So what is the process of becoming an X-ray technician? We’ll outline the steps, the timeline, and what you can expect as an X-ray tech.
What is the process of becoming an X-ray technician?
To become an X-ray technician, you need to earn an associate’s degree in radiography, radiologic technology, or medical imaging. In most states, you then must pass an exam to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Finally, you’ll need to complete government paperwork to become licensed in your state.
What does an X-ray tech do?
X-ray techs use specialized equipment to take images (X-rays) of various body parts, varying from patient to patient.
A radiologist will then read these films and advise the patient—so the X-ray tech’s job is to get X-ray films that are as good and clear as possible.
X-ray technicians also work with patients, instructing them in how to position themselves for the X-rays, and calming any fears the patients may have about X-rays.
As X-ray technicians do work with radiation, this position does require strict adherence to radiation safety protocols.
X-ray techs are also known as radiologic technicians.
How do I become an X-ray tech?
So what is the process to become an X-ray technician? To become an X-ray technician, you’ll need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent, then go on to earn an associate degree in radiologic technology. This two-year degree can be earned at many community colleges, as well as four-year colleges.
You can gain equivalent certification by joining the army, but then you’d have to join the army. While the army has 2 and 4-year active-duty enlistment periods, they do require a total of 8 years in the Reserves or as an Individual Ready Reservist (IRR).
The specific army career is 68P Radiology Specialist. Unless you’re already planning to join the army, we’d recommend just getting the 2-year associate’s degree in radiography, radiologic technology, or medical imaging.
If the degree is in medical imaging, be sure that the program trains you in radiography. Ultrasound technologists study sonography, which also falls under the medical imaging category.
There are even some accelerated programs if you’re open to studying during summers. For example, Mayo Clinic has a selective 20-month radiography program in Jacksonville, Florida.
On the other hand, you can go all-in and get a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Medical Imaging. Again, you’d need to make sure to choose the radiography or radiologic technology concentration.
We don’t recommend getting a 4-year degree, as a 2-year degree will get you in the door fine. Once you have a job as an x-ray tech, the experience you gain might be more valuable than the extra two years of experience.
It’s also possible to continue your education and earn a bachelor’s degree later. This is especially true where you see opportunities for advancement where your employer might require a bachelor’s degree.
After earning your degree, you’ll need to pass the exam and be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Finally, states often have licensing requirements before you can begin working as an X-ray technician.
For example, to be licensed in California you’ll either need to have passed the ARRT exam, or to take a separate exam offered by the state.
Is becoming an X-ray tech hard?
Becoming an X-ray tech isn’t among the hardest associate degree programs, but it does challenge each student in different ways.
X-ray techs on Reddit shared some of the hardest parts of becoming an X-ray tech. While the anatomy and positioning courses seemed more straightforward, physics was mentioned as the most challenging subject academically.
As X-ray techs have a lot of patients, the interpersonal and emotional aspects of the job were hard for some students. Redditor u/lvlupbunihop said for them “it’s the social aspect of forming relationships with the techs and being not awkward with the patients” that was harder than the subject matter and exams.
For students without patient care experience, seeing people and their families suffer can be the hardest part. In the words of Redditor u/ElysianLegion04, “Some of my classmates struggled with class work. Others had a tough time with clinicals. I personally had to learn to harden my emotions when necessary.”
Do X-ray techs do math?
X-ray techs do use some algebra, though more so in school and for examinations than in the actual job.
The reason X-ray techs study math is because radiation physics involves understanding algebraic equations, even though you might not have a pure math class.
What skills do you need to be an X-ray technician?
X-ray technicians need to be proficient in anatomy, medical skills, people skills, and even some mechanical skills in using the medical imaging equipment.
It’s important for X-ray technicians to have a good foundation in anatomy. First, it’s one of the core subjects to earn a degree. More importantly, it’s at the core of your job, as X-ray technicians take images of various parts of the body, and also communicate with other medical professionals about what medical images to take.
Speaking of communication, people skills are important. Developing a rapport with other X-ray techs is nice, but this especially comes into play with patient care.
Interacting with patients is a significant part of your daily work, and some of these patients will be going through a rough time physically or emotionally.
In terms of medical imaging equipment, you might not be expected to do much troubleshooting or fixing of the equipment. However, calibrating and using the equipment is another core function of being an X-ray technician.
How much do X-ray techs make in salary?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technicians and technologists have a median pay of $61,980, with an expected job growth of 6% over the next decade.
For more details on radiation technician salaries and how to improve your salary, here’s a nice in-depth article written by a radiation technician.
|Quick Facts: Radiologic and MRI Technologists|
|2021 Median Pay||$61,980 per year|
$29.80 per hour
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Associate’s degree|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||See How to Become One|
|Number of Jobs, 2021||264,000|
|Job Outlook, 2021-31||6% (As fast as average)|
|Employment Change, 2021-31||17,000|
Where do X-ray technicians work?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, x-ray technicians only work in healthcare settings (makes sense), with over half working in hospitals.
The Process of Becoming an X-ray Technician
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article explaining what is the process of becoming an x-ray technician.
Becoming an X-ray tech isn’t easy, but it’s a stable path to a stable career, and an especially good fit for people who are excited to work in a patient care setting.