If you enjoy solving medical mysteries or have always wanted X-ray vision, becoming an X-ray technician might be the career move for you. These technicians use highly specialized radiation equipment to create images of patient's internal organs to examine, diagnose, and treat diseases and abnormalities. Becoming an X-ray tech takes between two and four years post-secondary education, depending on the level of employment you're seeking. Entry level positions usually require a two-year associate degree, while supervisory and administrative jobs typically require a four-year bachelor's degree.
To become an X-ray technician, you must complete a post-secondary training program in radiology. There are three types of programs available, depending on your existing level of education and experience. If you’re already trained in the health care industry -- as a nurse, for example -- then you can complete a six- to 12-month diploma program, offered at technical schools and community colleges. If you’re not already trained in a health care field, you’ll have to earn either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Required coursework includes anatomy, pathology, radiation physics, biology, image evaluation and patient care. You'll also need hands-on practice through a supervised clinical internship.
Most states require X-ray technicians become certified in radiologic technology either through a state-certifying body, or through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). To become eligible, you must meet certain ethical standards. Applicants must disclose if they've ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony; been a part of a criminal procedure that resulted in a guilty or no contest plea, deferred or withheld adjudication, pretrial diversion or been suspended, have stayed sentencing or have a guilty verdict. In addition, any licenses you currently hold must be in good standing, and you must report whether you’ve ever had a license, registration or certification of any kind restricted, revoked or suspended.
To sit for the ARRT certification exam or a certification exam offered through a state board of health, you must provide proof that you’ve completed the required education and met the ethical requirements. As of 2015, ARRT will only administer the exam to candidates who can provide proof of completing a degree granting program, as certificates will no longer be accepted. During the exam, you'll be tested on whether you’ve acquired the skills necessary to successfully execute entry-level tasks in radiologic technology.
Whether certified through ARRT or through your state, most X-ray techs have to fulfill periodic continuing education requirements. The ARRT requires certified radiologic technologists complete 24 education credits every four years. Check with your state’s board of health to find out your continuing ed requirements.
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