X-Ray technicians, also known as radiologic technicians, produce x-ray images of different parts of the body. They introduce non-radioactive substances into the bloodstream of patients to aid in the diagnosis of specific conditions.
For students with no prior experience working with x-rays, a 2-year associate's degree program in radiography or radiologic technology provides them with the minimum amount of training required to work as entry-level x-ray technicians. Entry-level diploma programs, which have a program duration of 1-2 years, are often combined with a medical assisting curriculum and prepare students for x-ray machine operator positions. Although no prior experience with x-ray technology is necessary to enter a diploma or associate's degree program, most schools require a high school diploma or GED. Many programs also prefer a strong background in the natural sciences.
Candidates can apply directly to a 4-year bachelor's degree programs, but many schools require students to have associate's degrees in radiography. Additionally, many schools prefer that bachelor's degree candidates have some professional experience as x-ray technicians.
There are a few different program fields to choose from, including X-Ray Technology, Radiologic Technology, and Radiography. Students may also be required to take clinical lab training and practicum.
X-Ray Technician Diploma
Diploma programs in x-ray technology are often combined with medical assisting programs. Students take courses that cover x-ray procedures, clerical tasks and basic lab work. The program includes a combination of classroom lectures, labs and clinical experiences. Some schools offer a portion of the coursework online. The curriculum often includes several opportunities for hands-on training. Common course topics include:
- X-ray positioning techniques
- Patient care procedures
- Anatomy and physiology
- Radiation protection
- Image production
- Radiographic procedures
Associate Degree in Radiologic Technology
An associate's degree in radiologic technology is the most common degree held by professional x-ray technicians. The first year of the program covers the natural sciences, math, anatomy and physiology, in addition to general education requirements. Much of the work specific to training x-ray technicians takes place during the second year of the program. Some states require x-ray technicians to be licensed. As such, several programs include courses to prepare graduates for state licensing exams. Students should expect to take courses like:
- Patient care procedures
- Radiation physics
- Radiation protection
- Medical terminology
Bachelor's Degree in Radiologic Technology
A Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology or Radiology program not only trains students to work as x-ray technicians, but also prepares them for supervisory and teaching positions at hospitals, medical schools, clinics and physical therapy centers. Many students in bachelor's degree programs have already completed associate's degree programs and are returning to school to train for management positions in their departments. Although most programs do not require standardized test scores, students are expected to have a background in science, math and social sciences. Courses in bachelor's degree programs in radiologic technology include:
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Chest radiology
- Breast imaging
- Health care management
Popular Career Options
Graduates of x-ray technician diploma and associate's degree programs are prepared for entry-level positions operating x-ray equipment in a variety of medical settings, though state licensure may be needed for some jobs. Those who complete programs that include medical assisting coursework can also seek jobs as medical assistants, medical receptionists or health plan coordinators. Because bachelor's degree programs cover a wide-range of areas of interest to the professional radiologist, it gives potential technicians the ability to specialize in specific areas of radiology. Their backgrounds also make them well-suited for management positions and supervisory roles. Some places where x-ray technicians can seek employment include:
- Doctor's office
- Outpatient care centers
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for x-ray technicians (also called radiologic technologists) isexpected to increase by 9% from 2014-2024, as radiation technology advances and becomes increasingly sophisticated. X-ray technicians can work in hospitals, for sports teams and in private clinics. The mean annual salary of radiologic technologists was $58,520 in 2015.
Certification programs in radiography are meant for students with experience as x-ray technicians. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers voluntary certification for x-ray technicians. Many hospitals and private clinics offer internal training and ARRT-approved certification programs for their technicians. Although ARRT certification is not required by law, it may be required by employers. Employees are usually required to take these certification exams within a certain amount of time after they are hired.
Completing an associate's, bachelor's, or diploma program can lead to a career as an x-ray technician, a field expected to grow by 9% over the 2014-2024 decade. Graduates may find employment in a doctor's office, clinic, hospital, or outpatient care center, and often obtain professional certification through the ARRT to help advance their career.