What is an X-ray technician?

X-ray technicians are medical workers who perform X-ray tests. These professionals are part of a larger technical group called radiologic technicians. Workers perform different types of imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mammography, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011.


What education is needed to become an X-ray technician?

The most prevalent credential for these healthcare professionals is an associate’s degree. This type of degree focuses on subjects like science, math, chemistry and biology, and typically includes classroom and clinical instruction. Schools that offer X-ray technician training are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. According to the BLS, there are about 397 associate’s degree programs that cover topics from radiation physics to medical ethics.

Most states require radiologic technicians to be licensed before practicing; however each state has different requirements and testing protocols. Federal legislation does require operators of equipment that emits radiation to be properly trained, as improper use can expose people to hazardous radiation.

Technicians can earn additional credentials in order to advance in their careers. Specialists may conduct CT scans or become a radiologist assistant. Other specializations may require extra certification as well.


What kinds of jobs are available for radiologic technicians?

While many radiologic technician positions are similar, students can specialize in a certain type of imaging. Some become CT technologists, focusing on taking and interpreting the cross-sectional X-rays that these scans produce. Others may concentrate on mammography, using low-dose X-ray systems to take imagery of breasts to check for complications and cancer.

There are also related fields that radiologic technicians can enter with additional training, including cardiovascular technology, nuclear medicine and diagnostic medicine.


What is the average salary for a radiologic technician?

Average wages for those with X-ray technician training was approximately $52,210 in 2008, though pay rates may differ between the different types of positions in the field. Technicians who work in physicians’ offices saw the lowest median income of $48,530 annually, while those working in diagnostic laboratories earned an average of $55,210, according to the BLS. Some professionals in the top 10 percent earned more than $74,000 per year.


What do career prospects for X-ray technicians look like?

The BLS estimates a 17 percent increase in the number of jobs for radiologic technicians by 2018. These prospects look best for those with training in more than one type of diagnostic imaging procedure, though technicians who specialize in CT scans will see the best career options, as this form of diagnosis is becoming the most popular for its accuracy. Hospitals will remain the top employer of X-ray technicians.


What are the benefits of going into a career in radiography?

This is an excellent field for technologically inclined students who are interested in medicine. Radiologic technicians help others through their mechanical, rather than medical, knowledge. Many professionals in this field have rewarding, lasting careers in healthcare. Technicians generally work full time, and may work weekend, evening or on-call shifts. However, some work part time for multiple employers. The majority of these positions are based in a diagnostic lab, though some staff may have to bring equipment to patient rooms, or even travel to off-site locations in vans equipped with X-ray machines.

Radiation risks are minimal in this field, despite working with technology that utilizes it. Technicians use lead gloves, aprons and other shielding devices to protect themselves when working, and also wear radiation meters that constantly measure levels for safety.



*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov