How to Become an X-Ray Medical Technician: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

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

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X-Ray Technician Requirements

X-ray medical technicians are more commonly referred to as radiologic technicians. These professionals perform imaging examinations on patients for diagnostic purposes. The duties include preparing patients for x-rays by explaining the procedure, adjusting the equipment, shielding exposed areas, and positioning the patient. This job may be physically demanding, as technicians have to maneuver patients, and must stand on their feet for long periods of time. Technicians must protect themselves by minimizing their exposure to radiation emitted by x-ray machines. Most x-ray medical technicians work full-time, and some may work evening and weekend hours to accommodate patients' needs.

Degree Level High school diploma minimum education required; some employers may require an associate's degree
Degree Field Radiologic technology
Experience 0 to 1 year for entry-level positions; at least 2 years for more advanced roles
Licensure and Certification Some states require licensure or certification; voluntary specialty certifications available
Key Skills Detail-oriented, communication, interpersonal, technical and math skills, physical stamina
Salary (2020) $46,714 (median); though those working in the education and scientific research industries earned significantly more

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings, Payscale.com

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

Most ex-ray technicians have an associate's degree in radiologic technology. This program teaches techniques for performing x-rays and safety procedures for ensuring that patients are protected from excessive radiation exposure.

Courses also teach students how to adjust equipment to create quality images. Examples of courses include x-ray positioning, radiation exposure, medical terminology, patient care, radiographic physics and radiation biology.

Clinical training is also part of a degree program and involves working at medical facilities to receive hands-on training under the supervision of experienced x-ray medical technicians. As students gain experience in the field, they have the opportunity work directly with patients and apply what they have learned in a real world environment.

Step 2: Get Licensed and Certified

In most states, x-ray medical technicians and other radiologic technologists must be licensed. The licensing requirements generally include graduation from an accredited training program and certification from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Credential from the ARRT requires passage of a 4-hour, 200-question certification exam. Keep in mind that some states require passage of a state-administered exam for licensure. Individuals should contact their state's health board to find out the necessary steps to acquire a license.

A licensed technician must maintain licensure and certification by fulfilling continuing education requirements.

Step 3: Get a Specialty Certification

Technicians looking to further their careers can become certified in radiologic technology specialties, such as computed tomography and mammography. Both of these specialties involve the use of advanced x-ray technology, and are often the next level of career advancement for x-ray technicians. To maintain the credential in computed tomography or mammography, a technician must meet continuing education requirements every two years.

X-ray medical technicians usually have an associate's degree in radiologic technology, as well as certification and licensure. Specialty certification can provide advancement opportunities.

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