Knowledge of equipment, medical terminology, and safety procedures are required for entry-level technicians. Formal training through an associate's degree program in radiologic technology is the most common form of education for an X-ray technician, followed by optional certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Generally, no previous medical experience is required for individuals seeking careers as X-ray technicians, though a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 in math and science courses is required by most schools for admission. The associate's program takes two years or less to complete, while bachelor's and master's programs in the field are also available.
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Associate's Degree Programs in Radiologic Technology
Students in the associate's degree program take coursework in human anatomy, patient care, physiology, radiation biology, and pathology. The program provides instruction on the operation of X-ray equipment, basic diagnostic imaging procedures, and identification of abnormal images that require physician intervention. Because exposure to high levels of radiation is hazardous, candidates learn positioning techniques that will protect the patient, as well as themselves, from exposure. Some programs provide experiential learning via externships.
When selecting an X-ray technician training program, students should consider a school that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), because certification is possible to graduates of JRCERT accredited schools.
Popular Career Options
X-ray technicians, also known as radiographers or radiologic technicians, work under the supervision of physicians and nurses in prepping patients for medical imaging procedures. Entry-level employees may load radiographic film cassettes, prepare X-ray rooms, assist in the maintenance of equipment and organize patient files. With more job experience, X-ray technicians may take and process X-rays independently, explain medical imaging procedures to patients, and manage requisitions of needed radiographic supplies. X-ray technicians are not permitted to discuss the results of images with anyone other than fellow medical personnel.
Above and beyond the basic radiologic technologist training at the associate's degree level, X-ray technicians may receive specialization certification through certificate or bachelor's degree programs. Through a bachelor's degree program, for instance, an X-ray technician can train to become a radiation therapy technologist. In addition, certificate programs are available for X-ray technicians to learn advanced medical imaging procedures like mammograms or computed tomography (CT) scans according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (www.bls.gov). Diagnostic medical sonography, angiography, and nuclear medicine are other areas of specialization that can be attained through certificate programs. Positions available to graduates, depending on experience and area of focus, may be magnetic resonance technologists, nuclear medicine technologists, sonographers, and radiation therapists.
Not all states require licensure or certification to work as an X-ray technician. Voluntary certification is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (www.arrt.org) by passing an examination. ARRT welcomes applicants who have met the three components for eligibility: ethics, education, and examination. Students should have no prior criminal convictions and should be graduates of accredited schools. The examination tests a candidate's knowledge of areas, such as image exposure, radiation protection, patient care, and radiographic equipment use. Licensed X-ray technicians are required to complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their standing.
National organizations, community colleges, vocational schools, and state societies of radiologic technologists are great resources for X-ray technicians who want to learn more about the industry. Technicians may learn advanced radiographic procedures, stress management skills and archiving techniques. Other topics commonly discussed are image processing and occupational risks.
The website of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (www.asrt.org) has a section for students interested in the radiologic technician field, with tutorial exercises, practice quizzes, salary information, and job opportunities. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (www.jrcert.org) also offers a comprehensive list of distance learning programs for students who seek alternative forms of training.
There are associate's, bachelor's, and master's program levels in radiologic technology. The former program, alongside licensure or certification that may be required in certain states, can help graduates find employment as X-ray technicians.