X-ray technician salary & career outlook

Known more formally as radiologic technologists, X-ray technicians play an integral role in delivering quality health care. Not only do they scan patients for broken bones, today's technologists may use a variety of specialized X-ray techniques to help with the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions and injuries.

X-ray technicians (techs) supply doctors with the images they need to diagnose medical problems. Their specific duties can include preparing patients and equipment, taking the X-rays, and sending the images to the appropriate clinician for a review. In addition, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists reports professionals can specialize in specific procedures or technology, such as:

  • Bone densitometry
  • Computer tomography
  • Mammography
  • Radiography

Radiologic technologists can also be trained in other imaging areas such as magnetic resonance, nuclear medicine and sonograms. If you're looking for a health care career with good salary and employment potential requiring as little as two years of study, you might want to consider attending one of the many radiology technician schools and becoming an X-ray tech.

How much do X-ray techs earn?

X-ray technology can be a financially sound career, especially considering an associate's degree or certificate is often sufficient training for most entry-level positions.

The BLS notes the average annual salary for radiologic technologists in the U.S. $56,760 as of 2013, with the middle 50 percent earning between $44,950 and $67,360. The highest-paid 10 percent of technologists earned in excess of $78,440 in 2013.

In order to fall on the higher end of the scale, consider advancing your education or earning voluntary certification, a process that requires continuing education. For example, The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers several certification options. Completing X-ray technician training online makes it easy to advance your education while maintaining full-time work in the field.

While the average income for technologists was more than $56,000 in 2013, that number represents jobs across the country. X-ray technicians in certain states may earn much more than the national median wages. According to the BLS, the following states boasted the highest average yearly salary for radiologic technologists in 2013:

  • California: $72,030
  • Alaska: $68,920
  • Massachusetts: $68,890

The highest-paying metropolitan areas for this profession are all in California: Vallejo-Fairfield ($91,400), Oakland-Fremont-Hayward ($89,530), and San Jose ($85,550).

However, the cost of living in many parts of California may take away some of the benefit of a higher salary. It's also worth looking at states that pay less, but have lower costs of living. According to data from the BLS and the Council for Community and Economic Research's 2013 Cost of Living Index, states with the highest radiologic technologist salaries relative to cost of living include:

  • Minnesota: $60,600, ranked 28th for affordability
  • Illinois: $57,200, ranked 22nd for affordability
  • Oklahoma: $54,080, ranked 7th for affordability

However, it isn't simply location that can determine the salaries of X-ray technicians and other radiologic technologists. Salaries also vary by industry. The BLS reports the following industries offered the highest average annual wages in 2013:

  • Colleges, universities and professional schools: $66,320
  • Employment services: $63,410
  • Scientific and technical consulting services: $62,870

Career outlook: What the future holds for X-ray technicians

X-ray techs can look forward to solid career prospects. The BLS projects a 21 percent growth in the field from 2012 to 2022, a rate that's nearly double the national average for all jobs, which is 11 percent. In addition, some states should see even greater levels of growth during those years.

  • Utah: 32.5 percent
  • Texas: 30.4 percent
  • Arizona: 29.4 percent
  • Puerto Rico: 27.1 percent
  • Colorado: 25.9 percent

Aging baby boomers combined with broader insurance coverage for radiologic procedures contribute to this growth. Those who are skilled in more than one X-ray procedure should enjoy the best career prospects, according to the BLS.

How to become an X-ray technician

There are several paths toward becoming an X-ray tech, but associate's degrees or certificates are among the most common. The BLS notes that many states require X-ray techs to be licensed. Licensure guidelines vary, but often require students to pass an exam approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). X-ray techs can also consider earning voluntary certification through the ARRT, a process that requires ongoing continuing education. In some cases, students can complete this type of X-ray tech training online, though they should still expect some hands-on clinical training.

1. Who are Radiologic Technologists? American Society of Radiologic Technologists, http://www.asrt.org/main/careers/careers-in-radiologic-technology/who-are-radiologic-technologists
2. ARRT Certification, The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, https://www.arrt.org/Certification/Radiography
3. Cost of Living Data Series: Third Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm
4. Occupational Employment and Wages: Radiologic Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014,
5. Radiologic and MRI Technologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm