An x-ray technician operates special equipment to capture images of a patient internally.
The median salary for an x-ray technician is approximately, $49,000 annually. The highest paid technicians can earn as much as $69,000 per year, and the lowest paid technicians earn about $33,000 per year.
X-ray technicians generally work in either physician’s offices, imaging facilities or hospitals. While most technicians are employed by medical facilities, some individuals purchase or lease their own equipment and are self-employed. Most employees generally work full-time on day, evening, or night shifts. Because x-rays are needed for emergency situations, seven days a week, beginning technicians may work nights and weekends.
An x-ray technician follows instructions given by a physician to take images of a particular area of the body. The x-ray technician must explain the procedure to the patient prior to taking images, and answer any relevant questions. Some hospitals and medical facilities have technicians transport portable imaging equipment to patient rooms or emergency rooms. Some x-ray technicians also specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or mammography.
Duties of an x-ray technician:
- Follow safety procedures regarding patient exposure to radiation using lead shields
- Follow physician’s instructions regarding x-ray image to be taken
- Communicate with patient about x-ray
- Position patients for specific x-ray imaging
- Adjust equipment to capture specific images of the body
- Properly maintain imaging equipment
- Maintain patient records
- Develop exposed radiographs
X-ray technician qualifications vary depending on the state in which you are certified. An x-ray technician is required to have a GED or high school diploma, and to have completed either a certificate program, or an associate’s, or bachelor’s degree in radiology technology. Programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges and universities. Classwork for x-ray technician students is combined with hands-on training in a medical facility.
Schools & Programs
To become an x-ray technician, hospitals, community colleges, vocational schools, and universities offer educational programs. Two-year associate’s degrees in radiology technology are the most common. Bachelor’s degrees allow x-ray technicians to eventually move up to supervisory positions in imaging facilities and hospitals. Programs are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/radiology/education/rte/docs/JRCERT-standards-accredited-educational-program-radiologic-sciences.pdf.
Some x-ray technician course requirements may include:
- Medical terminology
- Medical ethics
- Radiation physics
- Patient care and positioning
- Radiation biology
- Advanced medical imaging
Some schools that offer programs:
- Allied Health Schools
- Concordia University
- Ultimate Medical Academy
Certification and Licensing
In many U.S. states, completion of an accredited radiologic technology program is required, as well as successfully passing an ARRT certification exam. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) administers the computer-based exam that includes 20 percent pilot questions, which help the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists focus on future areas in which to test. The fee for the exam ranges from $200 to $400. The length of the exam varies depending on the specific discipline covered. There are many types of certification that x-ray technicians can choose, including MRI and Mammography certification.
X-ray technicians must complete 24 hours of continuing education units to renew their certification every two years.
The employment outlook for x-ray technicians is very good according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov. Moderate growth by approximately 17% is expected through the year 2018. This is higher than the national average of projected growth for many careers. Because the aging population is living longer due to medical breakthroughs, there is continued need for diagnostic imaging technology.
Students possessing multiple certifications in various disciplines are more likely to find employment quickly.