How to Become an X-Ray Technician

Written by

George D. Baker


August 14, 2014


X-ray technicians, radiographers and radiologic technologists take and process x-ray films and often work in hospitals. To become an X-Ray Technician, medical training or even certification is needed. Research official X-Ray Tech salary information based on governmental data. Learn more about How to Become an X-Ray Technician and research X-Ray Technician schools and online degrees.

n X-Ray Technician (more formally known as a radiologic technologist or radiology technician) is a go-to professional in most hospitals and medical centers and an important member of any medical diagnostic team. Often working directly with patients, these medical professionals are responsible for administering the images that allow doctors and dentists to find and diagnose any health-related issues, in turn providing all with quality care.

What does an X Ray technician do?

X-Ray techs are most often employed in hospital settings, but are also often at work in doctor’s offices, diagnostic laboratories and diagnostic imaging centers. Primary duties include preparing patients for X-rays, as well as taking and developing the film for use in medical diagnosis. To capture images of the bone and tissue structures of their patients, electromagnetic radiation is used.

Experienced X-Ray Techs sometimes specialize in particular diagnostic imaging practices, including mammography, computed tomography (CAT), ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or fluoroscopic imaging. State laws regulate the types of diagnostic imaging techniques these technicians may perform.

Requirements: What training does an X-Ray technician need?

To become an X-Ray Technician, basic understanding of high school-level math and science is essential for those entering radiologic programs. Along with a high school diploma, an associate or bachelor‘s degree in radiology is generally required. Education programs range from 1-4 years in length, resulting in a certificate, associate or bachelor degree. Radiology students will acquire knowledge in medical ethics, learn basic patient care procedures, and will also study radiation protection, pathology, and the principles of diagnostic imaging. A general understanding of basic human anatomy is essential in administering accurate X-Rays for diagnostic purposes.

In general, one-year accelerated X-Ray Technician programs are designed specifically for professionals already at work in the healthcare field who either want to change careers or just expand their medical knowledge overall. Two-year associate degree radiologic technologist programs are the most commonly pursued option, while bachelor-level programs are generally pursued by those wishing to advance into supervisory or administrative positions.

Those looking to gain a competitive edge in their field will often pursue voluntary certification, most commonly through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). While certification is of course optional, some respected medical centers will consider only certified X Ray Technicians for employment. To be eligible for certification, students must complete an accredited program and pass the official certification exam. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 40 states require a license, and 35 states required the ARRT exam for state licensure (1).

ARRT X-Ray Technician Certification requires students to complete 24 continuing education credits every two years to maintain their certification. Additional training and education is required to specialize in certain diagnostic imaging techniques, such as CT scanning or angiography. To study up for and pass the X-Ray Technician certification exam, some test takers recommend the X-Ray Technician Career Examination Passbooks, which offer a considerable amount of test prep material (including sample exam questions with answers). Before you take the exam, brush up on your knowledge with the Radiology Tech Certification App for only $1.99.

What are the prospects for a career as an X Ray technician?

X-Ray technician jobs are expected to increase by 17% through 2018. This growth rate is somewhat higher than the average growth rate across all industries. With the increase of outpatient care, radiology technician employment opportunities outside of hospitals are expected to increase. Technicians who are familiar with a variety of imaging techniques will have a distinct advantage, as well.

As part of the healthcare industry, X-Ray technician careers are proportionally more recession-resistant than other non-medical careers and open to promotion and professional advancement. With as little as one year’s professional experience, an X-Ray Technician will be eligible for any number of advanced positions, including CT Technician and MRI Technician.

X-Ray Tech Salary: How much do X-Ray technicians make?

The average X-Ray technician salary varies greatly depending on geographical location, specialization, relevant work experience, and type of medical office or institution. In terms of base pay, the median X Ray technician salary across the United States is roughly $52,210, with the top 10% earning upwards of $74,970.

Quickly and efficiently diagnosing patients and developing treatment plans, Radiology Technicians provide valuable assistance for doctors, dentists and other top medical professionals. First removing jewelery and other items that may obstruct or affect image quality, the technician then prepares the necessary equipment to administer the X-ray. Along with cleaning the necessary equipment, these medical professionals also must keep accurate patient files. Generally team players, X-Ray Technicians must exhibit strong interpersonal skills, easily and comfortably communicating with patients and putting them at ease.

Difference Between a Radiologist, X-Ray Technician and Radiologic Technologist

Basically, radiologists, X-Ray Technicians and Radiologic Technologists all work in the radiology field and that’s why these different job titles are so often used interchangeably. While their general career field is the same, these radiology professionals all play distinct roles and often work in very different healthcare settings.

While there are minor distinctions in job responsibilities in some instances, for the most part Radiologic Technologists and X-Ray Technicians are very similar career choices. X-Ray Technologists usually have a little more training and experience than Technicians, but both use diagnostic imaging machines to take images of the inside of a patient’s body. Because they usually have bachelor’s degrees in radiology, X-Ray Technologists may enjoy more supervisory roles than a standard X-Ray Tech. Only 1-2 years of academic training, usually in a certificate program, is typically needed to become an X-Ray Tech.

The first difference between an X Ray Technician and a radiologist again relates to the amount and type of training required. An X-Ray Technician can eventually become a radiologist or Radiologic Technologist, but some on-the-job experience and training is required before technicians can move into these more advanced positions.

While X-Ray Technicians are actively involved in administering X-rays, their role in the diagnostic process ends there. This is where the real difference between an X-Ray Tech and a Radiologist comes in to play. After taking the X-Ray, the technician will pass on the image to the Radiologist, a professional more qualified to diagnose a patient according to the visual evidence provided. In general, X-Ray Technicians do not discuss results with patients. While radiologists are often more professionally qualified than X-Ray Techs, the job of a radiologist is also more dangerous. For instance, Radiologists are sometimes required to handle radioactive substances during the course of an imaging process.

With an expected growth rate in employment and a higher salary than most entry-level positions in healthcare, becoming an X-Ray Technician is a great idea for those who enjoy working directly with patients in a healthcare setting. Anyone interested in how to become an X-ray technician and is willing to pursue an advanced degree,  may also enjoy becoming a radiology nurse.

Becoming an X-Ray Technician Requires Training, Take the Next Step:

Are you serious about becoming an X-Ray Technician ? Then you need to get the required skills and training to do it! To start your new career, first you must decide what school you want to enroll in, so you need to gather info about potential schools. Use the  College Mouse Degree Search tool  to find the right course and college for you, and get started towards your new dream job today! If you want more personalized assistance, call (888) 389-7996 TOLL FREE to speak with a college advisor, who will help you find the best college for you. After you sign up for your course, make sure you fill out and submit the FAFSA so you can take advantage of any financial aid currently available to you!  

Also, check out our list of the Top 10 X-Ray Tech Schools.

Written by:  George D. Baker

George D. Baker is a long-time contributor to College Mouse. Now retired, Mr. Baker volunteers at adult education programs in his local community.

Leave Comment

Share Your Comments & Feedback:

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.