What is an X-Ray Technician and How to Become One

A radiologic technologist, sometimes referred to as an x-ray technician, works directly beneath a radiologist and specializes in producing images of the inside of the human body to aid in diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Radiologic techs account for nearly one-third of all healthcare professionals, surpassed only by physicians and nurses. They often are employed in hospital settings, but may find work in private physician practices, as well as in various imaging facilities. Rad techs are utilized in many areas of imaging, including:

What Does an X-Ray Technician Do?x-ray technician schools

  • X-Ray – A quick and painless procedure that uses electromagnetic radiation to produce still images of the inside of the body, particularly the bones.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) – During a cat scan, a computer procures images of specific slices (cross-sections) of internal structures and then rebuilds them to create a three dimensional image.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Safe and cost-effective, this procedure uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create still images of the inside of the body. MRI usually shows more detail than simple x-ray without exposure to radiation.
  • Nuclear Medicine – In nuclear scans, radioactive isotopes are introduced into the body and then a special camera is used to detect any biological changes that occur.
  • Radiotherapy – Often used in the treatment of cancer, radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation beams to shrink masses and to prevent reproduction of diseased cells.
  • Fluoroscopy – Fluoroscopy uses a digital video camera to produce a series of x-rays that can be played together to create a moving image.
  • Ultrasound – Safe and painless, ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves to produce live images of internal structures.

While becoming an x-ray tech carries some risk of exposure to different types of radiation, attending the right x-ray technician school and receiving quality x-ray technician training can help to reduce these risks and can provide all the tools needed to obtain a rewarding career in this field.

Finding X-Ray Technician Schools

When looking into the programs at x-ray technician schools, it is wise to know what training options are available and what each entails. Program length will vary from school to school, depending on what type of degree you hope to attain. Although there are certificate programs available (which generally only take one year to complete), you should be aware that, effective January 1, 2015, new laws require at least an associate degree to obtain the post-graduation certifications discussed later. Other degree programs available last from 2 to 4 years.

Course curriculum will vary somewhat from program to program. In addition to program specific classes, which will cover operation of the various machines, patient positioning, and proper techniques and procedures, you should be prepared to complete, at the very least:

• Algebra
• Physics
• Medical Ethics
• Medical Terminology
• Anatomy and Physiology

What is Required Post-Graduation?

While certification after graduation is not mandatory, many healthcare facilities are now requiring it of their x-ray technicians. In addition, certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists is designed to promote high standards of patient care and to indicate that the certified technologist has met national standards for professionals in this field.

In order to become certified as a radiologic technologist, you must have graduated from an accredited training program and must sit for and pass a certification examination. This exam must be passed with a score of 75% or better. It can be taken up to three times without passing, at which time the entire training course must be repeated. Additionally, beginning in 2015, you will need a minimum of an associate degree prior to sitting for the exam. This degree does not have to be specifically in radiologic technology. Once you have passed the certification exam and have obtained your registry status, you will need to complete annual reviews, which encompass completion of continuing education credits.

Other Requirements

Outside of the required education, those who are considering a career as an x-ray technician should possess:

  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • The ability to work under stress
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to stand for long periods and to lift heavy objects

An x-ray technician plays a vital role in the care and diagnosis of patients within the realm of radiology. This can be a very rewarding career for someone who has the right personality and training.

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