How to Become an X-Ray Tech

Jan 02, 2019

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.

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  • 0:01 X-Ray Technician Career
  • 1:15 Get Associate's Degree
  • 2:34 Complete Clinical Training
  • 2:59 Get Certified
  • 3:31 Continue Education

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X-Ray Technician Career

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Radiography
Licensure/Certification Required in most states; 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, and technical skills; physical stamina
Salary $56,670 (2015 median for radiologic technologists, including x-ray and CAT scan technicians)

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

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. X-ray techs often spend many work hours standing and must take measures to protect themselves from radiation exposure.

They should have strong attention to detail, communication skills, physical stamina and the ability to follow orders. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that radiologic technologists, including x-ray and CAT scan technicians, earned a median annual salary of $56,670.

Get Associate's Degree

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 this program will learn about diagnostic imaging machine operation, professionalism and radiation protection standards. They 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.

Students should make sure to enroll in a program that is accredited. 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, students must 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.

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.

Get Certified

After graduating from an accredited program, 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 certifying exam features 200 questions and covers topics involving radiation protection, equipment operation, image acquisition, imaging procedures and patient care.

Continue Education

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.

Once again, x-ray technicians should typically have at least an associate's degree in the field of radiography before going on to gain supervised training and earning the required certification.

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