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Limited X-Ray License and Certification Information

Many states require at least a limited scope x-ray license in order to work as a radiographer. A limited license allows a professional to image just a certain area of the body. While licensing requirements vary by state, the majority call for the applicant to pass the appropriate certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Many career colleges offer certificates or associate's degree programs to prepare candidates for the test.

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Limited X-Ray License

Depending on the permit, obtaining licenses will allow technicians to practice various aspects of radiography such as fluoroscopy, computed tomography (CT), mammography, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Steps to obtain a license for each specialty differ, so the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends that those seeking a limited scope x-ray license contact their state's health board to get the specifics (www.bls.gov).

License vs. Certification

Limited x-ray licenses and license renewals are actually issued by states. While certification isn't necessarily required to practice radiography, ARRT issues exams for 37 states requiring passage of the test for licensing, as of October 2013 (www.arrt.org). However, ARRT does not guarantee certification to a person who has successfully passed one of its exams because the state licensing process is separate. In other words, one may obtain a state license by passing an ARRT test, but that doesn't automatically constitute certification.

States that Do Not Require Licenses

While a handful of states do not require a limited license to operate x-ray equipment, some of them have stipulations that must be met. These may include requiring passage of an ARRT exam for mammography or successfully completing coursework from an approved institution related to a specific area of the body.

Certification Information

According to ARRT, the process to earn initial certification and become a registered technologist is comprised of three elements: completing education and coursework from an ARRT-approved institution, adhering to ARRT Standards of Ethics and passing the certification exam. Once certification has been attained, registration is required each year, which entails continued compliance with the organization's rules and ethics, as well as the completion of continuing education requirements (www.arrt.org).

Education Requirements

Many career colleges, especially those that specialize in health care training, offer the chance to earn a certificate or Associate of Applied Science degree in Radiologic Technology. These programs typically take between 18 and 24 months to complete and include clinical hours that provide students with hands-on training in a variety of medical environments. Bachelor's degrees are also possible. Coursework in these programs will cover:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • X-ray development and imaging
  • Safety procedures
  • Body positioning
  • Medical terminology


In order to obtain certification through ARRT, applicants must meet the group's thorough ethical standards. Those who have more than six months of training left or who are not in an ARRT-approved education program must fill out a pre-application. All applicants must answer standard questions including whether they had incurred any infractions, suspensions or expulsions from their educational programs.


All of those who take the ARRT certification exam must answer the first hundred questions that cover radiation protection, equipment operation and quality control, image production and evaluation, patient care and education. Then test takers chose between the various modules with questions focusing on the chest, extremities, skull/sinuses, spine and feet.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 21% employment growth, from 2012-2022, for radiologic technologists, including x-ray technicians. In 2013, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $55,200 for radiologic technologists in general. At that time, the top-paying states included Massachusetts, California, Alaska, District of Columbia and Rhode Island.

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