How to Become an X-Ray Tech
Learn how to become an X-ray technician and see what kinds of salaries and job opportunities you can expect in this career.
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- X-ray techs can work in clinics, hospitals, or veterinary hospitals and clinics.
- X-ray techs run diagnostic tests on patients using X-ray machines, CTs, and MRIs.
- These professionals often need state licensure and professional certification to find jobs.
- X-ray techs must be detail-oriented, organized, and have strong communication skills.
X-ray techs, also known as radiologic technicians or radiographers, work in hospitals and clinics, performing X-rays and other diagnostic tests. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for X-ray techs will grow by 9% growth from 2020-2030 — about as fast as the national average growth rate of 8% for all occupations. The BLS found that the median X-ray tech salary was $63,710 in 2020.
In this guide, readers learn how to become an X-ray tech by exploring a step-by-step process for pursuing this career. Readers will also learn about the different types of X-ray techs, the requirements of becoming an X-ray tech, and what certification professionals need for this career.
Step-by-Step to Becoming an X-Ray Tech
- Earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent
- Earn an associate degree in radiologic technology from an accredited two-year or four-year college
- Earn certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) by passing the certification exam
- Earn state licensure, if required by your state's health board
Types of X-Ray Techs
Radiologic technicians can pursue different specialties. Some X-ray techs work in hospitals and clinics. Others may choose to pursue veterinary medicine. X-ray techs in veterinary hospitals hold many of the same duties as their counterparts, including running diagnostic tests and helping the primary physician decipher the results.
Radiologic technicians also operate different types of machinery, including X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs). Technicians use X-rays to image bone injuries. CTs image blood clots and organ injuries. MRIs show musculoskeletal injuries such as nerve compression and spinal injuries.
Each type of machinery requires specific knowledge of how to prepare and operate the device, how to prepare the patient for the exam, and how to understand the results. Radiologic technicians will learn these skills while completing their associate degree program.
However, X-ray techs may need special classes or training for using an MRI machine, as MRIs use magnets for imaging rather than radiation. Some schools offer special programs for students interested in becoming MRI techs.
What Is an X-Ray Tech?
X-ray techs perform diagnostic testing on patients, including taking X-rays. These professionals typically only need an associate degree and may work in hospitals and clinics. X-ray techs need excellent communication skills, as they work closely with doctors and patients to perform testing, monitor results, and keep detailed patient records.
What Does an X-Ray Tech Do?
X-ray techs assist doctors with diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. After a doctor determines which tests a patient needs, X-ray techs prepare the necessary equipment and oversee the testing. This includes informing the patient about the testing process, taking the medical history of the patient, and preparing the patient for testing.
X-ray techs should enjoy detail-oriented work that relies on technical knowledge. These professionals should also enjoy interacting with patients and need strong communication skills. This career does not require as much time and money as becoming a doctor, but these professionals hold a critical role in the medical field.
X-Ray Tech Responsibilities
- Maintain imaging equipment and make any adjustments necessary for patient diagnostics and imaging
- Prepare patients for diagnostic testing, including taking patient history and explaining the exam
- Take images and/or run diagnostic tests through computerized equipment and other testing equipment
- Analyze images in consultation with the patient's doctor to find any health concerns
- Keep detailed patient records by including all information discovered from imaging tests
Requirements to Becoming an X-Ray Tech
X-ray tech requirements include:
- High school diploma or GED equivalent
- Associate degree in radiologic technology from an accredited two-year or four-year college
- X-ray tech certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or MRI certification through the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)
- State licensure (if required by state health board)
Certification Process for X-Ray Tech
Some states require licensure for X-ray techs. Each state medical board decides the requirements of licensure for its state. Aspiring X-ray techs should research state requirements for licensure before beginning their career journey. Some colleges offer resources to help students understand and meet licensure requirements in their state of residence.
X-ray techs can also earn certification from professional organizations. Employers prefer — and may require — X-ray techs to hold certification. Professionals may find it easier to secure a position at a hospital or clinic with certification. The ARRT certifies X-ray techs through an exam.
For MRI certification, X-ray techs may take the ARMRIT certification exam. Aspiring MRI technicians must have documented experience with an MRI machine and/or formal education completed through schools dedicated to MRI technologists in order to take this exam.
X-Ray Tech Salary and Job Demand
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for radiologic and MRI technicians was $63,710 in 2020. The median annual wage for all healthcare occupations in 2020 was $69,870. This means that X-ray techs earn a decent salary in the healthcare field. Readers should remember that salary outlook differs depending on the location, the professional's level of experience, and the professional's level of education.
The BLS projects that X-ray techs will experience 9% job growth from 2020-2030. This growth rate is about as fast as the national average for job growth in all careers. This means that X-ray techs should experience steady growth and job openings for the next decade, allowing new professionals to find entry-level positions with relative ease.
X-ray techs can find career growth opportunities through jobs like chief radiologic technician and radiologic technician educator.
A radiologic technician educator needs an associate degree and 2-5 years experience as a technician. However, many professionals pursuing this career earn a bachelor's degree as well. Radiologic technician educators train future technicians at institutions of postsecondary education and other healthcare training centers.
Chief radiologic technicians occupy a managerial role at a hospital and/or clinic, overseeing all radiologic technicians and running the day-to-day operations of the lab. These professionals need a bachelor's degree and 3-5 years of experience as radiologic technicians.
- Washington, D.C.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an X-Ray Tech
X-ray techs earn a median annual salary of $63,710. The BLS projects 9% growth for this industry, which is as fast as the national average. This means that professionals in this field can expect steady career growth over the next decade.
X-ray techs can work in any state across the country, finding stable jobs in hospitals and medical clinics. These professionals work closely with other medical staff, doctors, and patients.
Aspiring X-ray techs first need a high school diploma or GED equivalent to apply for an associate degree program in radiologic technology. An associate degree in this field takes about two years to complete for a full-time student. These programs require many classes in science and math to prepare students for this highly technical field.
X-ray techs also need to investigate licensure and certification in their state of residence. To earn certification from a professional organization, students must take an exam and fulfill any continuing education requirements. State licensure requirements differ from state to state but may also require passing an exam.
On average, students need two years to complete an associate degree program in a full-time program. Students enrolled in an accelerated study program may take less time, whereas part-time students may need 3-4 years to finish. Students who choose to pursue a bachelor's degree will need about four years to graduate.
Once students graduate, they can begin working toward certification and/or state licensure.Hospitals and clinics may offer some X-ray tech training, but most professionals may begin working once they hold the proper certifications.
Feature Image: FS Productions / Tetra Images / Getty Images
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