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How to Become an X-Ray Technician

What Does an X-Ray Technician Do?

X-ray technician reviewing diagnostic images

X-ray technicians (also known as X-ray technologists or radiologic technologists) use cutting-edge imaging methods to visualize the inside of the human body. The pictures they create help physicians to diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries with great accuracy. Technicians have a unique opportunity to work with some of the most exciting and groundbreaking medical machinery available. They also get the satisfaction of assisting and supporting patients, including those who are nervous or in pain.

When a patient arrives for an imaging study, the technician takes a brief medical history, explains what to expect and answers the person’s questions. Next the patient is positioned on the equipment and shielded against ionizing radiation. The technician then performs the required studies while adhering closely to the physician’s written orders. In some cases, the technician works with a physician called a radiologist to analyze the images and determine whether additional tests are necessary.

X-ray technicians work with a wide variety of imaging technologies, including:

  • Traditional X-ray machines
  • Computerized axial tomography (CT)
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Film and digital mammography

Some X-ray technicians are generalists while others specialize in a particular type of machine or clinical area (such as breast imaging). Because technology advances quickly, there is always something new to learn, and technicians continuously upgrade and enhance their skills through continuing education.

In addition to operating imaging equipment, X-ray technicians are responsible for basic maintenance and upkeep of the machines. They also keep detailed records of each procedure.

Workplace Details

Until a few years ago, almost all X-ray technicians worked in hospitals. However, many health systems now offer MRI, mammography and other imaging services on an outpatient basis. Today, roughly a third of technicians work in physician offices and specialized diagnostic centers.

Most X-ray technicians work full time. In facilities that provide round-the-clock care, their shifts most likely include some evenings, weekends and holidays. Technicians in outpatient settings are more likely to work regular business hours.

X-Ray Technician Salary & Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$76060
Texas
$55680
Florida
$52960
New York
$67400
Pennsylvania
$56880

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$46,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$36,200$50,370$67,050
Huntsville$23,650$47,020$72,320

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$70,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$51,610$71,920$93,510
Fairbanks$51,840$67,480$76,620

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$60,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 170

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$40,130$63,380$88,510
Tuscon$39,630$56,020$73,990

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$46,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$33,660$49,600$74,790
Fort Smith$29,400$43,520$60,450

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$75,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $115,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 540

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$38,620$70,050$101,940
San Francisco Bay$44,650$95,520$127,830
San Diego$38,570$69,410$98,900
Sacramento$52,820$90,720$116,920

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$60,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $87,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$43,420$63,450$90,620
Colorado Springs$42,530$57,690$77,910

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$63,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: -1%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$49,700$65,090$88,400
Bridgeport$44,880$63,120$91,480
New Haven$43,350$61,780$89,700

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$58,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$44,010$59,560$78,480
Dover$50,060$60,890$76,750

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$75,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$49,370$68,120$95,100

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$51,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 500

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$33,760$50,970$74,750
Orlando$32,600$47,370$63,540
Tampa$33,790$53,920$71,590
Jacksonville$32,180$50,550$73,570

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$50,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $71,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 170

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$39,370$53,660$73,300
Augusta$39,040$51,730$65,630

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$69,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$53,330$72,210$92,870

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$50,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 220

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$39,630$50,510$69,430

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$59,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$38,960$62,770$88,140
Rockford$36,030$54,480$81,490

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$53,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$42,360$57,310$77,580
South Bend$41,010$48,960$64,950
Fort Wayne$36,990$52,050$71,670

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$48,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$41,180$53,480$73,900
Cedar Rapids$19,840$42,970$61,230

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$49,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$36,300$47,640$61,660
Kansas City$40,550$54,180$73,770

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$49,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $65,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$34,960$51,820$67,320
Lexington$34,370$48,620$65,590

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$46,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$39,470$52,430$68,200
Baton Rouge$35,430$47,820$68,100
Lafayette$31,940$43,600$58,500

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$55,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$40,890$55,210$75,460
Lewiston$39,390$55,850$71,290

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$63,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $86,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 200

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$42,240$63,200$82,000
Frederick$44,320$66,510$97,960

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$70,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$50,820$73,480$100,000
Worcester$54,160$80,280$111,930
Springfield$38,230$57,670$78,250

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$52,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$40,490$54,130$72,240
Grand Rapids$39,930$48,200$62,250

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$62,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$47,570$64,280$79,190
Rochester$51,650$68,610$92,200

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$46,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$30,780$47,350$63,700
Gulfport$36,100$49,770$66,610

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$50,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$38,860$51,500$72,560
Kansas City$40,550$54,180$73,770

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$51,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$37,020$50,460$69,730
Missoula$40,400$53,590$73,270

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$52,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$37,070$53,290$70,100
Lincoln$34,600$47,820$62,240

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$66,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$45,790$65,710$100,020
Reno$43,720$65,190$79,730

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$62,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $82,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$45,070$63,420$80,810
Nashua$45,240$67,730$92,480

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$65,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $84,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$50,610$66,780$86,010
Trenton$52,920$66,760$84,000

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$57,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$45,990$60,090$77,690
Las Cruces$22,730$50,740$75,510

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$66,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $92,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$48,180$69,940$95,630
Buffalo$40,860$57,120$74,720
Rochester$40,510$51,650$68,640
Albany$42,260$57,140$76,260

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$54,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 250

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$40,770$54,710$73,310
Raleigh$39,640$56,070$74,860
Greensboro$41,990$56,650$75,760
Winston - Salem$42,430$55,770$74,680

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$49,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$37,770$49,630$62,930
Bismarck$34,320$48,500$71,250

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$53,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 260

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$40,670$55,110$71,270
Columbus$41,830$55,520$75,110
Cincinnati$35,990$53,140$70,940
Dayton$37,130$53,930$63,920

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$49,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$37,580$52,590$74,090
Tulsa$33,300$47,730$66,090

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$66,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$51,060$68,750$92,180
Salem$41,860$60,030$82,950

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$55,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$40,300$62,950$80,770
Pittsburgh$34,970$48,790$67,310
Harrisburg$41,700$54,570$76,370
Allentown$44,310$58,990$88,440

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$67,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$47,530$68,380$91,980

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$48,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$32,100$48,320$68,120
Columbia$31,060$47,430$66,460
Charleston$40,090$54,830$72,130

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$47,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$34,650$48,470$62,940

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$49,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $67,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 220

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$36,380$51,840$70,430
Memphis$39,600$54,450$71,790
Knoxville$33,800$45,880$60,410
Chattanooga$38,760$54,430$73,020

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$55,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 670

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$41,150$59,520$79,380
Houston$41,120$57,450$75,630
San Antonio$38,760$54,430$73,020
Austin$34,500$54,080$75,670

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$53,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$40,910$52,620$74,460
Ogden$37,990$51,910$74,070

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$57,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$55,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$41,370$54,050$74,580
Richmond$40,240$54,780$75,430

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$65,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$52,680$68,750$93,380
Spokane$44,930$63,920$87,310

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$45,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$35,270$49,610$69,800
Charleston$30,350$46,170$61,630

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$55,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $75,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$41,990$57,850$78,740
Madison$31,450$55,940$74,180

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$50,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$35,910$49,270$64,420
Casper$23,800$44,170$65,780

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for radiologic technicians and technologists is $57,450 - much higher than the median salary for all health technology occupations. The middle eighty percent of radiologic technicians earn between $38,660 and $82,590 annually. Earnings vary across geographic areas and are generally highest where there is a shortage of healthcare workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of radiologic technologists will increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024, which is considered faster than the average for all occupations. An aging population will require more diagnostic imaging services in coming years. Additionally, new federal laws mean that a growing number of people will be insured, likely leading to a greater demand for the services of X-ray technicians.

Compare Salaries by City

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$70050 Per Year

$33.67 Per Hour

New York City NY Median Pay

$69940 Per Year

$33.62 Per Hour

Steps to Become an X-Ray Technician

1

Earn an associate degree at minimum.

Beginning in 2015, technicians have been required to obtain at least an associate degree in order to be eligible for certification. Previously, technicians could complete a one- or two-year certificate program in radiologic technology, but now those programs are only acceptable for students who have obtained a prior associate degree in a different field. You could think of the certificate programs as “bridge” programs in that regard; they are not a substitute for a degree, but rather they provide a path those who’ve already earned an unrelated degree.

Show Me Schools »

Whether you’re a candidate for a certificate program or instead are looking for an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology, make sure you choose a program from an accredited institution in order to be eligible for national certification through The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). A number of states require that the program be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Check with your state’s medical board to make sure you are fulfilling requirements.

Programs in X-ray technology include courses in anatomy, biology and physics. Students take an in-depth look at the complex interactions between radiation and living tissue. Some programs also cover phlebotomy and intravenous drug administration. Most X-ray technicians complete both classroom and practical training.

2

Become ARRT-certified.

Not all X-ray technicians are officially required to earn certification; in some states, you must get certified in order to become licensed. But regardless of your location, employers certainly expect job applicants to be certified, so you are strongly advised to obtain ARRT certification. Skipping this step could put you at a severe disadvantage when seeking a job.

3

Get licensed if required by your state.

A majority of states require licensure, though the requirements are not consistent. Candidates must meet educational requirements and pass an exam, but some states waive the testing requirement for technicians who are ARRT-certified. Others simply require ARRT certification in order to be eligible for licensure. Check with your state’s medical board to see if licensure is required in your state and, if so, to learn about the specific requirements.

4

As you gain experience, consider your options for advancement.

Experienced X-ray technicians can expect salary increases and greater flexibility in scheduling and shift selection. There are also numerous opportunities for radiologic technicians to specialize in a clinical area of interest such as MRI or cardiac imaging.

Exploring Degree Paths

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

An associate degree or higher is required for certification as radiologic technologist. However, this degree doesn’t need to be in radiology in order to qualify. (For more information on becoming an x-ray technician after earning a degree in another field, see the section below on certificate programs.)

If you’re entering the field with no previous degree, earning your Associate in Applied Science in radiography or radiologic technology (AAS-RADT) is the fastest way to launch your career.

Many community, technical, and career colleges offer this degree program. For certification purposes, it’s important to choose a program approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Before entering an AAS program, you’ll usually need to complete prerequisite classes in anatomy and physiology, writing, algebra, and statistics.

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Coursework typically includes the following, among others:

Basic radiographic procedures

Learn to position patients for imaging and check the quality of the resulting studies.

Patient care

Introduces patient assessment, infection control, emergency procedures, communication, and administration of medication.

Radiographic imaging equipment

Study how machines produce x-ray images that allow us to see inside the body.

Radiation biology and protection

Covers how radiation affects the body and safety procedures related to exposure.

Associate degree students also complete extensive clinicals (work-based learning) under the supervision of an experienced X-ray technician or physician.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

Universities offer several types of bachelor’s degrees in radiologic technology - Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology or Radiologic Science (BS or BSRT, and BSRS). Typically, the BS and BSRT are designed for students who are starting from scratch while the BSRS is for practicing techs who want to continue their education. However, these aren’t hard and fast rules, so read the admissions criteria for each program carefully.

There are several advantages to earning a bachelor’s degree. The longer program of study covers more imaging modalities and advanced procedures. You’ll also gain a working knowledge of healthcare quality, an area that is very important to today’s employers. Finally, you’ll gain career skills that can make you a more effective collaborator, team member, and leader.

BSRT programs are usually offered by 4-year colleges and universities. The curriculum is divided into two phases. The first, the pre-professional phase, takes 2-3 years to complete and consists of general education and prerequisite coursework. During the final 1-2 years, students enter the professional phase and complete their radiologic technology classes and supervised clinical experiences.

Some courses that are common at the bachelor’s level include:

Medical imaging pathology

Learn how disease processes work and how to recognize signs of disease on images.

Computed tomography

Introduces the science and techniques of CT scanning.

Interventional radiology

See how radiography can guide surgery and invasive procedures.

Professional development for radiographers

Study ethics, professional conduct standards, and current issues in the X-ray technology field.

Bachelor’s-level students also complete clinical rotations at hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic imaging labs.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

2-3 years, based on background

These X-ray technician training programs are designed for students who already hold a degree (an associate degree, at minimum) in another field. They can be found at career schools, community colleges, technical colleges, and hospitals.

Before beginning your certificate program, you’ll need to complete any prerequisites that weren’t part of your previous degree. Common prereqs include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, writing, and college algebra.

The certificate curriculum is very similar to the professional phase of an associate or bachelor’s degree. You’ll complete clinical rotations and take classes like:

Radiologic physics

Learn what radiation is and how it’s produced and controlled in medical settings.

Basic radiographic techniques

Learn imaging protocols and how to care for patients during procedures.

Radiographic image critique

Practice identifying normal and abnormal anatomy on X-rays.

Special procedures in radiology

Introduces advanced imaging procedures like angiography and fluoroscopy.

Certificate students also spend time practicing their skills under supervision in hospitals and diagnostic imaging centers.

Keys to Success as an X-Ray Technician

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Attention to detail

Medical imaging is far more complicated than “taking pictures.” Obtaining images of high diagnostic quality requires precise attention to detail. X-ray technicians must therefore follow physicians’ written orders meticulously.

Physical health

Because technicians are on their feet for long periods, the job requires a high level of fitness and stamina.

Technological savvy

Technicians should enjoy hands-on work with complex machinery and be able to troubleshoot minor equipment problems.

Adherence to safety rules

Some types of imaging machines emit small amounts of ionizing radiation. To minimize exposure risks, technicians must adhere closely to safety procedures and use shielding and protective clothing when appropriate.

Additional Credentials

Certification is voluntary for many X-ray technicians. But because most employers require it, almost everyone in this field gets certified at the primary level or higher.

The first step is to obtain your Registered Technologist, Radiography (RT(R)) credential from ARRT. This requires graduation from an ARRT-approved training program, earning an associate degree or higher in any field, and passing an ethics review and knowledge exam.

Once you’re an RT(R), you can pursue specialty certification from ARRT in 11 areas. In each case, you’ll need to gain some additional education and experience before taking the certification test.

ARRT's 11 specialty certification areas:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Sonography
  • Vascular Sonography
  • Breast Sonography
  • Mammography
  • Radiologist Assistant
  • Cardiac Interventional Radiography
  • Vascular Interventional Radiography
  • Quality Management

Authored by: Michael Sapko, M.D.

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