How to Become an X-Ray Tech

Learn how to become an x-ray technician. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as an x-ray technician.

Should I Become an X-Ray Technician?

X-ray technicians conduct imaging examinations and perform x-rays on patients for diagnostic purposes. After receiving an x-ray order from a physician, technicians prepare patients for the procedure by explaining what it entails, having them remove any unnecessary clothing items, and putting them in the proper position. It's also essential that these technicians protect patients from any unnecessary radiation exposure. After the images are taken, they're given to the physician for interpretation and diagnosis. Techs often spend many work hours standing and must take measures to protect themselves from radiation exposure.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Radiography
Licensure/Certification Required in most states and must be kept current with continuing education
Experience 1-3 years of experience preferred
Key Skills Attention to detail; ability to follow orders;communication; mathematics; physical stamina; technical
Salary $55,870 per year (Median salary as of May 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); job postings in August 2012

Step 1: Graduate with an Associate's Degree in Radiologic Technology

An associate's degree in radiography or radiologic technology will teach students safe methods to create quality x-ray images with low doses of radiation. Students in the program will learn about diagnostic imaging machine operation, professionalism and radiation protection standards. Students will be required to complete both general education and radiologic technology courses. Courses will cover topics involving anatomy and physiology, patient positioning, exposure techniques, patient care and radiation safety.

Success Tip

  • Enroll in an accredited program. Passing a certification exam offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is required to obtain licensure in most states. In order to be eligible for the ARRT certification exam, enroll in a program accredited through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). This organization ensures that a program conforms to standards that prepare students for employment upon graduation.

Step 2: Complete Clinical Training

Before obtaining employment and earning certification, individuals need to have some clinical experience in the field. Radiologic technology programs often provide students with the training necessary to begin employment. This is an opportunity for students to train under the supervision of an experienced technician while working with patients and interacting with other medical professionals.

Step 3: Obtain Licensing

After graduating from an accredited program and earning certification, individuals can pursue certification through the ARRT, which is often required for state licensing. Certification ensures that technicians have the qualifications to conduct medical imaging tests. The exam features 200 questions and covers topics involving radiation protection, equipment operation, image acquisition, imaging procedures and patient care.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education Requirements for Career Advancement

X-ray technicians who do not maintain their certification may no longer be employable. In order to ensure job security and opportunities to advance their career, it is important to complete continuing education requirements every two years to maintain certification. Because of technology advancements, technologists need to update their knowledge and skills; this can be done in continuing education classes that keep technologists up to date on the latest developments and newest technology in the field.

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