- X-ray tech schools are institutions that provide credentials to individuals who want to specialize in X-ray imaging.
- X-ray technicians, also called X-ray technologists, are radiologic technicians who operate X-ray machines to capture medical imaging.
- Radiologic technicians and radiologic technologists both operate medical equipment. However, the two allied health professions have different educational requirements and responsibilities.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technicians have an annual mean wage of $63,120 as of May 2019(1).
X-ray Technician DegreesStudents aspiring to become X-ray technicians can choose to have either a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a diploma. X-ray technicians can enter the medical field with an associate degree. However, most X-ray technicians choose to earn a bachelor’s degree before they begin their practice.
Associate’s DegreeAn associate’s degree program for X-ray technicians usually takes two years to complete. The program includes 60 credit hours of study. Under the program, students learn about medical terminology, radiologic advanced imaging modalities, patient care, physics, and pathology. X-ray technicians with an associate’s degree may practice at entry-level jobs in the field.
Bachelor’s DegreeA bachelor’s degree program usually includes four years of study. Some institutions offer two-year bachelor’s degree programs, but an associate’s degree or certification may be required. Coursework for the program includes practical exercises, clinical experience, and classroom lectures. Under the program, students have math and science courses. More specific areas of study include radiographic imaging, research in radiologic science, human anatomy, algebra, professional communication, and clinical studies.
Diplomas or CertificatesStudents can complete X-ray technician diploma programs in a year or less. The program is for individuals interested in completing a post-secondary education but do not have the time to commit to a full degree program. Under the program, students learn radiation biology and protection, basic imaging physics, medical laboratory procedures, image production, and image evaluation. Diploma programs usually require students to complete externship programs before they graduate. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is the credentialing organization that qualifies individuals in medical imaging and radiation therapy. Students have to pass the ARRT exam before they receive a certification to be an X-ray technician.
X-ray Tech Schools and Accredited ProgramsStudents must complete an accredited program to qualify for the ARRT exam. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) is a credentialing association that provides ARRT-certified continuing education credits. ARRT provides a list of approved community colleges, health institutes, and universities that offer accredited programs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is another organization that awards accreditation to colleges and universities offering medical imaging technology programs. Aside from CHEA, the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) also accredits traditional and remote programs in magnetic resonance, radiography, radiation therapy, and medical dosimetry. JCERT compiles the program effectiveness data of its accredited programs. Program effectiveness data includes job placement rate, credentialing examination pass rate, and program completion rate.
Accredited Traditional Programs for Radiologic Technicians
Avila University (www.avila.edu)
Los Angeles City College (www.lacitycollege.edu)
Mesa College (www.sdmesacollege.edu)
Foothill College (www.foothill.edu.com)
University of Missouri-Columbia (www.healthprofessions.missouri.edu)
Accredited Hybrid Programs for Radiologic Technicians
Morehead State University (www.moreheadstate.edu)
Clarion University (www.clarion.edu)
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (www.uwlax.edu)
Weber State University (www.weber.edu)
How Does One Become an X-ray Technician?To be an X-ray technician, individuals must complete an accredited X-ray technology degree program. Completing the program also qualifies students for the ARRT exam. Students taking an associate’s degree in radiologic technology can choose to take an associate of science degree or an associate of applied science degree. The program is the entry-level degree offered to high school graduates or individuals with no prior training to begin a career in the field of radiologic technology. Many graduates opt to pursue ARRT certification because most employers prefer hiring technicians who are certified. The ARRT exam takes 4 hours to complete and has 220 questions. After passing the exam, students can also obtain a license before they enter the field. Licensed X-ray technicians can work full time in medical facilities like hospitals, physician’s offices, imaging centers, and rehabilitation centers.
Educational RequirementsAn associate’s degree program for X-ray technicians typically requires applicants to have earned a high school diploma or a graduate equivalency degree. Applicants must also submit a transcript of record as an education requirement. Some institutions have a minimum GPA requirement for applicants. A bachelor’s degree program requires applicants to have a high school or college transcripts. Significant background in math and science courses are also required. Some schools require applicants to have a 2.5 GPA or higher to qualify for the programs. Some institutions also require letters of recommendation that outline the applicant’s experience in the field. For a diploma or a certificate program, some institutions require applicants to submit all relevant transcripts from high school or post-secondary education. A GED may also be accepted. The difficulty level of X-ray tech schools vary depending on the institution and the educational pathway taken. The following are some of the topics that students focus on while in an X-ray tech school:
- Know the 206 bones in the body and its landmarks
- Learn how X-rays are produced and X-rays interact with matter
- Inverse square law
- X-ray tube components
- X-ray circuit
- Radiation protection
- Radiation biology
- Digital radiography
- Proper patient position for X-ray exams
- Healthcare law and ethics
- Patient’s vital signs
How Long Does It Take To Become an X-ray Technician?The duration of the programs for X-ray technicians varies depending on the student’s career path. A diploma or a certificate program takes approximately one year to finish. On the other hand, a program for an associate’s degree takes two years to complete. A bachelor’s degree program for X-ray technicians takes four years to complete. Some institutions offer two-year programs, but an associate’s degree or a diploma may be required. After earning a degree, students can choose to obtain certification from ARRT and a license. Doing so will take them more time before they can enter the field.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an X-ray Technician?The University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers a two-year Certificate in Radiology program. Students under the program have to complete 73 credits of coursework before they receive certificates. Students under the radiography program have to pay a tuition of $17,900, or $272 per credit. The amount does not cover miscellaneous fees(2). The Ivy Tech College in Indianapolis provides an imaging sciences associate’s degree. The university offers the program to Indiana residents for $149.55 per credit hour. Students not from Indiana have to pay a tuition fee of $292.57 per credit hour(3). The State University of New York Upstate Medical University offers a two-year bachelor’s degree in medical imaging. The program costs $17,000 for in-state tuition and $41,600 for non-resident tuition(4). Students of The University of Hartford pay an annual tuition fee of $36,088 for a four-year bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology(5). Aside from tuition, students also have to pay for student housing, dining, and other miscellaneous fees.
Technicians vs TechnologistsAn x-ray technician is a radiologic technician who operates an X-ray machine to capture an image inside the body. X-ray technicians, or X-ray technologists, perform X-ray procedures to help physicians diagnose various health issues. X-ray technicians are not qualified to interpret X-ray images. They only perform the procedure, help position patients during the procedure, and provide the medical images needed by the referring doctor.
Radiologic Technicians vs. Radiologic TechnologistsSome people confuse radiology technicians with radiology technologists. Although both health science professions work with radiologic imaging, they have different educational requirements and job responsibilities.
Career Opportunities for X-ray TechniciansX-ray technicians with certification from the ARRT can enter the field as a medical assistant. After finishing radiology school, X-ray technicians can obtain certification to specialize in other types of diagnostic equipment, like CT or MRI machines. Aside from becoming medical imaging technicians, X-ray technicians can also teach at a community college, become sales representatives for a radiologic equipment manufacturer, or serve as a department director upon promotion.
Salary of an X-ray TechnicianThe average annual wages of radiologic technicians vary by employer and by state. According to 2019 data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technicians have an annual mean wage of $63,120(6). Most of the highest-paid radiologic technicians are based in California, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. The amount can be attributed to the low number of medical professionals in the states(7). Most radiation technicians are stationed in hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician offices, and laboratories. Radiologic technicians in outpatient care centers earn the highest wage, with annual average pay of $69,140. In hospitals, technicians have an annual average wage of $63,870(8). Upon passing ARRT’s certification exam, X-ray technicians can also work as CT or MRI technicians. According to BLS, an MRI technician has a median annual salary of $73,410 as of May 2019(9).
ConclusionX-ray tech schools are institutions that offer educational programs to individuals who want to specialize in X-ray imaging. X-ray technicians are radiologic technicians who operate X-ray machines to form medical images. They do not interpret the medical images; they only facilitate the procedure. Radiologic technicians should not be confused with radiologic technologists. The two professions have different educational requirements and responsibilities.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Tuition Estimator. Retrieved from https://tuition.cashiering.unlv.edu/Home/Calculate
- Ivy Tech Community College. Tuition & Fees. Retrieved from https://www.ivytech.edu/tuition/
- Upstate Medical University. College of Health Professions. Retrieved from https://www.upstate.edu/chp/cost.php
- The University of Hartford. Tuition and Fees. Retrieved from https://catalog.hartford.edu/content.php?catoid=19&navoid=1789#Fall_and_Spring_Terms
- BLS. Occupational Employment Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
- BLS. Radiologic and MRI Technologists. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm#:~:text=%2439%2C810-,The%20median%20annual%20wage%20for%20magnetic%20resonance%20imaging%20technologists%20was,percent%20earned%20more%20than%20%24101%2C580.