X-Ray Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of an x-ray technician career? Get real job description, job prospects and salary info to see if becoming an x-ray technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an X-Ray Technician Career

X-ray technicians, also known as radiologic technicians or radiographers, use technology to create images for diagnostic purposes. You will need to consider the pros and cons to see if becoming an x-ray technician is the right career move for you.

Pros of an X-Ray Technician Career
High growth field (21% increase through 2022)*
Employment opportunities in large hospitals or small practices*
You can pursue this career with only two years of study*
Specialization options (computer tomography, MRI and x-ray equipment)*

Cons of an X-Ray Technician Career
Licensure required in most states*
Risk of radiation exposure*
Many hours spent standing*
Possible evening, weekend or on-call hours*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

X-ray technicians are responsible for all steps of an x-ray procedure, from preparing the patient to maintaining the equipment. Most x-rays are taken in a room designed for the purpose, but some procedures are performed bedside. You would spend a lot of time on your feet and sometimes need to help lift or arrange patients. The risks of radiation are controlled by your use of protective equipment, so you need to be detail-oriented and exacting in following safety protocol.

Job Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 21% increase in employment for radiologic technologists between 2012 and 2022. This may be due to an aging population that will require more diagnostic imaging services. There may be more job opportunities in doctor's offices and specific diagnostic imaging centers in contrast to the traditional hospital environment, though hospitals remain the primary employer. The BLS reported in May 2014 that radiologic technologists made a median annual wage of $55,870.

Training and Licensure Requirements

Most x-ray technicians complete a 2-year associate's degree program, though certificate and bachelor's degree programs are available. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits these types of programs. An associate's degree program typically includes courses in anatomy, patient care, radiologic physics and radiographic procedures, as well as clinical practicums. You will learn how to safely and effectively produce x-rays, as well as how to competently and conscientiously deal with patients.


Though you must have a certain level of training to work as an x-ray technician, the requirements for licensure vary by state. Some states require the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exam for licensure, while other states have their own test or education requirements. Check with your state's board of health for specific rules and regulations.

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers will want to make sure that you're licensed as necessary for the state in which you work, and many prefer to hire candidates with at least one year of experience. Check out these summaries of job postings open in March 2012 to see what employers are looking for:

  • A private practice in New York was looking to hire a radiology technician with ARRT registration and one year of radiology and customer service experience.
  • A medical equipment and clinical studies company in Indiana wanted a radiologic technologist who was a graduate of a 2-year JRCERT-accredited program, ARRT registered and had five years of clinical experience.
  • A hospital in Maryland was looking for a radiologic technologist with CPR and ARRT certification, an associate's degree in radiologic technology and six months of experience.

How to Stand out in the Field

Get Certified

If the state in which you work doesn't require the ARRT certification for licensure, you may still want to seek the designation in order to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. In order to be eligible to take the certification exam, you must have completed an accredited training program and met ARRT's didactic and clinical meeting competency requirements and completing 24 hours of continuing education coursework.

Expand your Skill Set

While x-ray technicians work only with x-ray technology, radiologic technology can also refer to a family of techniques used for diagnostic imaging purposes. Computed topography, fluoroscopy, mammography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are all types of radiologic imaging technology in which you could further train. You may be a more desirable candidate if you are able to perform different kinds of procedures.

Alternative Careers

If you'd like to work creating diagnostic images but aren't sure about the potential radiation risk, you could consider becoming a sonographer. Sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to gather data to create an image of a patient's body. Diagnostic medical sonographers usually attend a 2-year training program and don't need to be licensed. You could earn a significantly higher salary as diagnostic medical sonographer, which was median annual wage of $65,000, according to the BLS in 2011.

If you're interested in working with radiation technology but you want to help treat cancer, you might be interested in a career as a radiation therapist. Radiation therapists, in conjunction with an oncology team, use x-rays to locate and treat cancerous tumors. You need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in radiation therapy, and you may need to get licensed, depending on your state. The BLS reported in May 2011 that radiation therapists earned a median annual wage of $76,000.

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