How to Become a Certified X-Ray Technician
Research the requirements to become a certified X-ray technician. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in radiologic technology.
Do I Want to Be a Certified X-Ray Technician?
These technicians generate X-rays, radiographic films or digital images of certain body parts, such as the arms, legs and chest. After a technician has taken these films or images, a radiologist reads them to diagnose a patient's medical condition. Precautions must be taken to ensure technicians' and patients' safety when working with radiation.
Individuals interested in this growing field need an associate's degree, as well as state licensure, to gain employment. They also can earn voluntary certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The following table shows requirements common to becoming a certified X-ray technician:
|Licensure and/or Certification||Licensure or certification required in most states*|
|Experience||None (entry level)*|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal communication*, mathematics*, and science*|
|Computer Skills||Medical software**, patient database software**|
|Technical Skills||Operation and maintenance of imaging equipment*|
|Additional Requirements||Stamina and strength to stand on feet for long periods and assist patients in moving into proper position*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online
Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Program
Those who plan to seek certification should complete X-ray technician training through a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) or another accrediting agency approved by ARRT. X-ray technician programs are available at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels, although an associate's degree is most common among technicians. On all levels, coursework typically consists of classroom and laboratory instruction. It covers anatomy, medical terminology, patient positioning, radiation protection, infection control and radiation pathology.
- Maximize hands-on experience during your certificate or degree program. Some colleges offer externships at hospitals or imaging centers as part of the radiographic technology program.
Step 2: Get Certified
After completion of an X-ray technician program, graduates can pursue certification through ARRT, which awards the Registered Technologist (RT) credential. Although the process is often optional for employment, many employers prefer hiring technicians who are certified. Further, some states require certification as a step to licensure. To be eligible for certification, applicants must graduate from an accredited program and pass a written exam. This 4-hour test contains 220 multiple-choice questions and is scored on a pass/fail basis.
- Meet biennial recertification process. ARRT requires individuals to complete 24 continuing education credits or pass an examination every two years in order to maintain certification. This requirement offers assurance that the individual is up to date on radiological technology and shows a commitment to expertise in the profession.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
Most states require X-ray technicians to attain licensure before applying for employment. Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan and Nevada regulate mammography - X-ray imaging of the breast - separately. Licensure requirements vary by state, with licensure periods in most states ranging from 1-4 years. Eleven states have no laws about licensure of X-ray technicians, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. As of 2012, all states that require licensure accept ARRT exams for licensure purposes. Several states also provide for alternatives, such as a state-specific exam or the American Registry of Clinical Radiography Technologists exam.
Step 4: Gain Employment
Licensed X-ray technicians typically work a 40-hour week in such facilities as hospitals, physicians' offices, imaging centers and rehabilitation centers. Technicians also might work for an agency that will send them to multiple different medical facilities to generate X-rays.
Step 5: Consider Advancement Options
Experienced, certified X-ray technicians may obtain additional certification from ARRT to become a radiologist assistant or to specialize in a type of diagnostic equipment, such as a CT scanner or MRI machine. A technician also can advance his or her career by teaching at a community college, becoming a sales representative for a radiologic equipment manufacturer or being promoted to department director.
- Explore additional education for career advancement. Some facilities may require an individual to possess a master's degree in health care administration before applying for a director's position.
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