X-Ray Technician Degree and Diploma Program Information
Discover degree programs for the aspiring x-ray technician. Read about educational prerequisites, program coursework and employment outlook statistics here.
X-ray technicians, also known as radiologic technicians, produce x-ray images of different parts of the body. They introduce non-radioactive substances into the bloodstream of patients to aid in the diagnosis of specific conditions. Associate's and bachelor's radiologic technology degree programs are designed to prepare students to work as x-ray technicians. They teach how to develop radiographic films and to position patients for x-rays. Graduates may consider pursuing voluntary certification.
Entry-level diploma programs that include coursework in x-ray are also available. These programs are often combined with a medial assisting curriculum and prepare students for x-ray machine operator positions.
X-Ray Technician Diploma
Diploma programs in x-ray technology are often combined with medical assisting programs. Students take courses that cover x-ray procedures, clerical tasks and basic lab work. The program can be completed in 1-2 years, depending on the school, and includes a combination of classroom lectures, labs and clinical experiences. Some schools offer a portion of the coursework online. Applicants to this program must a have a high school diploma or GED.
Courses in an x-ray technician diploma program cover both clinical and administrative skills. The curriculum often includes several opportunities for hands-on training. Common course topics include:
- X-ray positioning techniques
- Patient care procedures
- Anatomy and physiology
- Radiation protection
- Image production
- Radiographic procedures
Graduates of x-ray technician programs are prepared for entry-level positions operating x-ray equipment in a variety of medical settings, though state licensure may be needed for some jobs. Those who complete programs that include medical assisting coursework can also seek jobs as medical assistants, medical receptionists or health plan coordinators. Some places where an x-ray technician can seek employment include:
- Doctor's office
- Outpatient care centers
Associate Degree in Radiologic Technology
A 2-year associate's degree in radiologic technology is the most common degree held by professional x-ray technicians. For students with no prior experience working with x-rays, an associate's degree program provides them with the minimum amount of training required to work as entry-level x-ray technicians. Students take a combination of courses in the natural sciences, anatomy and physiology that prepare them for training in patient care and the proper operation of radiology equipment. Some states require x-ray technicians to be licensed. As such, several programs include courses to prepare graduates for state licensing exams.
Although no prior experience with x-ray technology is necessary to enter an associate's degree program in radiology or radiologic technology, most schools require a high school diploma or GED. Many programs prefer a strong background in the natural sciences, though this is not strictly required. Most associate's degree programs also include a handful of general education courses in writing, math and the social sciences.
The first year of an associate degree program in radiologic technology covers the natural sciences, math, anatomy and physiology, in addition to general education requirements. Much of the work specific to training x-ray technicians takes place during the second year of the program. Students should expect to take courses like:
- Patient care procedures
- Radiation physics
- Radiation protection
- Medical terminology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), x-ray technicians (also called radiologic technologists) were expected to be in demand from 2012-2022 as radiation technology advances and becomes increasingly sophisticated. X-ray technicians can work in hospitals, for sports teams and in private clinics. The mean annual salary of radiologic technologists was $56,760 in 2013.
Bachelor's Degree in Radiologic Technology
A Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology or Radiology program not only trains students to work as x-ray technicians but also prepares them for supervisory and teaching positions at hospitals, medical schools, clinics and physical therapy centers. In fact, many students in bachelor's degree programs have already completed associate's degree programs and are returning to school to train for management positions in their departments.
Although students can apply directly to bachelor's degree programs, many programs require students to have associate's degrees in radiography. Additionally, many schools prefer that bachelor's degree candidates have some professional experience as x-ray technicians, though this is seldom required. Students applying directly to bachelor's degree programs from high school should have a high school diploma or GED. Although most programs do not require standardized test scores, students are expected to have a background in science, math and social sciences.
Courses in bachelor's degree programs in radiologic technology include:
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Chest radiology
- Breast imaging
- Health care management
Because bachelor's degree programs cover a wide-range of areas of interest to the professional radiologist, it gives potential technicians the ability to specialize in specific areas of radiology. Their backgrounds also make them well-suited for management positions and supervisory roles.
Unlike other fields, certification programs in radiography are meant for students with experience as x-ray technicians. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers voluntary certification for x-ray technicians. Many hospitals and private clinics offer internal training and ARRT-approved certification programs for their technicians. Although ARRT certification is not required by law, it may be required by employers. Employees are usually required to take these certification exams within a certain amount of time after they are hired.
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