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01. An Introduction to X-Ray Technicians

X-ray technology, or radiography, appeals to students who want to work in healthcare without earning a medical degree. As an x-ray tech, you will use medical imaging equipment to capture images of the inside of the human body. Doctors will then use these images to inform their diagnoses.

X-ray technician degree programs are only offered at the undergraduate level, so this educational path may be right for you if you have no interest in attending graduate school. But you cannot earn your x-ray technician degree online. Therefore, if you want to earn an x-ray tech degree or certificate, you should plan to attend a traditional on-campus program rather than pursue x-ray technician online schools.

In order to be successful in your x-ray technician job, you will need to have a few important personality characteristics. First, you should be caring and have a pleasant attitude so that you can help your patients feel comfortable while they are receiving x rays. Second, you need to hone your technical skills so that you can properly use different types of diagnostic medical imaging equipment. And you should keep in mind that as an x-ray tech, you will not be qualified to talk about x-ray results with patients.

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02. X-Ray Technicians Defined

X-ray techs, who are also referred to in the healthcare field as x-ray technologists, radiology technicians and radiography techs, use imaging equipment to perform diagnostic imaging exams. Some of the exams that you may perform during your x-ray technician career include x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and mammograms.

First you will prepare your patients for x-rays as you verify their medical records and discuss what will happen during the x-ray process. Next, you will position your patient so that you can take a good image. Part of an x-ray tech job is to observe safety procedures as well. Therefore, before you produce the image, you will shield yourself and the rest of the patient’s body from radiation, which can be harmful in excessive amounts. Then you will aim the x-ray machine at your patient so that the radiation can pass through their body and be absorbed by their bones, which appear white in the x-ray images. And your final responsibility as an x-ray technician will be to keep images organized so that other people in the healthcare field can find them quickly.

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03. Things to Consider

There are a couple of other things to consider if you think that you want to attend school for x-ray technician certification programs or degrees.

Professional Licensure and X-ray Technician Certification

In the majority of states, x-ray technologists must be certified or licensed by their state. States generally require x-ray techs to graduate from an accredited x-ray tech program. Certificate and degree programs in x-ray technology are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). In addition, you will need to pass an exam that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). You will earn your x-ray tech certification as soon as you pass the ARRT exam. Certification is enough to qualify you for x-ray technician jobs in most states.

However, in a few states, you will have to pass a state licensing exam too. Contact your state board of health for more information about x-ray tech certification programs and licensing regulations in your state.

Limited Scope X-ray Tech Training Programs

As you are looking for x-ray technician training programs, you may find “limited scope” programs at some schools. But these programs only teach you how to take images of specific parts of the body, like feet. If you earn your education through limited scope x-ray tech training programs, you will not be qualified for xray technician jobs that require a broad range of skills. And if you think that you may want to learn to do other jobs like conduct MRI and CT scans, it is not a good idea to get your xray tech training through a limited scope program.

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04. Types of X-Ray Technician Professions

Most students who earn degrees in x-ray technology get 1 of the following x-ray tech jobs:

X-ray Technologist

Job Description
X ray technologists take images of the inside of the body using x ray machines. They work under the supervision of doctors who instruct them about the needs of each patient. They also pay attention to safety regulations in order to shield themselves and their patients from excessive x-radiation. Because this is the most basic job in this field, the x-ray tech pay is less than more specialized jobs, which garner a higher x-ray tech salary.
Average Salary
$52,000
Education Required
Certificate (6 months to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended
Work Environment
Medical clinics, diagnostic laboratories, hospitals

MRI Technologist

Job Description
MRI technologists use specialized imaging equipment called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to take pictures of the inside of the body. These scanners rely on magnetism rather than x-radiation to capture images. MRI technologists use computer programs to process these images in 3 dimensions so that doctors can more easily diagnose medical concerns and conditions.
Average Salary
$61,000
Education Required
Certificate (6 months to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended
Work Environment
Medical clinics, diagnostic laboratories, hospitals

CT Technologist

Job Description
CT technologists use another type of special imaging equipment, called computerized tomography equipment, to perform CT scans. In order to have a CT scan, patients must lie inside a tube-shaped x ray machine that takes many images of the inside of their bodies so that doctors can analyze them.
Average Salary
$62,000
Education Required
Certificate (6 months to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended
Work Environment
Medical clinics, diagnostic laboratories, hospitals
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05. Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines all xray tech jobs under the category of radiologic technicians. In 2010, there were approximately 220,000 radiologic technicians working in the United States. The job outlook for radiologic technicians is strong, since the BLS projects that there will be 28% employment growth in this field through the next decade, which is faster than the average growth projected for all jobs.

X-Ray Technicians Employeed Nationally

2010
219,900
2020
281,000

If you are interested in the job outlook for this field, you are probably also curious about x-ray technician pay. Because a strong demand for radiologic technicians is anticipated, people in this field can expect to make a competitive salary for xray tech jobs. Keep in mind that the highest x-ray tech salaries will be given to x-ray techs with many professional certifications. Keep in mind that your x-ray technician pay will vary depending on your position. For instance, the salary for x-ray technician jobs like MRI technologist will be higher than the xray tech salary for more basic jobs like working as an x-ray technologist. But no matter what your job, you can expect to make a decent salary for x-ray tech positions, especially considering that you don’t need to spend several years in college. Job prospects will be best for x-ray techs who have more than 1 professional certification. Likewise, your x-ray technician salary will be higher if you obtain more certifications.

The average x-ray technician salary trends are shown in the diagram below:

Average Salary growth

2007
$51,150
2008
$53,230
2009
$54,180
2010
$55,730
2011
$56,760

Salary by Percentile

10th Percentile
$37,360
25th Percentile
$44,910
50th Percentile
$55,120
75th Percentile
$67,210
90th Percentile
$77,760
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06. The Education Timeline

To qualify for an xray tech job, you will need 1 to 4 years of xray technician training. Most people earn associates degrees in x-ray technology, which usually requires students to study for 2 years. But there are other xray tech degree and certificate options too. You can get an x-ray tech certificate, which typically takes a year or less. And a number of schools also offer x-ray tech bachelors degrees. Students can usually complete bachelors degrees in about 4 years.

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07. Studying to Be an X-Ray Technician

You will learn the following knowledge and skills in your x-ray technician degree program:

KNOWLEDGE

Anatomy and Physiology

The study of anatomy and physiology helps students to map out the structure of the human body and define its processes. While anatomy looks at parts of the body like organs and muscles, physiology examines how bodily systems work together to keep people healthy. Some examples of bodily systems are the skeletal, muscular and cardiovascular systems.

Medical Terminology

Doctors and other healthcare personnel use medical terminology to describe medical conditions and issues. This specialized vocabulary is used to discuss clinical procedures, human anatomy and legal issues. This class discusses the current meaning and the history of medical terms.

Healthcare Ethics

Healthcare ethics are the set of guidelines and principles that healthcare personnel, including x-ray technologists, use to help them make moral decisions. For instance, healthcare providers have to deal with ethical situations like patient confidentiality, nondiscrimination and a patient’s right to decide what kind of treatment they want.

Radiation Protection

Radiation protection is the chief safety precaution that must be observed by x-ray technologists so that they are not exposed to unsafe levels of radiation, which has the potential to be harmful. Standard safety procedures include keeping radiation contained in 1 room, wearing lead jackets to act as radiation shields and knowing the direction of the x ray machine’s beam.

X-ray Physics

Classes in x-ray physics teach the scientific principles that make the use of medical radiation possible. In particular, x-ray physics discusses ideas such as thermodynamics, electromagnetism, ionizing radiation, atomic structure and the processes that allow x-ray tubes and machines to work.

SKILLS

Operation of Diagnostic Imaging Equipment

Physicians and patients depend on x-ray technicians to produce high quality x ray images so that they can make accurate diagnoses and create appropriate treatment plans. In your x ray technology training program, you will learn how to use diagnostic medical imaging equipment to obtain clear images of the human body.

Procedures for Emergencies

As an x-ray tech, you need to work efficiently under pressure when patients with traumatic injures like broken bones are being prepared for emergency surgery. During your x-ray tech training, you will learn to help patients stay calm as you take x-ray images so that they can receive urgent medical treatment.

Time Management

During your x-ray technology curriculum, you will find that time management is necessary to provide patients with effective medical treatment. You will learn to organize and prioritize your tasks so that you can treat emergencies rapidly and take care of less critical tasks when you have time.

Interpersonal Communication

Your x-ray technology training program will teach you how to relate to patients. You will learn the value of active listening so that your patients feel comfortable while you take their x-rays. You will also learn to communicate with other medical staff like doctors, nurses and fellow x-ray techs.

Record Keeping

As an x ray tech, you must keep accurate records of the images that you produce. Your x-ray technology training will teach you to accurately record medical data. You will also be trained to use electronic healthcare information systems to store your images and patient records.

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08. Types of X-Ray Technician Degrees

You have a few options if you want to earn an x-ray technology degree. For instance, you can get an x-ray technician certificate, an associates degree or a bachelors degree. But unless you have previous experience in the field, you will not be able to pursue x-ray technician programs online no matter what level of education you hope to pursue. Therefore, in this field you should plan to attend a physical campus to earn your degree.

  • Certificate
  • Associates Degrees
  • Bachelors Degrees

Certificate

If you want to learn the fundamental skills of an x-ray tech, you should consider earning an x-ray tech certificate. X-ray technician certificate programs take less time to complete than full degrees, and they are available through both traditional schools and hospital-based training programs. Just remember that some x-ray tech colleges call these programs by another name, like radiography certificates.

Types of X-ray Technology Certificates

Because you cannot study this subject at the graduate level, your only xray tech certificate option is an undergraduate certificate in radiology. This certificate will teach you the fundamental skills that you will need to start out in any xray technician job.

Length of X-ray Technology Certificate Programs

X-ray tech certificate programs have different requirements when it comes to credit hours because program formats differ between hospitals and xray tech colleges. But most radiography certificate programs take 6 months to 1 year for students to complete.

Common Courses in X-ray Technology Certificate Programs

During your certificate program, you will take classes that are designed to provide you with a set of skills that you can use on the job. Although your x-ray tech classes may vary by program, you are likely to take classes about subjects like patient care, human anatomy, diagnostic medical image production and healthcare ethics.

Jobs that You Can Secure with a Certificate in X-ray Technology

Certificates in radiography train you to be an x ray technician. But remember that the majority of states require you to have American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification to get a job.

Choosing a School to Attend for a Certificate in X-ray Technology

You should only attend x-ray technology certificate schools that are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). JRCERT accreditation is important because you must graduate from an accredited school if you want to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exam. ARRT certification is a good idea because most states require you to be certified in order to work as an x-ray tech.

Studying Online for a Certificate in X-ray Technology

With the popularity of online education, many students are curious about taking x-ray technician classes online. But at all levels of education, x-ray tech online programs are rare. In fact, you could not earn your x-ray technician certification online as of 2012. Although that could change, in 2012 there were no accredited x-ray technician online programs that resulted in a certificate. Even if there are more x-ray tech schools online in the future, you should not pursue these programs. X-ray techs need hands-on clinical skills, which you cannot learn effectively if you take x-ray tech classes online.

Associates Degree

Most x-ray techs earn associates degrees. Associates degrees in x-ray technology take about half as long as bachelors degree programs, and they offer more training than certificate programs. As you look for associates in this field, keep in mind that many schools call this degree program by other names. You can learn x-ray tech skills through programs labeled either “radiography” or “radiologic technologist” degrees. In addition, you should look for a physical campus at a traditional school, because online x-ray technician schools are rare.

Types of X-ray Technology Associates Degrees

Associate of Arts (AA)

An AA degree in x-ray technology has many humanities courses so that you will gain a broad education in the humanities. However, the AA degree is rare in this field.

Associate of Science (AS)

An AS degree in x-ray technology offers more computer, math and science classes so that you will have a technical background. The AS degree is preferable if you want to transfer into a bachelors program.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

The AAS in x-ray technology focuses on helping you to develop your career skills. The AAS degree is the best choice if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.

Length of X-ray Technology Associates Degree Programs

X-ray tech students are generally able to complete associates degree programs in about 2 years since associates degrees normally require students to earn 65 to 80 credit hours.

Common Courses in X-ray Technology Associates Degree Programs

In your associates degree program, you will take classes that are based in theory as well as more practical classes that will teach you practical skills. Some of the classes that you can expect to take include biology, anatomy and physiology. You will also study healthcare ethics and x-ray physics. And most importantly, you will take classes that teach you how to operate x-ray imaging equipment. And throughout your program, you will participate in clinical courses so that you can practice your hands-on training. Keep in mind that you will probably not have the opportunity to take online classes for x-ray technician degrees, so you should plan to attend a physical campus rather than participate in x-ray tech training online.

Jobs that You Can Secure with an Associates Degree in X-ray Technology

An x-ray technician associates degree mostly prepares you to be an x ray tech. However, depending on your program, you may learn additional skills. For instance, some schools let you choose an area of specialization like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scanning. If you choose to pursue a specialized track, you will be qualified to work as an MRI or a CT technologist. But keep in mind that in the majority of states, you will still need to pass the certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists before you can begin working.

Choosing a School to Attend for an Associates Degree in X-ray Technology

As you search for a program, the most important consideration is accreditation. You must attend a program that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) if you want to take the certification exam that is offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART). In nearly all states, you need to obtain AART certification if you want to work as an x-ray tech. JRCERT formally acknowledges schools that have high-quality x-ray technician colleges and you should not attend an x-ray tech college without accreditation.

Studying Online for an Associates Degree in X-ray Technology

X-ray tech online schools are not a good idea. Taking x-ray technician courses online may sound appealing, but in most cases you should not attempt to pursue online x-ray tech programs at the associates level. X-ray tech programs train you in clinical skills like patient care and the operation of medical imaging equipment. You cannot learn these skills in online x-ray technician programs. For that reason, very few online x-ray tech schools exist. In fact, there was just 1 online x-ray tech degree offered at the associates level in 2012, and that program is strictly designed for people who already have demonstrated their clinical skills by having 1,600 documented hours of radiography experience. If you are new to the field of x-ray technology, you should plan to earn an x-ray technician online degree.

Bachelors Degree

The highest degree available in x-ray technology is a bachelors degree. Like associates degrees and certificate programs in x-ray technology, many schools call this program a “radiography” or “radiology technology” degree. Although a few options exist for x-ray technician online training at this level, you will be better off in a traditional school.

Types of X-ray Technology Bachelors Degrees

Bachelor of Science (BS)

A BS in x-ray technology has many science and math classes so you will gain a technical education. The BS is a good choice if you want to get an x-ray tech job.

Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

A BAS in x-ray technology focuses a bit more on career skills. But this degree is essentially the same as the BS degree.

Length of X-ray Technology Bachelors Degree Programs

At the bachelors level, x-ray technology degrees usually require students to complete 120 to 130 credit hours, which generally takes about 4 years of study.

Common Courses in X-ray Technology Bachelors Degree Programs

As you pursue your bachelors degree in x-ray technology you will learn both theory and practical skills. Although exact courses vary by program, some of the x-ray technician classes that you are likely to take include medical terminology, healthcare ethics, patient care and physiology. Of course, your xray tech college will also train you to use x-ray imaging equipment. And in some programs, you can take courses in a special type of imaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans.

Jobs that You Can Secure with a Bachelors Degree in X-ray Technology

X-ray technology or radiology bachelors degrees train you for a job as an x-ray tech. And if you pursue a specialization through your x-ray technician college, you will also be qualified to work in your area of focus, like performing MRI scans or CT scans.

Choosing a School to Attend for a Bachelors Degree in X-ray Technology

When you are seeking a college for xray tech studies, you should look for a program that is accredited. Accreditation is given to top xray tech schools by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). You should only attend accredited xray tech schools, because you must graduate from accredited programs in order to take the certification exam that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In most states, you cannot get an xray tech job without AART xray tech certification, so a good college for x-ray technician degrees will be accredited. Finally, remember that x-ray technician schools online are rare and also not as good as traditional programs, so you should only pursue these programs as a last resort.

Studying Online for a Bachelors Degree in X-ray Technology

Very few online schools for xray tech students exist. If you are looking for a school that offers fully online classes for x-ray tech bachelors programs, you will only be able to attend these kinds of programs if you have previous hands-on experience in radiography. Because you need to practice hands-on clinical skills for this degree, x-ray technician training online will not provide you with the fundamental skills that you will need to be successful. But you may be able to find a distance-learning program that combines x-ray tech online classes with clinical practicums in your area. Hybrid online xray tech programs are a much better option if you are determined to study online. Remember that before you enroll in a program that offers x-ray technician online courses, you should make sure that your degree will qualify you to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists certification exam.

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09. Useful X-Ray Technician Resources

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
Journal of the American College of Radiology
Radiology for Medical Students
Bureau of Labor Statistics – Radiologic Technologists
Radiology Education
Radiologic Resources Inc.
Canon Digital Radiography Resources and Learning
Radiological Society of North America
Radiology Select
American Society of Radiologic Technologists
American College of Veterinary Radiography