X-ray Technician Career Guide
If you are interested in a career as an xray technician, there are many factors to consider before choosing this healthcare career. The following information will give you a detailed look at the profession’s history, any necessary training and academic requirements to enter into this profession, along with a look at some of the schools where you can get the education needed.
We will also provide information on what the salary standards are for the profession across the country. Find out which industries employ the largest number of technicians, along with what states have the highest concentrations of clinicians and how much you can expect to earn in each state.
Basically, if becoming an xray tech is of interest to you, all the necessary information can be found on this blog. Hopefully, it can help you in making an informed decision about whether this is the right career choice for you.
Before diving into what this profession entails, we need to begin with a basic understanding of what an x-ray is. To put it simply, x-rays are simply part of the electromagnetic spectrum, along with radio waves and light. What a medical x-ray image shows us is just how much the rays are penetrating through different types of matter.
When viewing an x-ray, the bones appear lighter as the calcium in bones provides the highest levels of absorption in the body. Other types of matter, such as skin or fat, have lower levels of absorption causing them to appear darker or grayish.
So who discovered this remarkable technology? German scientist, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen first discovered x-rays in 1895. Conrad actually stumbled upon this discovery by accident. However, he did take the very first x-ray photograph, taking an x-ray of his wife’s hand.
Eventually, in 1895 the discovery of x-rays lead to the development of the x-ray tube by William Coolidge. This enhancement helped further the new medical field of radiology as well. This went on to become to primary procedure used to determine the severity of fractured bones, and identifying foreign objects or growths in the body.
By 1975, Robert Ledley further progressed the field with the invention of the CAT scan. X-rays were limited in that they only provided a 2-dimensional image. CAT scans, on the other hand, provide 3-dimensional images of the body in 3-5 mm slices. Using both technologies, a doctor will be able to determine not only the location of a tumor, but also the depth of the tumor’s progression throughout the organs or tissue.
X-ray Tech Requirements and Prerequisites
So what are the basic x-ray technician requirements? Well, let’s get into the basics needed in order to be eligible for the typical educational programs that are available throughout the country. Luckily, there are very few requirements to qualify for these programs. Most x ray technician programs only require a high school diploma or GED for acceptance.
Of course you will still need some sort of background in math and science to be able to complete a program as many of the courses that are standard requirements for most x ray tech programs are math and science based. You can expect heavy doses of math, chemistry, biology and physics classes. Some schools do have entrance exams that require applicants to score a minimum score for entry. There are some schools that will also require some work experience in the medical or health care industries or a course involving medical assistance in order to gain entry into the program.
X ray Technician Certification and Licensure
An X ray tech degree or certification is required in order to work. Most states require that technicians complete a nationally accredited training program, in addition to passing a state licensing examination.
Employers will also look for technicians to get certification from the ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists). While this is not required, the majority of potential employers prefer to hire those who get this voluntary certification.
It should be noted that the requirements are scheduled to change in 2015. The AART is going to require that candidates hold an Associate of Science degree or higher. Graduates who complete their certification before January 1, 2015 can avoid the new requirement.
X-ray Technician Schools and Education
You can expect to learn a lot more than how to take an x-ray while attending x-ray tech school. Most programs will have a focus on the following:
- Medical terminology
- Patient care procedure
- Medical ethics
X ray tech schools also provide education on other diagnostic imaging technologies in addition to x-rays, such as CT scans (Computerized Tomography), MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and Cardiovascular and Diagnostic Medical Sonography. X ray technician school programs will also include teaching on administering non-radioactive materials for diagnostics.
The only thing to make sure is that the school is approved by the AART and accredited by them as well. As long as they are, the school should be more than adequate in preparing you for successful passing of the licensing exam. One thing to consider though is financing for the school you choose to attend.
The first thing you should do is come up with a budget for whatever school you decide to attend. You should also take the necessary steps to qualify for any student loans or grants. It will be much easier deciding on a school once you have a better idea of your financial situation.
If you are looking to save some money, you can consider attending a community college to complete a portion of your coursework. You can complete your education at a state college or university program after completing your prerequisites at a community college. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars as opposed to starting at a four year university.
Up until just a few years ago, just about all xray techs worked in a hospital. Nowadays, other institutions and private practitioners and outpatient centers are providing imaging services. As a result, more than one third of techs can be found working in diagnostic centers and private physician’s offices.
While most technicians do work on a full time basis, shifts are likely to include evenings, weekends and even holidays as facilities tend to provide round-the-clock care for patients. Those working in private offices or outpatient centers will likely work more regular hours.
It should also be noted that imaging machines may emit small levels of radiation. Exposure risks need to be minimized by following the proper safety procedures, using protective clothing and shielding whenever necessary.
X-ray Tech Salary
If you are wondering how much does an x ray tech make, you should know it is actually one of the lowest earning professions in this particular field. An x-ray technician salary can range from an average of $40000 to $60000 annually. Most technicians will start at this salary range for an amount of time before getting to a higher salary range with some further education.
In order to reach a higher earning potential, most techs will aspire to become a Radiologic Technician. These technicians are required to have at least an Associate’s Degree in Science of Applied Science (AS or AAS) with experience in CT, MRI, Mammography, Echocardiography and Vascular Technology. You can expect a salary of $60000 to $10000 as a Radiologic Tech.
If you are interested in an even higher salary range, you can aspire to become a radiologic technologist. While requiring a Bachelor’s degree in Science, you can expect to earn over $100000 annually. Radiologic technologists can specialize in a number of fields, including:
- Diagnostic radiography
- CT (Computed Tomography)
- MRI (Megnetic Resonance Imaging)
- Nuclear Medicine
As published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying industries for x ray tech jobs are as follows:
- Medical and diagnostic labs
- Federal executive branch
- Surgical and general medical hospitals
- Outpatient care centers
- Private practitioner’s offices
Salaries will also vary by state. The five states with the highest x ray tech salary are listed below in ascending order:
- California – $61000
- Washington DC – $64000
- Massachusetts – $65000
- New York – $66000
- Mississippi – $68000
Future Salary Potential
When it comes to future earning potential, it should be noted that increasing your earnings will come down to additional training and experience within the different modalities available. Getting the education necessary to master additional technologies such as CT scans, MRI’s, and Radiography is vital.
X-ray tech jobs are expected to increase by over 25% by 2020. This is considered to be higher than average in comparison to other occupations.
There is a high demand for these x ray technicians at the moment, and the outlook is good headed into the near future as well. The high demand in addition to high earning potentials can provide a good lifestyle no matter where you end up working. X ray techs have a challenging and interesting profession that is likely to provide a lucrative career. If you are ready for the challenges this career choice will entail, then finding out more about training programs and enrolling in a school may be right for you. Find a school near you!