What is an X-ray Tech?

In today’s economic market, many students are wisely researching different professions before plunging into school, looking at the wide salary ranges, educational requirements and projected job market for each. Because education is such an investment, students are carefully balancing the expected return on such an investment, all while trying to choose a career that they will enjoy.

One industry that has garnered much attention is the healthcare field. Growth in this field has been enormous, around 22%, faster than any other industry in the United States. Healthcare is expected to bring an additional 3.2 million new jobs by the year 2018. Part of this growth is due to the population increase, as well as the increased lifespan of our populations’ elderly.

Within the healthcare field, X-ray technology has become one of the most important diagnostic tools for Physicians and Surgeons. Since its accidental discovery in 1895, X-ray technology is now used by hospitals, dental offices, convalescent homes, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers. X-rays images provide invaluable diagnostic information to Physicians and Surgeons. They can indicate the presence of:

Deformities of the Spine 

Broken bones                              

Joint and bone spurs               


Foreign bodies                        

Heart Conditions


Radiologic Technicians, also known as X-ray Techs or Radiographers, are the professionals charged with obtaining the x-ray images that are ordered by the patient’s Physician. Working directly with patients, calmly preparing and positioning them to obtain the best possible images, X-ray Techs must have a strong understanding of human anatomy as well as good patient communication skills. Along with patient instruction, X-ray Techs also perform many other duties such as:

 Develop, dry and file the x-ray films  

Operate and fix portable x-ray machines

Prepare solutions

Maintain department films, requisitions and patient records

To obtain the skills and training needed to become an X-ray Tech, students can choose to attend a trade or technical school, community college or university to obtain their education. Trade or technical schools typically take from 21-24 months to complete, and offer the student a certificate of completion.  An Associate’s degree in this profession can take two years, and is the most popular choice for students. A Bachelor’s degree, a four year degree, is typically selected if the student wishes to pursue a supervisory or administrative position in this field.

In choosing a school, college or university, students may research the school to learn about the campus, classroom size, day or evening class schedules, and tuition.  To select an X-ray Tech program, it is very important for students to select an accredited (approved) program. An accredited program is one that has been validated and has met the guidelines set forth of a reputable, quality education. Any reputable program for X-ray Technicians should be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

Not all schools need to be accredited, such as those specializing in the arts or technical areas. However, for those who are pursuing a career as an X-ray Tech, accreditation not only ensures the program they selected is a quality program, it also ensures they can obtain their certification. Only students who have successfully completed an accredited program are eligible to sit for the ARRT certification exam, should they wish to do so. In selecting an accredited program, the student has a clear path towards obtaining their ARRT certification and (then) their State licensure.

Students who have selected this career path will enjoy many interesting subjects while in school. Approved X-ray Technician programs should include classes such as:

Anatomy and Physiology

Radiographic Positioning

Medical Terminology

Patient Care Procedures


Medical Ethics

Radiation Physics

Upon successful completion of an accredited X-ray Tech program, students are eligible to take an exam issued by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Successfully passed, the student will then have their ARRT certification. It is this ARRT certification that will allow the student to then secure a state license. Most states now demand X-ray Techs posses a valid license to work in their profession.

To maintain ARRT certification, the student must complete continuing education requirements of twenty-four credits (24) every two years. This continuing education keeps each X-ray Technician up to date on the latest guidelines and procedures, and fresh on new techniques and technology.

For X-ray Techs interested in continuing their education, there are many opportunities to obtain their specialization within this field. These areas include:

                        Vascular Technology


                        Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


Computed Tomography (CT)

Part of the fast-growing healthcare industry, the X-ray Tech profession is also experiencing great growth. Until 2018, this profession is estimated to increase by around 17%, a higher growth rate than many other occupation averages. Currently, the national average salary for this profession is $55,000.00. The starting salary for X-ray Techs is between $11.00 -$18.00 per hour. As with any profession, there are factors that can affect this salary range, such as location, experience, and the type of healthcare facility in which the X-ray Tech works. For instance, those X-ray Techs who are employed at general hospitals typically earn around $52,890.00 annually while those who work in diagnostic centers or research centers can earn substantially higher.

Choosing a career can be a daunting task. For those interested in joining the healthcare field, the profession of an X-ray Tech offers great benefits.  X-ray Techs are a highly skilled and valuable asset of the healthcare team. They utilize their skills and training to obtain the (sometimes life-saving) diagnostic images of patients. X-ray Techs enjoy a pleasant and varied work environment, meeting new people each day. Selecting this career path is a smart choice for students who are looking to work in a rewarding profession, helping others while earning a great salary within the healthcare field.




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