get an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, it will take longer than two years to join this career. If obtaining a four-year bachelor’s degree and undergoing a longer certification process, it may take up to eight years to become an X-ray tech.
Certified x-ray technicians, or radiologic technicians, are responsible for using special equipment to take images of the body which will then be read by a radiologist for diagnostic purposes, and they enjoy a comfortable median annual salary of $60,510. Although an associate’s degree is usually required for this career, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree may be needed for career advancement.
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