Also known as radiologic technologists or radiographers, x-ray technicians use specialized equipment to take internal images of patients. These are then used by other health care professionals to diagnose and treat medical conditions. A radiology career often has workers doing all the following tasks:
- Maintaining equipment used for imaging
- Recording patient data and answering patient questions
- Positioning equipment and patients to obtain the requested images
- Limiting patient exposure to radiation using for imaging
Although those are the general duties all x-ray techs perform, when becoming an x-ray technician, you could specialize in one of the following disciplines:
- Mammography: Using specialized equipment, mammographers take images of breast tissue that is used to detect and diagnose conditions such as breast cancer
- Bone densitometry: Technicians working in this field use special x-ray equipment to help physicians evaluate bone health
- Cardiac interventional radiography: This advanced specialty has radiographers working closely with physicians to provide images of the heart and blood vessels
How to become an x-ray technician
Not everyone takes the same path to an x-ray technician career, but here are the steps commonly used by many in the profession.
- Earn an x-ray technician degree: An associate degree is the most common level of education needed for entry-level positions in the field. These two-year degree programs can be found at community colleges and technical schools. While some may offer online courses, be prepared to study on-campus at least part of the time. Hands-on experience is usually a component of x-ray technician degree requirements.
- Pass a certification exam: Once you have your x-ray technician degree, it's time to get certified. Some states may administer their own certification exam, or you can earn a professional credential from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
- Apply for state licensure: Most states require radiologic technologists to be licensed so that's your next step to becoming an x-ray tech. Requirements vary by state, but applicants may need to meet education requirements and pass an exam. In many cases, states accept ARRT certification scores as part of the licensing process.
- Advance your radiology career: With experience, x-ray technicians may move into supervisory roles in larger departments. Others choose to transition to the role of MRI technologist, a profession that is similar but uses different equipment.
Important skills and abilities for a career in radiology
Those who successfully become an x-ray technician may have certain traits. The following skills and abilities are particularly valuable in the radiology field.
- Operation and control to use x-ray equipment and supplies correctly and efficiently.
- Critical thinking to be able to identify situations in which adjustments may need to be made to ensure patient comfort and successfully obtain the requested images.
- Near vision to read information displayed on monitors and equipment.
- Oral comprehension to understand any patient concerns or physician instructions that are given verbally.
- Problem sensitivity to recognize when issues may arise with an imaging session.
X-ray technician salary and career outlook
In general, many health care jobs are expected to be in demand in the coming years as an aging population lives longer due to things like people living healthier lifestyles and medical technology advancements. Here's an idea of the salary and job outlook for x-ray techs in the coming years:
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