Radiology and X-Ray Technologist Programs

Advances in technology play a vital role in healthcare. Diagnostic tests, enabled by technology, help assure that correct diagnoses can be made so patients get the treatments they need.

As an X ray tech, you'll be part of a healthcare team working closely with both physicians and patients. Knowing that you play an important role and make a difference in peoples' lives makes this a rewarding and fulfilling career. If you're interested in healthcare and enjoy working with technology, then a career as an X ray tech is one you'll want to explore.

On this page you’ll read about:

  • What an X ray tech does
  • Salaries and career outlook
  • How to become an X ray tech
  • Certification, licensure, and career advancement

What Does an X Ray Tech Do?

X ray technologists — also called X ray technicians, radiology technicians, radiologic technicians, radiologic technologists, and radiographers — are used by different programs and employers. As healthcare has evolved, the job title and responsibilities of X ray techs have changed, too.

Depending on the employer and the position, an X ray tech job can cover a range of duties. X ray techs assist and care for others and use computers and technical equipment. They observe, obtain, and process information; they communicate with coworkers and the public in a variety of ways; they make decisions and solve problems.

On any given day, tasks performed may include:

  • Preparing equipment for use
  • Operating (or overseeing the operation of) imaging equipment
  • Adjusting settings and positions
  • Explaining procedures and answering questions
  • Assuring patient safety and comfort
  • Producing diagnostic images
  • Reviewing and evaluating images to assure quality will support diagnostic purposes
  • Collaborating and coordinating with other members of the medical team
  • Compiling, categorizing, verifying, and auditing information
  • Documenting and reporting information
  • Completing various administrative tasks

With additional experience and training, X ray techs take on more responsibilities, such as:

  • Reviewing and evaluating X rays or computer-generated information to determine whether images are satisfactory for diagnostic purposes
  • Administering dye or other materials into a patient's blood stream for diagnostic purposes
  • Performing maintenance or minor emergency repairs on radiographic equipment
  • Operating or overseeing the operation of radiologic or magnetic imaging equipment
  • Taking CAT scans
  • Performing mammograms

X ray techs work in hospitals, urgent care units, imaging clinics, and radiology practices. Whatever the location, doctors rely on the knowledge and expertise of radiologic technologists to capture good images so they can make the right diagnosis.

What Can I Earn as an X Ray Tech?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), X ray techs (excluding diagnostic medical sonographers and magnetic resonance imaging technologists) made a mean annual salary of $61,540 in 2018. 

Salaries can vary quite a bit depending on the industry. For example, X ray techs in physician offices made a mean annual wage of $55,990 in 2018, while those who worked in the Federal Executive Branch made $66,790.

Where you live can also directly impact your potential income. The top paying states for this profession in 2018 were:

State

Hourly Mean Wage

Annual Mean Wage

California

$38.97

$81,060

District of Columbia

$37.49

$77,990

Hawaii

$36.65

$76,230

Massachusetts

$35.97

$74,820

Oregon

$35.44

$73,720


What Is the Career Outlook for an X Ray Tech?

An aging United States population will create demand for the services provided by X ray techs, making the outlook for this career bright. In fact, the BLS predicts a 13% increase in jobs, a faster than average career growth, from 2016 to 2026. 

The states with the highest employment levels for radiologic technologists in 2018 were:

State

Number of X ray Techs

Annual Mean Wage

California

17,360

$81,060

Texas

16,180

$58,760

Florida

13,590

$56,650

New York

12,780

$69,250

Pennsylvania

10,210

$53,640


How to Become an X Ray Tech

If you're interested in becoming an X ray tech, you'll need to earn the right degree and credentials before you can start work. Here are the steps you'll most likely follow to become an X ray technologist:

  1. Complete an associate degree program
  2. Obtain a professional credential (also called certification)
  3. Obtain a license

Associate Degree Programs

Before you can get the right certification to work as an X ray tech, you'll need to earn either an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Associate of Science (AS) degree in radiologic technology from an accredited program. In order to be eligible for AART certification, which many states and employers require, you'll need to earn a degree from a program that's accredited by an AART-recognized agency. You can find a program's accreditation status on the school’s website or by contacting their admission's department.

To be eligible for an associate degree program in radiologic technology, you typically need to be a high school graduate (or have earned a GED). Some schools require students to complete general education and prerequisites before they can apply to the radiology tech program.

Associate degree programs typically take two to three years to complete. They're offered at community colleges, technical/vocational schools, and four-year schools, both online and in person.

Once you're accepted into a program, you can expect to take classes in:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Radiographic procedures
  • Radiographic positioning and protection
  • Concepts in diagnostics 

Most programs also have clinical requirements, such as a practicum, that involve hands-on participation to apply what you've learned.

Note that if you already have an associate degree in a subject area other than radiologic technology, you can enroll in a certificate in radiologic technology from an accredited program. These certificate programs provide the same training you would have completed in an associate degree program but skip the general education requirements you already met with your associate degree.

Online X Ray Tech Programs

X ray tech degree programs are available online, but most require at least some time on campus or at a clinical location. Since an important part of the education for this field requires hands-on experience and supervised practice, some programs may have a lab component that requires students to visit campus at least a couple of times throughout the course.

Other programs may require students to complete a practicum or clinical requirements at locations off campus that are approved by the school. Different programs offer varying levels of support when it comes to finding the right clinical location. Before you enroll in a program, make sure it will give you the level of support you'll need in finding a location that works for you.

Like with an in-person program, it's also important to make sure any program you're considering is accredited. Graduating with a degree from a non-accredited program can mean you won't be able to earn certification and won't be able to work as an X ray tech. Check a program’s accreditation at the JRCERT or American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) websites.

Choosing between an online and in-person program is an important decision. Consider the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed choice about which X ray tech school is right for you.

Here are a few of the common pros and cons of online programs:

Pros

  • They're convenient. Many programs allow you take the online portions of the program at your convenience, which can be ideal for working students.
  • They offer greater flexibility. Being able to choose from different clinical locations may be important to some students.
  • They're often less expensive. Even if tuition costs are the same, you save money on commuting, parking, and living expenses.

Cons

  • They can be isolating. Some students miss the social interactions with classmates and instructors that come with campus programs.
  • They require good time management skills. If you benefit from a more rigid structure and strict deadlines, an online program may not be the best fit.
  • They require your own equipment. An online program requires access to a computer and high-speed internet. This may not be an option for some students, especially if they live in a rural area.

Certification and Licensure

To practice as an X ray tech, you will need to become licensed in your state after you complete your education. License requirements vary by state, so be sure to check your state requirements before applying. Typically, you'll need a minimum number of education hours. Some states also require experience in the field and a licensing exam. Learn more about state licensing here.

Some states — but not all — require professional certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in order to get a license. Even if your state doesn't require it, many employers require X ray techs to be AART-certified. Others give preference to candidates who holds AART certification.

If you want to earn certification, you have to meet AART requirements, including:

  • An associate degree or higher from a program accredited by an AART-recognized accrediting agency
  • Completion of an education program in radiologic technology (either as part of your associate degree or a certificate program)
  • Completion of an ethics application to show you meet the AART standards of ethics
  • A passing score on the certification exam 

Career Advancement

Experience, job performance, education, and professional credentials are all factors that contribute to career advancement. Learn more about how you can advance your X ray tech career.

Get a Specialty Certification

Specialty certification in different areas of radiologic technology can help you advance your career. Expertise in multiple areas makes you more valuable to your employer and to your medical team. ARRT offers the following credential options:

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

While it's not required to work as an X ray tech, having a B.S. degree in radiologic technology can make you more competitive and may increase your income. It can also open the door to more advanced career opportunities.

For example, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to become a registered radiology assistant. RAs work under a radiologist and have increased responsibilities and skills.

If you already have an associate degree in radiologic technology from an accredited program, you may be able to apply your credits in radiology to a bachelor's degree program. This way you'll only need to complete the general education requirements for a bachelor's degree.

Become a Radiologist

Radiologists are medical doctors that specialize in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases using medical imaging procedures and tests.

Becoming a radiologist requires all the knowledge and skills of a radiology technologist plus medical training to interpret images, make diagnoses, and create treatment plans. 

In the U.S., it takes a minimum of 12 years after high school to become a radiologist. Here's the path most students take: 

  • Undergraduate degree (4 years)
  • Medical degree (4 years)
  • Residency (4 years)
  • Sub-specialization training (1 year) 

California

American Career College
Campus Locations in: Long Beach, CA / Los Angeles, CA / Ontario, CA
Matching Programs: Optical Technician
Program Types Offered: Diploma
Brightwood College
Campus Locations in: Las Vegas, NV / North Hollywood, CA / Vista, CA
Matching Programs: Medical Assistant Back Office/X-Ray Technician - Diploma
Program Types Offered: Diploma

Florida

Central Florida Institute
Campus Locations in: Orlando, FL / Tampa Bay, FL
Matching Programs: Medical Assistant with Basic X-Ray - Diploma
Program Types Offered: Diploma
Programmatic Accreditation: ABHES
City College
Campus Locations in: Gainesville, FL
Matching Programs: A.S. - Veterinary Technician
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree
Keiser University
Campus Locations in: Fort Lauderdale, FL / Lakeland, FL
Matching Programs: Associate of Science in Medical Laboratory Technician - Fort Lauderdale, Associate of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology - Lakeland
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

Indiana

Harrison College
Campus Locations in: Fort Wayne, IN / Indianapolis (East), IN
Matching Programs: Medical Laboratory Technology AAS
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

Michigan

Baker College
Campus Locations in: Clinton Township, MI / Flint, MI / Jackson, MI / Muskegon, MI / Owosso, MI
Matching Programs: Radiation Therapy - Bachelor
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

Missouri

Vatterott College
Campus Locations in: Appling Farms, TN / Berkeley, MO / Des Moines, IA / Memphis, TN / Oklahoma City, OK / Springfield, MO
Matching Programs: Medical Assistant with Limited Radiography - Associate
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree
Programmatic Accreditation: ABHES

New Jersey

Eastwick College
Campus Locations in: Nutley, NJ / Ramsey, NJ
Matching Programs: AAS in Diagnostic Cardiovascular Sonography
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

North Carolina

Miller-Motte College
Campus Locations in: Raleigh, NC
Matching Programs: Veterinary Technology - Diploma
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

North Dakota

Rasmussen College
Campus Locations in: Blaine, MN / Bloomington, MN / Brooklyn Park/Maple Grove, MN / Eagan, MN / Fargo, ND / St. Cloud, MN
Matching Programs: Medical Laboratory Technician Associate Degree
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

Ohio

Heritage College
Campus Locations in: Cleveland, OH / Denver, CO / Little Rock, AR / Oklahoma City, OK
Matching Programs: X-Ray Medical Technician – Medical Assistant - Associate
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree, Diploma

Pennsylvania

McCann School of Business & Technology
Campus Locations in: Pottsville, PA
Matching Programs: Phlebotomist - Diploma
Program Types Offered: Diploma

Rhode Island

New England Institute of Technology
Campus Locations in: East Greenwhich, RI
Matching Programs: AS - Medical Laboratory Technology
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

Tennessee

Fortis College
Campus Locations in: Cookeville, TN / Cutler Bay, Fl / Nashville, TN
Matching Programs: Medical Assisting with Basic X-ray Operation
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree
South College
Campus Locations in: Asheville, NC / Knoxville, TN
Matching Programs: AAS Radiologic Technology
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree, Certificate

Texas

Lincoln Technical Institute
Campus Locations in: Grand Prairie, TX / South Plainfield, NJ
Matching Programs: Medical Assistant with Basic X-Ray
Program Types Offered: Diploma
Programmatic Accreditation: ABHES
Remington College
Campus Locations in: Cleveland, OH / Fort Worth, TX / Garland, TX / Houston Southeast (Webster), TX / Mobile, AL / North Houston (Greenspoint), TX
Matching Programs: Medical Assisting with X-Ray Tech (Limited Scope)- Diploma
Program Types Offered: Diploma
South Texas Vocational Technical Institute
Campus Locations in: Brownsville, TX / McAllen, TX / Weslaco, TX
Matching Programs: Medical Administrative Assisting Technology - Diploma
Program Types Offered: Diploma

Washington

Charter College
Campus Locations in: Anchorage, AK / Fife, WA / Lacey, WA / Oxnard, CA / Pasco, WA / Vancouver, WA / Yakima, WA
Matching Programs: AAS - Allied Health
Program Types Offered: Associate Degree

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