Looking for the inside track on how to become an x-ray tech? Trying to decide if you’d like to enter the field, but unsure if you’re qualified, or what you would need to do to become qualified? The following information is just for you.
Becoming a certified or licensed x-ray tech is no small matter. Contrary to popular belief, the training and education required–not to mention the physical and mental fortitude needed–is very high, and necessarily for everyone.
Without a doubt, any job in the medical field requires patience, compassion, and the ability to deal with people at their most vulnerable and stressful moments. X-ray techs must be able to inspire confidence and trust in hurt or ill patients and their families. As a result, good communication skills are a must.
X-ray techs also need tremendous physical stamina. With the vast majority of a full-time technologist’s work hours being spent on their feet, standing or walking, each x-ray tech must be able to fend off fatigue fairly well. Upper body strength for handling often heavy equipment is another necessity.
To handle the scientific nature of the work, experts recommend that interested students take lots of math and science courses, particularly calculus, physics, chemistry, and biology, either in high school or at the community college level, to prepare for the coursework ahead.
Every state has different requirements for certification as an x-ray tech, but all require some formal training. This training is usually done by completing a two-year program at a community college or trade school accredited by the US Department of Education (DOE) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Students may earn a certificate, an Associate’s degree (AA), or an Associate’s of Applied Sciences (AAS) in Radiology.
The coursework taken in these program is challenging. In addition to traditional classes in anatomy, physiology, imaging principles, radiobiology, and pathology, students complete externships at local hospitals, clinics, or even dentists’ offices, shadowing and learning from a certified x-ray tech in the field.
Completing the training program is only an intermediate step, however. After graduation, students become eligible to take their state licensing test. Some states have their own tests, but most use the ARRT exam for licensing purposes. Potential techs must pass with a score of 75 or higher in order to get their certification, and have three times to do so. If a candidate fails the test three times, he or she must re-take their training course–effectively re-earning their AA–before testing a fourth time.
After a candidate takes and passes their licensure exam, they receive their license to practice x-ray technology, and can be hired by any number of hospitals, clinics, or labs. However, in order to maintain certification, all x-ray techs must take at least 24 hours of continuing education credits every two years.
All of which means that anyone interested in becoming an x-ray tech should start making plans immediately to get the prerequisite courses underway and get involved in a training program, ASAP.