When you decide you want to learn how to become an x-ray tech, you’ll be entering a unique career. This type of career means you will likely work with people that have broken a bone or have another type of health issue. X-ray technicians are medical professionals trained to use specific equipment.
If you’re interested in going into the healthcare industry, this might be a good career for you. You can gain many benefits from becoming an x-ray tech. Let’s look at the job duties and how to become an x-ray tech.
Job Duties of an X-Ray Tech
When you become an x-ray tech, you will be a medical professional capable of taking images of human anatomy. You will help diagnose illnesses. X-ray technicians are also known as radiologic technologists or radiographers.
Some of the common job duties of this position include:
- Prepare exam rooms for patients
- Position patients properly for x-rays and exams
- Measuring mineral and bone density
- Providing images of soft tissue, bones, and other parts of the anatomy
- Using computers to document the images taken
As an X-ray tech, you will likely handle all of these job duties. You may have other job duties, depending on where you work, as well.
How To Become an X-Ray Tech in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Complete High School
You will need a high school education to get into an x-ray tech program. This will require a high school diploma or GED. You will likely want to take science courses and do well in them. It’s also a good idea to shadow someone that works as an x-ray tech during high school.
Step #2 – Get the Correct Education
Becoming an x-ray tech means you will need to get an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. There are also certification programs you can go through to become an x-ray tech.
If you choose to get an associate’s degree, you will need about two years to complete this program. A bachelor’s degree will require about four years. Those choosing a certification program will likely need two or three years to complete the program.
You will study things, such as how radiation impacts the body, safety with x-rays, producing and reading x-ray images, how to use the equipment, bone and anatomy landscapes.
Step #3 – Become Certified
You will not be required to become a certified x-ray tech. However, it’s a preference of many different employers. You will need to get the certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
You will need at least an associate’s degree to become certified. You will also need the right coursework with that degree. Once you have the education, you will need to pass the ethics questions and the certification exam. After getting your degree, you have up to three years to take the certification exam.
Step #4 – Become Licensed
In some states, you have to become licensed to work as an x-ray tech. Without a license, you cannot work in most states. The states not requiring a license include:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
All other states will require you to become licensed, which may include an exam.
Step #5 – Specialize
As an x-ray tech, you can specialize in certain areas. You can become specialized in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, sonography, or breast sonography. There are other specialties, too, but these are the most common.
Specializing may require more education and another certification. It can also lead to a higher salary and more job opportunities.
Common Skills You Need to Become an X-Ray Tech
X-ray technicians should have or develop specific skills. This profession needs the right type of person and some of the common skills include:
- Very ethical – You have to have good morals to work in the healthcare industry. Patients count on you to keep their information private and to take care of them properly.
- Empathetic – Many of the people you’re working with will be injured. Make sure you have empathy for them or this could be a difficult job for you.
- Good communication skills – Communicating with patients, doctors, and others will be necessary. Good verbal and written communication skills are important for this career.
- Flexible – You will need to be flexible in this type of position. Sometimes, your job duties will include more than taking x-rays.
- Ability to solve problems – You will need to be able to solve issues as an x-ray tech. Every patient you see will be a bit different. This will require you to adjust, when necessary.
- Medical knowledge – You will learn the necessary medical knowledge to become an x-ray tech during your coursework.
- Competency with medical technology – Of course, you will also need to know how to use specific medical technology.
These are necessary skills you will either learn or already have if you want to become an x-ray tech.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an X-Ray Tech
How much do I earn as an x-ray tech?
According to Indeed.com, the average salary for an x-ray tech is about $56K per year. Some employers will pay more. Top employers pay over $70K per year with some even higher.
Your location and experience will also factor into your salary. Those working in New York City, Denver, Chicago, or Las Vegas will likely earn a higher salary compared to other locations. If you have more than 6 years of experience, you can earn a higher salary. Those with 10 or more years of experience make the highest salaries.
What type of benefits do you gain as an X-ray Tech?
When you’re working as an x-ray tech, you will likely get some employee benefits. These may include health insurance, dental and vision insurance, a 401(k) with matching, life insurance, paid time off, and tuition reimbursement. Other benefits may also be offered, but these are the most common.
Will I need to complete continuing education as an x-ray tech?
Yes, you will need CE credits to maintain your certification. The ARRT requires 24 Radiology CE credits every two years for x-ray techs.
Where will I work as an X-ray tech?
Most x-ray techs will work in hospitals. However, any medical facility with x-ray equipment will be in need of an x-ray tech. You may work in an urgent care center, private doctor’s office, diagnostic center, or another type of medical facility.
Are X-ray Techs and Radiology Techs the same?
While some may use these terms interchangeably, they are not the same thing. An X-ray tech is trained to take internal images with x-ray equipment. Radiology techs can perform other diagnostic imaging procedures.
What type of work environment do x-ray techs work in?
The environment will likely be a medical facility of some sort. It’s common for x-ray techs to spend lots of time on their feet. You will also need to lift equipment and patients often.
As an x-ray tech, you will also deal with exposure to radiation regularly. Long work hours are common. Some will work nights and weekends. You will also work by yourself quite a bit.
Your days will include adjusting the equipment and patients to get the right imaging angle. You will wear protective gear to limit radiation exposure. Most x-ray techs will work full-time, but some may work part-time or on an as-needed basis.
What type of hours will I work as an x-ray tech?
You will likely work a regular type of day if you work in a medical office. However, if you work in a hospital or urgent care center, you will need to work different hours. Some may have a regular 9-to-5 schedule, but others may work nights and weekends. It might also be necessary to be on-call, occasionally.
Can I complete my degree online?
Yes, as an x-ray tech, you can complete your degree online. However, you will likely need to do some of the work in person. This will include the hands-on training you will need with the equipment.
How long will it take me to become an x-ray tech?
The quickest programs will require four college semesters. This can be completed in 16 months, with accelerated programs. However, it’s more common to get an associate’s degree in about 2 years.
If you choose to get a bachelor’s degree, you will need four years to enter this career.
Can I work as a traveling x-ray tech?
Yes. There are positions for traveling x-ray technicians. Often, you will get paid a bit more to be a traveling x-ray technician, but it could depend on your assignments.
If you choose this career path, you will gain access to more job opportunities. You will also have good work benefits and a chance to gain experience in different work settings.
When you want to enter the medical field as an x-ray tech, you need to know how to become an x-ray tech. You can get an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to enter this career. If you’re looking for a very rewarding career that is growing, becoming an x-ray tech might be the right choice for you.