X-Ray Technician

X-ray Technicians (also referred to as Radiological technologists) use an array of radiologic equipment to diagnose medical conditions.  If you are seeking a challenging career in the healthcare sector and have strong mechanical aptitude that of radiologic technologist may be a great choice. Before you find out what X-ray Technician education requirements and training involve, let me first show you what the career entails.

Career Overview

Radiologic technologists conduct radiologic examinations such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, mammography, and computer-based tomography.

Specific responsibilities of radiologic technologists (i.e. X-ray technicians):

  • Create and develop X-ray films (radiographs) of various areas of the body to help physicians and other healthcare providers discover the underlying cause of various medical conditions.
  • Prepare patients for radiologic exams by reviewing the procedure, removing any items through which X-rays can’t pass (e.g. jewelry), and position patients so that the relevant area of their body will be exposed.
  • To protect patients from overexposure to radiation, an X-ray Technician cover the exposed area with protective covering such as lead shields. They may also restrict the size of the X-ray beam to reduce intensity.
  • Position the radiologic equipment to obtain the best angle and height over the exposed part of the patient’s body and set the controls on the equipment to obtain the correct density, contrast, and acuity.
  • X-ray technicians must follow the instructions of the physician precisely and adhere to all regulations with regard to protecting themselves, their colleagues, and patients from excessive radiation exposure.
  • An X-ray technician (x-ray tec) may also create and store patient records and maintain all radiologic equipment.
  • X-ray technicians with significant experience may supervise the radiology department.
  • Some radiologic technologies specialize in computer tomography (CT) and work as CT specialists. CT scans produce cross-sectional X-rays of the patient’s body from which a 3-dimensonal image is created.  Because the CT uses ionizing radiation, precautions must be taken when using this equipment.
  • Radiologic technologists can also specialize in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and are known as MRI technologists. As with CT scans, MR produces cross-sectional 3-D images.  In contrast to CT scans, MR uses non-ionizing radio frequencies to create images so there is no risk of overexposure.
  • Radiologic technologists may also specialize in mammography which uses low does X-rays to produce images of patient breasts.

Career Outlook

Employment prospects for radiologic technologists are very good. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for this field is predicted to be 17 percent through 2018, representing a faster rate than is the case for most other occupations.

The demand for radiologic technologists may be attributed to the continuing aging of the population and increased incidence of illness and injury which often require diagnostic imaging procedures. The degree to which diagnostic imaging is performed is tied to both cost and reimbursement issues. However, radiologic examination provides early detection of illness which can then lower the cost of medical treatment—a situation that is attractive to many third party health insurance carriers. In addition to diagnosis of illness, diagnostic imaging can also assist with monitoring the progress of treatment.

While hospitals will continue to be the primary employer of radiologic technologists, advances in medical technology are resulting in lower cost to obtain diagnostic equipment. As a result new, employment opportunities will be available in private physician offices as well as diagnostic imaging centers.

X-ray Technician Education Requirements and Training

Training programs in radiation therapy may lead to a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. An associate’s degree is the most common route for most entrants to the field. The Joint Commission on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits a total of 643 programs in radiation therapy of which, associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels: 248 certificate programs; 361 associate degree programs; and 34 bachelor’s programs.

All programs provide both classroom and clinical instruction in anatomy and physiology, pathology, radiobiology, radiation physics, principles and practices of diagnostic imaging, medical terminology, as well as patient care and ethics (patient confidentiality).

Visit the Web site of JRCERT to locate an accredited program in your state.

Licensure and Certification

Federal regulations protect the public from unnecessary overexposure to radiation by ensuring that radiologic technologists are properly trained. However, it is up to each state individually to determine licensure requirements of radiologic technologists.  Because licensing requirements vary by state visit the Web site of your state health board for further details. You may also access state licensing information by visiting the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) site.

Policy statement of the ARRT

Administration of licensing laws differs from state to state. Some require submitting applications prior to exam administration, while others require only exam results. Direct any questions about licensing requirements to the individual state (see Appendix K [of the exam handbook] for contact information).

The ARRT offers voluntary certification for radiologic technologists. Currently 36 states use the ARRT-administered exams for state licensing. Visit the Web site of the ARRT for a list of specific states.

To be eligible for certification, candidates must have graduated from an ARRT-approved program and pass an examination. Upon meeting both requirements you will be granted the Registered Technologist (RT) credential. While voluntary, many employers prefer to hire certified radiological technologists as this provides evidence of a candidate’s knowledge and skill-set in the field. Certification may also mean that you are able to enter the field at a higher salary than may be the case for those without this credential.

Education requirements for radiography certification

1.      Graduated from a radiologic technology training program accredited by JRCERT within the past 5 years.

2. As per the ARRT, candidates must also, “demonstrate competency in didactic coursework and an ARRT-specified list of clinical procedures by completing the Radiography Didactic and Clinical Competency Requirements. Note: New competency requirements for radiography will go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Ethics requirements for radiography certification

1.      “Be a person of good moral character and must not have engaged in conduct that is inconsistent with the ARRT Rules of Ethics,” and they must “agree to comply with the ARRT Rules and Regulations and the ARRT Standards of Ethics.” ARRT investigates all potential violations in order to determine eligibility.

2.      The ethic committee will also review your background for past felony or misdemeanor convictions or other criminal history.

3.      Candidates are also required to disclose whether they have any had any certification of license suspended or revoked, or posses any “honor code violations” while in school.

Certification Process (for those states that use the ARRT exam)

1.      Complete application and read the ethics section of the candidate handbook. The name recorded on the application must be your full legal name and be the same as recorded on the two forms of identification you will need to submit (e.g. driver’s license and social security car or student identification).

2.      Paste an original 2×2 color passport-like photo to the application.

3.      Submit an application fee of $200. Payment may be made by personal check or money order payable to ARRT.

4.      You may submit the application up to three months prior to the date you wish to sit for the exam.

5.      If you deemed eligible to test, ARRT will send you a Candidate Status report (CSR). It can take up to four weeks from the date ARRT receives your application to obtain the CSR report. The report will include instructions regarding how to register for the exam.

6.      You will have 90 days from the time you receive the CSR to schedule your exam with Pearson Vue, the testing vendor that administers the exam. Pearson Vue centers are located throughout the United States.

7.      You will obtain your score immediately upon completing the test. This is a preliminary score subject to review and confirmation by ARRT.

8.      If ARRT confirms that you have passed the exam it will award the designation “Registered Technologist (RT) and provide you with an official certificate as well as wallet-size identification card.

Those candidates whose states do not accept the ARRT exam will need to contact their state board to determine examination requirements. You may find the appropriate board contact on the Web site of the AART.

Continuing education

Registered technologists will be required to participate in continuing education to retain the credential. This requirement may be satisfied by one of two methods: obtain 24 continuing educations in coursework approved by the ARRT or pass an exam in an additional discipline recognized by the ARRT (e.g., sonography, nuclear medicine, or radiation therapy).

Median X-ray Technician salary ranges in select regional areas.

Los Angeles, CA


Boulder, CO


Boca Raton, FL


Atlanta, GA


New York, NY


Dallas, TX


Figures as per salary.com