Studying X Ray Tech

I’m interested in studying x ray technology. What can you tell me?

X ray technology is part of the diagnostic medical imaging field. If you are interested in studying x ray technology, which is also called radiography, you will learn to use imaging equipment to produce images of the inside of the body that doctors can examine as part of their diagnosis. You should know that if you become an x ray tech, you will not be a doctor and you cannot discuss or interpret the results of x rays with patients. Successful x rays technology students are well-rounded individuals who can develop the technical skills that they need to operate complex diagnostic imaging equipment. They also need compassion and good people skills so that they can help patients to stay calm when they are anxious and in a lot of pain. You can only study x ray technology at the undergraduate level, so this subject attracts many students who want to work in the medical field without spending time and money on costly medical degrees. If you want to earn your x ray technology credentials, you can study for a certificate or for associates and bachelors degrees.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Joshua Santiago

Joshua Santiago

Student, Associate of Arts in Radiology,Ponce Paramedical College

“Pursuing a degree in x ray technology is a great option for anyone who wants to enter the medical field but is unsure of what to focus on specifically.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Crystal Bromeling

Crystal Bromeling

Radiology Technology Instructor,Argosy University

“Focus on gaining a deep understanding of your course material instead of simply memorizing it for a certain class and forgetting it again. As a radiologic technologist, you will use all of that information on a daily basis, from medical terminology to anatomy. Not only do you have to take an exam to be certified, you also have to retest every 10 years to keep your certification current.”Read the Full Interview

X Ray Tech Overview

What exactly is an x ray tech?

X ray tech is short for x ray technologist. Another common title for the same job is rad tech. These professionals perform diagnostic imaging exams on patients, like x rays (radiographs), mammograms, CT scans and MRI scans. The diagnostic imaging process involves preparing patients for their x ray by taking their medical histories and explaining procedures to them. X ray techs also protect the areas of the body that do not need to be x rayed and they position the patient’s body so that they can obtain a useful image for doctors. When radiologic technologists aim the x radiation, or x ray, machine at patients, the soft tissues inside their bodies allow most of the radiation to pass through. However, bones absorb most of the radiation. Therefore, bones appear white in x ray images, while soft tissues appear as shades of gray and the air, which absorbs almost no radiation, appears black. Those x ray images are usually stored as digital files now, although they were stored as film in the past. In addition to caring for patients and producing images, x ray techs also maintain the imaging equipment and manage the stored images so that other medical staff can access them easily.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Eric Sprinkling

Eric Sprinkling

Lead X-Ray Technologist,Doctors Express Urgent Care

“Any experience that you can get working alongside or observing x ray techs and other medical professionals is something that you should pursue if you are interested in this field.”Read the Full Interview

Personality Quiz

How do I know if x ray technology would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as an x ray tech. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.

I am compassionate and I care about helping other people.

Healthcare professionals, including radiology technicians, care for people who are sick and injured. If you like to nurture people, you may enjoy a career in healthcare like x ray technology.

I like to use new technology to accomplish tasks.

Radiology techs use cutting-edge diagnostic imaging technology every day. You will need to develop the technical skills to operate imaging equipment safely and effectively.

I am not squeamish or bothered by the sight of injuries.

X ray techs often take images of patients who have traumatic injuries like broken bones. If you have a weak stomach, you may have trouble working with severely injured patients.

I respect the privacy of others and I can keep a secret.

X ray technologists have access to confidential medical information. Healthcare laws and ethics will require you to keep information to yourself.

I stay calm under pressure and I can work in stressful environments.

The hospital atmosphere can place emotional stress on healthcare workers since jobs are often demanding. You will need to develop healthy ways to manage your stress if you want to be successful as an x ray tech.

I am observant and I notice small details.

Although x ray techs do not diagnose patients, they can discuss the results of their x rays with physicians. You must pay attention to small details like bone fractures in order to help doctors provide the best care to patients.

I am aware of my environment and I take safety precautions in situations that could be dangerous.

Some diagnostic medical imaging equipment, like x ray machines, use radiation, which can be harmful if too much is absorbed. You will need to observe safety regulations to protect yourself and your patients from overexposure to radiation as an x ray tech.

I have a pleasant demeanor and know how to help people relax.

People that are scheduled for x ray procedures are often anxious and in pain. As an x ray tech, you will need to help people to stay calm so that you can obtain a high quality image for doctors to use in their diagnosis.

I like to learn about innovative ideas and practice new skills.

X ray techs must earn continuing education credits to keep their certifications up to date. You should be prepared to be a lifelong learner if you want to work in this field.

I work well on a team.

X ray techs are part of the diagnostic imaging team, which includes physicians, nurses and other imaging technicians. You will need to take direction from others and work independently in order to give patients the best care possible.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful x ray tech.

By my assessment, a career as an x ray tech is probably not a good fit for your personality.

By my assessment, although a career as an x ray tech may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career as an x ray tech. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if x ray technology is the right choice for me?

Aside from personality, there are a few other things that you should think about if you want to study x ray technology.

Professional Licensure and Certification

Most states require x ray technologists to be either licensed by the state or professionally certified. The exact licensing requirements vary according by state. However, the majority of states require x ray techs to graduate from a program that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and to pass The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam. However, some states allow x ray techs to graduate from ARRT approved programs. After you pass the ARRT exam, you are professionally certified. In some states, you are allowed to work as an x ray tech with just AART certification. However, other states require you to pass a state licensing test as well. You can check with your state board of health to learn whether your state requires you to earn a license in addition to your certification. In addition, keep in mind that you will need to keep your license or certification current by taking 24 credit hours of continuing education classes every 2 years. In addition, beginning in January 2011 the ARRT began requiring all new technologists to take an exam every 10 years called the Continuing Qualification Exam.

X Ray Technology Professions

What x ray technology professions can I choose from?

Education Required:

Certificate (6 months to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended
beginning in 2015, primary certification will require an associates degree

Average Salary:

$52,000

Work Environment:

Medical clinics, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

X ray technologists, or x ray techs, use x ray imaging equipment to take images of the inside of the body. They take direction from doctors who tell them about the x ray needs of each patient. Then they shield the body parts that do not need to be imaged while they take x rays of the patient.

Education Required:

Certificate (6 month to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended;
beginning in 2015, primary certification will require an associates degree

Average Salary:

$61,000

Work Environment:

Medical clinics, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

MRI technologists use specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to record images of the inside of the body. Computer programs process these images as 3D forms, which makes it easier for doctors to diagnose health problems. MRI equipment is different than radiology equipment because MRI relies on magnetism to create images, while radiology uses x radiation from a vacuum tube.

Education Required:

Certificate (6 month to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended;
post-primary certification only

Average Salary:

$59,000

Work Environment:

Medical clinics, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

CT technologists are x ray technologists who use special computerized tomography equipment to perform CT scans. For this procedure, patients lie inside tube-shaped x ray machines called CT scanners that take a series of images of the inside of their bodies so that doctors can analyze them.

Education Required:

Certificate (6 months to 1 year); associates (2 years) recommended;
post-primary certification only

Average Salary:

$62,000

Work Environment:

Medical clinics, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

Mammography technologists perform mammograms, which are radiographic breast examinations, on women. They use mammogram machines to look for medical problems like tumors, which can indicate breast cancer. After scanning patients, mammography techs store the x ray image files so that doctors can evaluate any problems that they see.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for x ray techs?

The job outlook for radiologic technicians, which includes x ray techs, MRI techs and CT techs, is expected to be positive in the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 219,900 radiologic technicians employed in the United States in 2010. But by 2020, the BLS predicts that there will be more than 281,000 working radiologic technicians. That employment change of 28% is faster than the average job growth that is predicted for all occupations. Radiologic technologists who earn multiple professional certifications, such as MRI, CT and mammography credentials, should have the best job opportunities.
Profession Employment 2010 Projected 2020 Average Growth
Radiologic Technician 93500 115200 23%
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician 49400 63900 29%
Radiologic Technologist 219900 281000 28%

Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Radiologic Technician 38260 39870 41380 42180 42240 41830
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician 43990 46530 48640 49730 50720 52160
Radiologic Technologist 49320 51150 53230 54180 55730 56760

Salary By Percentile

Profession 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th
Radiologic Technician $25540 $30840 $38080 $49890 $62530
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician $27430 $36240 $51020 $66310 $79290
Radiologic Technologist $37360 $44910 $55120 $67210 $77760

Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become an x ray tech?

It will take you 1 to 4 years to become an x ray tech, depending on the educational path that you choose. Most x ray techs get associates degrees, which typically take about 2 years. But you can also choose longer or shorter training options. For instance, certificate programs will take you a year or less, while bachelors degrees usually take students about 4 years to complete.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while studying x ray technology?

You will gain both knowledge and skills during your x ray technology program.

Core Areas of Study

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and physiology examine the structure and processes of the body. Specifically, anatomy studies the organization of components of the body like organs and bodily systems. Physiology looks at the way that these bodily systems, like the skeletal, muscular, nervous and cardiovascular systems, work together in healthy people.

Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is a special vocabulary that doctors and other healthcare providers use to describe medical issues and situations. This system of terms is used to discuss medical situations such as clinical procedures, human anatomy, diagnostic testing and legal issues. This class also delves into the history of the Latin roots that influence medical terminology.

Healthcare Ethics

Healthcare ethics are the ideas and principles that healthcare providers rely on when they must make moral decisions. For example, healthcare professionals may encounter ethical situations like confidentiality, nondiscrimination, cultural values and a patient’s right to make their own treatment decisions.

Radiation Protection

Radiation protection concerns all of the safety precautions that x ray techs must observe in order to avoid becoming overexposed to radiation, which could result in physical harm. This topic addresses safety procedures like keeping radiation contained in a single room, wearing lead jackets to shield from radiation and being aware of the path of the x ray machine’s beam.

X Ray Physics

X ray physics courses teach the scientific principles of radiation that allows for the medical use of x ray technology. Specifically, this topic addresses physical and mechanical ideas like thermodynamics, electromagnetism, ionizing radiation, the structure of atoms and the way that x ray tubes function.

Skills

Imaging Equipment Operation

As an x ray tech, doctors and other medical staff will rely on you 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.

Emergency Procedures

Patients are often brought in for x rays when they are facing emergency surgery, such as when they suffer broken bones. During your x ray tech training, you will learn to work under pressure during these emergency situations. You will learn to help patients stay calm so that you can take x ray images so that doctors can determine how best to treat their wounds.

Time Management

As you progress through your x ray technology curriculum, you will discover that time management is an important part of providing effective medical treatment. You will learn to prioritize your tasks according to how critical they are so that you can treat emergencies rapidly and accomplish less important tasks when you have the time.

Interpersonal Communication

A degree in x ray technology will help you to relate to patients in the healthcare setting. You will learn how to listen actively to your patients so that they feel secure while you take their x rays. In addition, you will learn to communicate with other medical staff like doctors and nurses, who will supervise and direct you.

Record Keeping

Many healthcare workers will reference the images that you take, so as an x ray tech, you must keep accurate records of these images. Your x ray technology curriculum will teach you to meticulously record data so that it is clear and accessible to others. In addition, you will learn to use electronic healthcare information systems to store your images and patient records.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of x ray technology?

If you decide to study x ray technology you will have several educational options at the undergraduate level. The shortest option is a certificate, but you can also earn associates and bachelors degrees.

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Certificate
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s

Certificate

If you want to learn the fundamental skills of an x ray tech without committing to an entire degree, you may want to consider earning a certificate. You can earn certificates through hospital-based training programs or through traditional schools. If you decide to get your certificate through a school, you should keep in mind that most schools list their x ray tech programs as “radiography” certificates.

What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in x ray technology?

You can earn an undergraduate certificate in radiography, which means that you do not need to hold a previous degree to be admitted into these programs. Undergraduate certificates are a good option if you want to learn the basic skills of an x ray tech.

How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in x ray technology?

The exact length of your certificate program varies according to the hospital or institution that you choose to attend. However, most radiography certificate programs take 6 months to a year to complete, regardless of the institution where you study.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in x ray technology?

As you study for your certificate in radiography, you will learn about diagnostic medical imaging equipment and procedures. Therefore, you will take a mix of clinical practicums that are designed to teach you practical skills and theory-based courses. Specifically, you can expect to take classes in patient care, anatomy, image production and healthcare ethics.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in x ray technology?

A certificate in x ray technology, or radiography, will qualify you to work as an x ray tech if you become certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Most states require you to have your AART certification to get a job.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my certificate in x ray technology?

If you want to earn a certificate in x ray technology, you need to make sure that the schools that you are considering are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or by ARRT. The JRCERT accredits schools that have excellent x ray tech programs, and you must graduate from an accredited school before you can take the certification exam that is offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). ARRT certification is a good idea because it is required to earn a professional license in this field. In addition, most employers require their x ray techs to have ARRT certification. You are not an x-ray tech without an ARRT certification whether as an operator or radiologic technologist.

What about getting an online certificate in x ray technology?

As of 2012, there were no accredited online x ray technology certificate programs. Although that could change in the future, it would not be a good idea to earn your x ray certificate online. X ray techs work in the healthcare field and they deal with patients daily. This kind of work requires an extensive knowledge of hands-on clinical skills, which you cannot learn effectively through an online x ray technology school. However, if you already have your x ray tech certification, you may be able to take some theory-based classes through a distance-learning or online x ray tech school if you want to transfer your skills into a related job as an MRI or CT technologist.

Associates Degree

Associates degrees are the most common educational path for x ray techs. They provide more training than certificate programs, but they take about half the time of bachelors degree programs. When you are searching for programs, you should recall that many schools call this degree program either “radiography” or “radiologic technologist.”

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn in x ray technology?

Associate of Arts AA

An AA degree in x ray technology has many liberal arts classes to give you a broad education in the humanities. The AA degree is not a common option in this field.

Associate of Science AS

An AS degree in x ray technology has more math and science classes to give you a technical background. The AS degree is the best choice if you want to transfer your credits into a bachelors program.

Associate of Applied Science AAS

The AAS in x ray technology provides you with a technical education that teaches focused career skills. The AAS degree is preferable if you want to enter the workforce as soon as you graduate.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in x ray technology?

Most associates degrees in x ray technology require students to earn 65 to 80 credit hours. Students are generally able to complete their associates degree programs in about 2 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in x ray technology?

When you earn your associates degree in x ray technology, you will take a mix of theory classes and courses that teach you practical skills. Specifically, you will learn the key ideas about biology, anatomy and physiology along with healthcare ethics. You will also take classes about x ray physics, which discusses the production of x rays, and courses about the operation of x ray technology equipment. Finally, you will take a series of clinical radiography courses that teach you the hands-on skills that you will need to work as an x ray technologist.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in x ray technology?

An associates degree in x ray technology prepares you to be an x ray tech. In addition, some programs allow you to specialize in another area of radiography, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). Those specializations would allow you to become an MRI or CT technologist. However, you still need to pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists’ certification exam before you can get a job in most states.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my associates degree in x ray technology?

When you are looking for an x ray technology school, you need to make sure that the schools that you are considering are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or by the ARRT. This institution is responsible for assessing the quality of radiography and x ray technology programs. Most states require that you graduate from a program that was approved by the JRCERT If you want to be eligible to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) certification exam. The ARRT certification is considered the industry standard, and it is required for professional licensure.

What about getting an online associates degree in x ray technology?

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to pursue your x ray technology associates degree online. This program requires a lot of hands-on experience and it is not possible to learn the clinical radiography skills that you need through an online x ray technology school. However, as of 2012, 1 school offered an online x ray technology associates degree program. This program was designed for students who already had radiography experience. Therefore, its admission requirements state that you need at least 1,600 hours of x ray technology work experience to join the program. If you are new to radiography, you cannot earn your x ray technology associates degree online.

Bachelors Degree

Bachelors degrees are the highest credentials that you can earn in x ray technology. Most schools call this course of study “radiography” or “radiology technology,” so you should keep those terms in mind when you are searching for an x ray technology bachelors degree program.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in x ray technology?

Bachelor of Science BS

A BS in x ray technology has science and math classes that give you a technical education. The BS is a good choice if you want to prepare yourself for a radiography job.

Bachelor of Applied Science BAS

A BAS in x ray technology has technical classes that focus on teaching career skills. The BAS is the best choice if you want to learn hands-on radiography job skills.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in x ray technology?

Most x ray technology bachelors degree programs require students to complete 120 to 130 credit hours. Radiography students are generally able to complete their bachelors degrees in about 4 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in x ray technology?

You will take a combination of clinical practicums and theoretical courses as you study x ray technology at the bachelors level. Although exact courses vary by program, you will take classes in anatomy, physiology and imaging equipment operation. In addition, you are likely to take classes in patient care, medical terminology and healthcare ethics. Some radiography bachelors degree programs allow you to specialize in a certain type of imaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in x ray technology?

A bachelors degree in x ray technology, which is more often referred to as radiography, will prepare you to be an x ray tech. However, in most states you will need to earn your professional certification by passing the exam that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) before you are eligible for employment.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my bachelors degree in x ray technology?

The most important thing to consider when you are looking for an x ray technology or radiography school is whether or not its program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or by the ARRT. Accreditation is important in this field because you must graduate from an accredited radiography program in order to take the certification exam that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In many states, employers will only hire x ray techs who have obtained ARRT certification.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in x ray technology?

You cannot earn your x ray technology bachelors degree online if you have no experience in radiography. This course of study requires you to learn hands-on clinical skills, which you cannot practice through online x ray technology programs. However, some reputable online x ray technology schools will allow you to take distance-learning courses that you can apply towards your bachelors degree. This is a better option that attempting to earn your entire x ray technology bachelors degree online.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying x ray technology?

Limited Scope Programs

As you are looking for an x ray technology program, you will notice that several schools offer limited scope programs. These programs only teach you how to obtain images of a particular part of the body, like the feet. While these limited scope programs do qualify you to work in specific clinical environments, like orthopedic offices, you will have a difficult time finding a job at a hospital or medical clinic that requires a broad range of x ray skills. In addition, you are likely to have a significantly lower salary if you do find employment. Finally, you should not enroll in a limited scope x ray technology program if you want to expand your skills in order to perform other kinds of imaging like MRI and CT scans.

Questions & Answers

For additional information on studying x ray tech, select a category to find answers

Resources

What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree or certificate in x ray technology?

ACVR – American College of Veterinary Radiography

ARRT – American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

ASRT – American Society of Radiologic Technologists

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Radiologic Technologists

Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

Journal of the American College of Radiology

Radiology Education.com – peer reviewed website

Radiology for Medical Students

Radiological Society of North America