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RadiologyTechnician Schools and Training Programs (X-Ray Technicians)

After doctors and nurses, radiographers are the next-largest category of health care professionals, according to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Because of the expanding use of radiologic technology in the diagnosis and treatment of medical illness and injury, the need for trained x-ray techs is expected to increase. If you're good at working both with people and with high-tech equipment, you could look into this in-demand career.

What Does an X-Ray Tech Do?

Radiographers, also referred to as x-ray technicians or x-ray technologists, conduct imaging procedures to aid physicians in diagnosing medical problems. During setup for an exam, an x-ray tech pays special attention to the positioning of the patient's body and the radiographic equipment to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation. X-ray techs can set limits on density, detail and contrast to produce the appropriate images. In addition to preparing patients and equipment for imaging procedures, radiographers may also manage patient records and be involved in the maintenance of equipment.

Radiography Specializations

As a radiologic technologist, you might choose a specialty like radiation therapy, bone densitometry or mammography. Another emphasis is computed tomography, CT, using cross-sectional x-rays to produce a three-dimensional image. CT involves ionizing radiation and requires special precautions. Other radiologic technologists specialize in magnetic resonance imaging, taking MRIs to produce 3D images. X-ray technologists typically are qualified to perform more complex procedures than x-ray technicians.

Training for X-Ray Tech Careers

You can choose among different paths to enter the radiologic profession, but an associate degree is most common, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2011). Certificate programs often last 6 to 12 months. Although not as prevalent, bachelor's degree programs are also available in the field. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology is the accrediting body a school must be aligned with for graduates to earn a license in most states.

Content for the various programs is similar and contains both classroom and clinical components, with courses such as these:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Patient care procedures
  • Pathology
  • Radiation protection
  • Radiobiology

Specialists may have additional training; for example, the Department of Labor estimated that in 2010, 49 percent of nuclear medicine technologists had an associate degree, while 21 percent held a bachelor's and 12 percent a master's degree.

Licensing for Radiologic Techs

In addition to education, most states require licensure in order to protect the public from the dangers of unnecessary radiation exposure. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, ARRT, offers certification for candidates who have completed approved programs and an exam. To maintain licensure, radiologic techs must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years. ARRT also has certifications in specialized areas such as nuclear medicine technology, CT or MRI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) notes that many employers seek technicians who are certified in the field.

Employment Prospects for Radiographers

As the number of elderly persons increases, so does the demand for radiologic diagnostic procedures to help in the treatment of medical illness and injury. Also, the rapid advancement of medical technology has helped to spur growth in the field of radiography.

The median annual wage for radiologic technologists and technicians was $54,340, per bls.gov data for May 2010. More than half of these professionals work in hospitals, with the rest in doctors' offices, labs or outpatient care centers. Those working in medical and diagnostic laboratories generally earn higher wages than those in physicians' offices.

Employment for radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to increase faster than the average for other occupations; the bls.gov projects 17 percent growth over the 2008-2018 decade. X-ray techs with expertise in multiple diagnostic imaging procedures -- such as CT or MRIs or mammography -- should find the best opportunities.

See our featured x-ray tech and radiographer schools below to find out how to prepare for a career in the fast-growing health care field.

Additional Resources For Individuals Seeking X-Ray Technician Degrees:
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

Campus and Online X-Ray Tech and Radiographer Schools

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