How to Become a Certified X-Ray Technician: The Definitive Guide

The last time that you broke your leg you probably went to a hospital.

While there, you were probably connected with a certified x-ray technician.

That person took x-ray images of your body, and then looked to see where the break in your leg was.

Without x-ray technicians, doctors and nurses would be doing a lot of guessing.

If you’re interested in learning about how to become a certified x-ray technician, look no further!

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What is a Certified X-Ray Technician?

A certified x-ray technician, also called a radiologic technologist, is someone who uses special equipment to take images of the inside of your body.

Though, that’s the majority of the job, there are many things that an x-ray technician needs to know and do.

Understanding the dangers of x-rays is one of those things.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will likely have to work nights and weekends, because emergencies don’t wait.

X-ray technicians are an important job, you’ll help people in their deepest time of need.

Duties

  • Receive instructions from doctors about what needs x-rays
  • Get clear images of bones and other areas of the human body
  • Keep patients calm and relaxed
  • Provide answers and assistance about procedure
  • Understand safety regulations
  • Use the technique patient-shielding to reduce to risks of radiation exposure
  • Adjust x-ray beams
  • Adjust x-ray machine

Salary

As of 2019, the average salary for a certified x-ray technician in the United States is $55,101.

The range falls between $50,000 and $61,000.

Salary ranges depend on education, certification, skills, the number of years spent in the profession, as well as where you work.

Those that work in hospitals may make more than people who work for independent businesses.

Depending on the type of x-rays you do, can also have an influence on how much money you make yearly.

The more certifications and skills you have, the likelier it is that you will get a higher paying position.

Average National Salary: $55,101

$50K
10%
$53K
25%
$55K
50%
$58K
75%
$61K
90%
*Salary information last updated 2019

Average Annual Salary by State

State Avg. Annual Salary
Alabama $51,401
Alaska $61,901
Arizona $54,601
Arkansas $50,701
California $61,601
Colorado $55,001
Connecticut $59,901
Delaware $57,901
Florida $52,901
Georgia $53,201
Hawaii $58,101
Idaho $52,001
Illinois $56,801
Indiana $53,901
Iowa $52,701
Kansas $51,601
Kentucky $51,301
Louisiana $52,401
Maine $53,101
Maryland $57,301
Massachusetts $60,001
Michigan $55,701
Minnesota $56,201
Mississippi $47,801
Missouri $52,401
Montana $50,001
Nebraska $50,601
Nevada $56,801
New Hampshire $56,001
New Jersey $61,201
New Mexico $50,101
New York $59,201
North Carolina $52,601
North Dakota $51,301
Ohio $53,801
Oklahoma $51,801
Oregon $54,901
Pennsylvania $55,001
Rhode Island $58,101
South Carolina $51,201
South Dakota $47,001
Tennessee $50,101
Texas $54,001
Utah $52,201
Vermont $53,101
Virginia $54,301
Washington $58,901
West Virginia $48,601
Wisconsin $54,301
Wyoming $49,001

How to Become a Certified X-Ray Technician

Step 1Complete Post Secondary Education

There are a few different options for you to take when deciding to become a certified x-ray technician.

You can begin a certificate program, which will take you around a year to complete.

Most employers won’t hire those who only have a certificate, and would rather higher people with an Associate’s degree or higher.

It is possible to get certification in specific areas, along with obtaining that Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.

If you want to advance in your career, you are going to want to get a Bachelor’s or even a Master’s degree.

It is possible to work and gain your degree at the same time, which is what a lot of certified x-ray technicians do.

Step 2Get Certified

There are many different areas that an x-ray technician can become certified.

Some of these include:

Nuclear Medicine Technology

Mammography

Computed Tomography (CT scans)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Cardiovascular-Interventional Technologies

These specific certifications may take longer to achieve, depending on which ones you want to do, but the more certifications that you have, the better you look to employers.

It’s important to also make sure that you have an internship or externship, training is very important in this field.

Experience will get you a better career, and quicker.

It may even be possible to get a full time job at the employer where you did your internship.

Step 3Obtain a License

There are only a certain number of states that require you to have a license to become a certified x-ray technician.

These states are:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • Nevada

Depending on which state you plan to work, licensure can take between 1 and 4 years.

As of 2012, all states that require licensure accept ARRT exams for licensure purposes.

Even if you live in a state that requires licensure, you will be able to find a job in another state that doesn’t.

If you live in a state that doesn’t require licensure, you will want to make sure you get a license before working in a state that requires them.

It’s important to know what each state requires, and how and when to get your license.

The ARRT offers exams in:

  • Radiology
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Post Primary Disciplines
  • Limited Scope of Practice in Radiology
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Fluoroscopy

Go to the ARRT website to find out more about licensing.

Step 4Find a Job

As a certified x-ray technician, you can work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, imaging centers, and rehab centers.

It is also possible to be a traveling x-ray technician, where you go to a different facility every day/week.

Most technicians work around 40 hours a week.

This is one of those careers that will allow you to work overtime, especially when working in hospitals or doctor’s offices.

X-ray technicians are needed greatly in hospitals, in emergency rooms, as well as in other areas of the hospital.

If you are looking to find a job as an x-ray technician, check your local hospitals.


Education

Typically, in order to become a certified x-ray technician, you will need to obtain an Associate’s degree.

Sometimes you can acquire a certificate, or even get your Bachelor’s degree.

It is possible to complete your degree and training in as little as 24 months.

No matter what, you are going to want to make sure that the program you begin is accredited through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

In order to become qualified for certification, you need to make sure that your school is accredited with the ARRT as well.

Coursework will usually contain in class lectures as well as lab instruction.

Some of the courses you will want to take are anatomy, medical terminology, patient positioning, radiation protection, infection control, and radiation pathology.

You will want to get some hands-on experience while going to school.

Most programs allow for externships, which will get you the training that you need while getting your education.

Along with the courses mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure that you are taking classes that explore traditional x-ray machines, computerized axial tomography, fluoroscopy, MRI’s, and mammography.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

The necessity of a license varies from state to state, so check out the laws for the state in which you want to work.

Some licensure programs take one year, while it can be as long as four years to obtain a license.

Even if your state doesn’t require you to be certified or licensed, most employers still expect it.

Skipping certification can make it hard to find a job.

Certifications can take around one year, but there are many types of certifications that an x-ray technician can obtain.

Acquiring specific certifications can further your career, especially with training and experience.

Some of the things that you’ll want learn in order to gain your certification:

Radiologic physics- This is when you learn what radiation is, how it’s produced and controlled.

Basic radiography techniques- This is where you will learn about image protocols, and how to take care of patients while you are giving them x-rays.

Radiographic image critique- This is where you will look at x-ray images and decipher what is normal and abnormal.

Special procedures in radiology- This is where you will learn about advanced imaging processes.

Knowing all of this is a good step on your way toward getting your certification to become an X-ray Technician!

There are some extra certifications you can acquire in order to stand out from the crowd.

These include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Sonography
  • Vascular Sonography
  • Breast Sonography
  • Mammography
  • Radiologist Assistant
  • Cardiac Interventional Radiography
  • Vascular Interventional Radiography
  • Quality Management

In order to gain these certifications, you must first make sure that you are a certified X-Ray Technician.

Certification Example:

x ray technician certificate example

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

Training can take around one year, and up to four years.

It depends on the route you want to take.

Do you want to get a certificate?

That will take you around a year.

Do you want an Associate’s degree?

That can take you two years.

Other certifications can take longer, but the most important information to gain from this is to get experience and training.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

The job outlook for certified x-ray technicians looks positive.

In the next 10 years, the career will grow 14%.

This is faster than most other occupations.

In the medical field, there are going to be many fields that are growing exponentially.

The baby-boomer population is getting older, which means there will be an increase of medication interventions.

These medical issues will most likely require x-rays, issues like Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and many other disease.

There are also more screening tests done for cancers today, more so than years ago.

X-Ray Technicians look at all types of x-rays, from fetal, to mammograms and broken bones.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%

205,200
2016
230,500
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 25,300 jobs.

X-Ray Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become an X-Ray Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Most x-ray technicians have a more stressful than average job.

Those that work in hospitals tend to have the most stressful jobs.

It is also stressful working with pregnant women, as there are sometimes when there are abnormal screenings.

It can also be stressful if you have to work nights and weekends.

Being around people who are in pain or nervous can make the job more difficult.

The average flexibility of the job makes it a decent career.

The opportunities for advancement and pay raises is average as well.

Though it is possible to get certifications in order to advance in your career.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for a certified x-ray technician is $54,000.

It is possible to start out making less than that, around $50,000.

With experience and training, an x-ray technician can make around $60,000.

Education, training, and certifications are key to getting pay raises.

When you gain experience and certifications, you’ll be able to work in more places.

Also, you’ll make more money as you have more education.

It’s important to keep up with new techniques so that you can make the most out of your career.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The growth of this job looks great, it is higher than average.

It will be higher than most other jobs in the next ten years.

As the baby-boomer generation gets older, more x-ray technician jobs are needed.

It’s become more custom to do pre-screening as well, which means there are people who need x-rays done for various reasons.

With children’s sports becoming more popular, the amount of x-rays done on youth is rising as well.

There will always be a need for X-Ray Technicians, it just depends on where you want to work.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

It can take between 1 year and 4 years to obtain a degree.

Most people tend to stick to getting their Associate’s degree, which takes roughly two years.

Those that want to advance even more in their career may opt to get a Bachelor’s degree, which can take around 4 years.

It’s up to you what you would like to do, the most important thing is to get certified.

Without certification, it will be near impossible to find a job.

No employer wants to hire someone that is not certified in the field of X-Rays.

Make sure you pay attention to what the licensure laws are for your state.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Being an X-ray Technician is not just about science and looking at a grainy computer screen.

That’s part of it, but you also need to have people skills, understand empathy, and physical strength for the job at hand.

It’s also important to pace yourself and make sure that you are getting the proper breaks needed, as this can be a hard job on the body.

  • Ability to communicate
  • Math and science skills
  • Understanding of medical software and patient database software
  • Understanding of machinery
  • Physically able to stand for long periods of time
  • Physical strength to help patients move into positions


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a Certified X-Ray Technician?

A certified x-ray technician is a person who obtains instructions from a doctor to use radiation as a tool to view the inside of someone’s body, using special machines.

The machine can show bones, masses, and other parts of the human body that can help doctor’s gather information about illnesses and disease.

An x-ray technician is an important person in the medical field, as it’s our only means of seeing inside someones body.

Q. How much does a Certified X-Ray Technician make?

A certified x-ray technican can make around $54,000 a year.

Starting out, you will probably make less than that, but with experience and training you can make up to $60,000.

It varies in different states, and even different medical facilities as well.

If you want to make more money, become certified in other areas as well.

Also, depending on what type of facility you work in, you may make more or less money.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Certified X-Ray Technician?

An x-ray technician certificate can cost between $6,000 and $20,000.

An Associate’s degree can cost between $4,000 and $30,000.

A Bachelor’s degree can cost between $15,000 and $43,000.

It depends on how long you want to go to school, and where you go to school.

Extra certifications may cost more, depending on where you obtain them.

You can find certification programs in your area.

Q. What is the demand for Certified X-Ray Technicians?

The demand for certified x-ray technicians is high.

People are growing older, getting hurt, and unfortunately getting sick all of the time.

X-ray technicians are an important part of the medical field.

With the rise of children’s sports and also the need for x-rays in pregnancy, there is a high demand for certified x-ray technicians.

There will always be a demand for this career.

Q. How long does it take to become a Certified X-Ray Technician?

It can take between one year and four years to become a certified x-ray technician.

It depends on if you want to get a certificate, or if you want to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

A Bachelor’s degree can take you around 4 years, but you will also be able to do an internship or externship, and gain valuable training and education.


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