How to Become a Certified X-Ray Technician

Feb 27, 2019

Research the requirements to become a certified X-ray technician. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in radiologic technology.

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Should I Become a Certified X-Ray Technician?

X-Ray technicians, also called radiologic technologists, 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 was $56,670 as of May 2015.

Career 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 (2015) $56,670 (for radiologic technologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Individuals interested in this growing field need an associate's degree 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).

To work in this field, you need:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • 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

How to Become a Certified X-Ray Technician

Here are the steps you need to take to become a certified x-ray technician.

Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary 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 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: Get Certified

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.

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.

Certified x-ray technicians, or radiologic technologists, 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 annual salary of $56,670. 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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