An X-ray technician -- or radiologic technologist -- performs the imaging studies that physicians use to make medical diagnoses. Radiologic technologists may specialize in certain types of imaging studies, such as CT and MRI scans or mammography. Postsecondary education in the form of a graduate certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree is required to become a radiologic technologist, and most states also require licensing or certification.
Choose an Accredited Program
Whatever type of program you choose to become a radiologic technologist, your program should be accredited through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Accredited programs ensure that your education meets required standards. Some states require that you graduate from an accredited program to become licensed. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists also requires that you graduate from a program that meets ARRT standards to take its certification examination. Beginning in 2015, the ARRT will only accept graduates of accredited associate and bachelor’s degree programs for certification.
Complete an Associate Degree
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an associate degree is the most common preparation for radiologic technologists. A typical associate degree program includes courses such as anatomy, physiology, radiation physics, radiation safety and patient care. Programs include both classroom and clinical training. Training programs are available in community colleges, universities and technical-vocational schools, as well as in the military, according to Explore Health Careers. The hospital industry -- the major employer of radiologic technologists -- prefers to hire those who are formally educated and certified.
Licensure and Certification
Although the terms licensing and certification are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. States issue a license to practice; certification is an indication of knowledge and competency, and typically requires passing an examination. However, some states use the certification score in licensing decisions, according to the ARRT. Regulations vary widely from one state to another. For example, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists reports that Alabama and Missouri do not require radiologic technologists to be licensed or certified. Arizona not only requires licensure, but has specialized licensure for mammography and podiatry. Check with the licensing board in your state for requirements.
Job Outlook and Salary
The job outlook for radiologic technologists is very good, according to the BLS, with a projected growth rate of 21 percent from 2012 to 2022 -- almost twice the average for all occupations. An aging population and federal health legislation expanding access to health care are expected to drive job growth, resulting in approximately 41,500 new jobs during that decade. The BLS notes that hospitals will remain the primary employer, but outpatient centers may also offer job opportunities, especially for radiologic technologists with multiple specialty certifications. Radiologic technologists had a salary range of $37,570 to $78,440 a year in 2014, according to the BLS, with an average annual salary of $56,760.