Imaging technologies are advancing fast, putting the career of an x ray technician front and center of innovation. In today's job market, the search for a career that offers work/life balance, low stress levels, career advancement opportunities, and a higher earning salary, are at the top of the list for the most driven employees. So how does one become an x ray technician, and how much is an x ray technician salary? This article will shed light on these questions.
Becoming an x ray technician will provide candidates with all of the above-mentioned benefits and more. Working as a technician, you control your career, help others, and earn a long-term, attractive salary with upward mobility. As an x ray technician, you will need to have attention to detail, be in good physical health, be tech-savvy, and have the ability to strictly follow and enforce safety precautions.
What Is an X Ray Technician?
As an x ray technician, you will have many duties, most of which will involve working directly with patients. The majority of your job will be performing diagnostic imaging exams, administering radiation therapy treatments, adhering closely to doctors' orders, and using a multitude of cutting-edge imaging technologies and equipment.
In addition to visualizing the internal body and taking quality images for the radiologist to interpret, x ray technicians will need to correctly align patients and comply with radiation safety by shielding them and themselves with lead aprons to avoid overexposure of radiation. You will be responsible for adjusting x ray beams to cover a limited area. The angles and the distance from the patient all play an important part of radiation exposure control.
Technicians must develop and use a high level of communication throughout the process, from first contact with a patient, to the radiologist and physicians they work with. If a patient has questions or concerns, or is anxious, soft communication skills will help a technician overcome these barriers to performing an idyllic imaging exam. You will be required to take a brief health history before performing any imaging procedures and answer any questions the patient may have. As an x ray technician you will also maintain radiological equipment and manage patient records and other documents.
Some x ray technicians are generalists, while others choose to specialize in a particular clinical area, or type of machine, such as breast (mammogram) or computed tomography (CT scans). Some specialties will require an x ray technician to further his or her education, take continuing education classes, and/or gain additional certifications. Some of the diagnostic machinery you may work with are:
Educational, Certification, and Licensure Requirements
To work in this field, candidates must have strong interpersonal communication skills, an aptitude for math and sciences, be able to become proficient in medical software, and have the strength and stamina to stand long hours and assist patients. When looking to start a career as an x ray technician, you must complete specialized, post-secondary schooling which is accredited. Accreditation is vital for a student to become certified and licensed. X ray technician programs are currently offered at various levels of education: a certificate, a 2-year associate degree, and a 4-year bachelor degree.
Although the associate's degree is the most common, all levels of education to become an x ray technician will require both classroom and lab work, as well as hands-on training through an externship. Areas of study that are included in an x ray technician program include:
The largest difference between an associate's degree and bachelor's degree is that the bachelor program provides more in-depth imaging modalities and advanced procedures. Students undergoing a bachelor program will also gain a working knowledge of healthcare quality which can be very beneficial to prospective employers. An additional advantage is gaining career skills that will help you become an effective collaborator, team member, and leader.
Once a student has completed their post-secondary education requirements, graduates are encouraged to pursue certification, which will award them the Registered Technologist (RT) credential. Some states in the U.S. require this certification to become licensed. The certification process, through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), consists of a 4-hour exam, containing 220 multiple choice questions. This is a pass/fail exam. To be eligible to sit for the exam, candidates must have graduated from an accredited program. To ensure that all x ray technicians stay up-to-date on the latest advancements and technologies in their field, this certification requires continuing education of 24 hours or to pass the certification exam every two years.
Once you have received the certification of RT, you can then pursue specialty certification from ARRT in 11 areas. Each one of these specialty areas will require additional education and experience before you are eligible to take the certification exam. Areas of specialty include:
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For a certified x ray technician to obtain his or her licensure, he or she will need to check with their state medical board for specific requirements. Most states require a license before gaining employment. Typically, licensure is given for 1-4 years. Currently, there are states that will accept a passing certification exam (through ARRT) as licensure, while others provide an alternative, such as a state-specific exam or the American Registry of Clinical Radiography Technologists exam.
Employment and Advancement Options
Once an x ray technician has been certified and licensed (where applicable), they are ready to seek employment. Most technicians are employed at hospitals, physicians' offices, rehabilitation centers, and in medical and diagnostic laboratories. The typical work week for an x ray technician is 40 hours per week. Some x ray technicians will go to work for agencies that send them to multiple locations per day to perform portable diagnostic imaging.
Once having gained valuable work experience and perfecting their skill set, many x ray technicians consider career advancement opportunities. There are additional certifications available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to become a radiologist assistant or to certify in a specialized piece of equipment such as a CT scanner or MRI machine. Gaining additional certifications will elevate you above the rest and an x ray technician salary will be higher with these certifications.
Forecasted Job Growth and X Ray Technician Salary
As science and technology continue to surge forward, new opportunities for learning and employment present themselves. Job growth, in the x ray technician field, is expected to continually increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 12%, through 2026. Also influencing the inclined job market for technicians is, as the population continues to age, there will be more medical conditions needing some form of diagnostic imaging. Strong job growth is likely to mean better and more job prospects for new technicians, especially those with multiple certifications.
As with any career, there will always be fluctuations and factors that out of our control which affect salary. Typically, an x ray technician salary will average approximately $43,000 per year, to start, or around $19.59 per hour. This is a median average. Components that may come into play, to alter this median, will be years of experience, your individual skills and proficiencies, what type of facility you work at, and even geographical location.
On the lowest end of the spectrum, an x ray technician salary is around $29,000 per year, while on the top of the spectrum, averages are around $61,000 per year. As mentioned before, gaining additional certifications can substantially increase your salary as well.
Research has shown that the majority of x ray technicians working in a hospital setting or outpatient care center make approximately 10% more than those working in physicians' offices. Those employed by medical and diagnostic laboratories earned approximately 11% more than those in physicians' offices. The leading employment sector - scientific research and development - led the occupation with an average x ray technician salary of 12% more than in a physician's office.
Overall, individuals who take on a career as an x ray technician are beginning a lifelong career filled with rewarding benefits, both personally and financially. There has not been a better time to join the highly sophisticated journey where science and medicine unite and continuously propel forward. Working as an x ray technician you will:
It's time to trade in your mundane, monotonous job that you only tolerate and begin a healthy, gratifying career that you will love. As you can see, an x ray technician salary is more than enough to provide a comfortable life. We hope this article helps point you in the right direction towards your new, exciting career.