What is an X-Ray Tech and How to Get Started

Posted By:   Posted On: September 16th, 2020

X-ray technicians are a type of radiologic technician, specializing in using equipment to take diagnostic imaging of patients. They take care of patients, educate them about their medical procedures, maintain and operate equipment, and work with physicians and medical providers to read results and determine a suitable course of treatment. Some X-ray techs might also cross-train and be responsible for taking CT scans and MRIs in addition to X-rays. Read on to learn about becoming an X-ray technician and the benefits of being an X-ray tech.

What are X-Rays and How are They Used?

X-rays, a form of radiation called electromagnetic waves, are the most common imaging test and are widely available. They are usually the first body scan a patient will receive and show parts of the body in shades of black and white. The x-rays display in black and white shades because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation. The most well-known use of X-rays is checking for fractures, but they are also used to diagnose and assess disease or bone degeneration, dislocations, tumors, and infections.

Image by hkgoldstein0 from Pixabay

What Do X-Ray Techs Do?

As an x-ray technician, you’ll work closely with patients while performing radiographic procedures. You’ll help explain procedures to patients, adjust the equipment, and position the patient. X-ray technicians often have to maneuver patients and stand on their feet for long periods. Unlike other technicians, radiologic technicians must protect themselves by minimizing their exposure to the radiation emitted by x-ray machines.

Many x-ray technicians work full-time, and sometimes over the evening and weekend to accommodate patients. X-ray techs are needed in various medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, diagnostic labs, and urgent care centers. However, more than half of X-ray technicians work in hospitals. Depending on where you work, you may be asked to work holidays, weekends, or overnight. With a variety of places to work at, there are many options for X-ray techs to work in a facility that meets their scheduling needs, interests, and specialties.

Job Requirements & Skills

As an X-ray technologist, you’ll need to be comfortable working with and operating specialized equipment that will be covered in a high-quality training program. X-ray techs also need soft skills such as working well with others, both as a team and as someone who interacts with patients daily. Communication skills are an essential skill when interacting with patients as they may be dealing with pain, and being able to speak to them with empathy and care will go a long way. Some technical skills you’ll need as an X-ray tech are vital signs measurement, CPR, radiology, injections, radiation protection, and of course, X-ray imaging.

Education and Certification Requirements

X-ray technicians typically have an associate’s degree in radiologic technology. In this program, you’ll learn the techniques for performing x-rays and safety procedures for ensuring patients are protected from exposure to excessive radiation. You’ll also learn how to adjust the equipment to ensure quality images are obtained. Some of the courses you might take include x-ray positioning, radiation exposure, medical terminology, radiographic physics, etc.

Most states require x-ray technicians to be licensed; the requirements generally include graduating from an accredited training program and certification from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The ARRT requires passage of a 4-hour, 200-question certification exam. Some states may require passage of a state-administered exam, and you should check with your state’s health board to find out the necessary steps to acquire a license. Your degree program will also include clinical training, working at medical facilities under the supervision of experienced X-ray medical technicians, to receive hands-on training. As you gain experience, you’ll work directly with patients and apply your education in a real-world environment.

As a licensed X-ray tech, you must maintain your license and certification through continuing education requirements. If you want to further your career, you can choose to get certified in a radiologic technology specialty, such as computed tomography and mammography. These certificates allow you to find employment in specialties involving the use of advanced x-ray technology.

X-Ray technician reviewing results
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Salaries

Radiologic technicians are an important part of healthcare and can expect to earn a good salary as they are in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for x-ray technicians in 2017 was $58,440. If you are employed at a hospital or with the federal government, you can expect to earn a slightly higher salary.

Benefits

As an X-ray technician, you’ll work in a fast-paced environment, so if you don’t like monotony and like to keep busy, then this could be a good field for you. The training program is also relatively short, typically requiring only an associate’s degree and licensing, though you can increase your job prospects by obtaining specialty certification. Obtaining certifications in multiple specialties can open up employment opportunities and allows you to work with other imaging modalities.

The job growth rate is nearly twice the average for all occupations, at around 21 percent growth through 2022, which is an enticing statistic for anyone looking to become an X-ray tech. As X-ray technicians are most commonly employed in hospitals, you’re likely to have access to employee benefits, including sick pay, paid vacation, holidays, and retirement plans.

How to Apply for X-Ray Tech Positions

At Desert Medical Careers, we have years of experience placing individuals in medical positions that suit their needs. We help review your resume to ensure it matches what employers are looking for so that you can land your ideal X-ray technician job.

If you’d like to be placed in an X-ray Technician position, contact Desert Medical Careers at (602) 468-6300 or fill out the form below to get contacted by a DMC expert.

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