X-Ray Technician – Typical Pay, Certification, and Online Schools

The X-ray technician plays a vital role in helping to diagnose illnesses and injuries. The images they create help a doctor to determine the best course of treatment.


Educational Requirements

2 Year Associate Degree-This satisfies the minimum educational requirements for an X-ray tech. The degree does not have to be in radiology. An Associate in Applied Science in Radiography (AAS)or Associate in Applied Science in Radiologic Technology (AAS-RADT) is recommended for those with no prior radiologic experience.

These degrees can be pursued at community colleges, career and technical schools, and hospitals. Make sure the program you choose is American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) approved.

2-Year Associate Degree Classes

  • Radiation Biology and Protection-The physical effects of radiation exposure and protecting patients from radiation.
  • Radiographic Imaging Equipment-How X-ray machines create images.
  • Patient Care-Emergency protocols, communication, controlling infection, medication administration.
  • Basic Radiographic Procedures-Patient positioning and inspecting images for clarity.

Canidates must complete clinicals working with a qualified X-ray tech or doctor.

4 Year Bachelor’s Degree-This is the most advantageous degree for an X-ray tech. It offers more extensive training and more of the knowledge employers look for.

Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology (BSRT)-This degree is generally pursued by those with no prior experience in the field of radiology. A practicing X-ray tech may further their education by pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Radiologic Science (BSRS). These degrees are offered at 4-year colleges and universities.

BRST Classes

  • Professional Development for Radiographers-Ethics, standards of professional conduct, issues effecting the field of radiology.
  • Interventional Radiology-The role radiology plays during invasive procedures and surgies.
  • Computed Tomography-Introduction to CT scanning.
  • Medical Imaging Pathology-Disease processes and recognizing disease on an image.

These degrees require clinical rotations at diagnostic imaging labs, clinics, and hospitals.

2-3 Year Certification Program-Certificate programs are available through community colleges, career and technical schools, and hospitals. Enrollment requires an Associate Degree in any field. The length of the program is determined by whether or not you have completed pre-required classes prior to enrollment.

2-3 Year Certification Program Classes

  • Special Procedures in Radiology-Introduction to advanced imaging.
  • Radiographic Image Critique-Identifying what is normal or abnormal on an X-ray.
  • Basic Radiographic Techniques-Caring for a patient durng imaging and imaging protocols.
  • Radiologic physics-Understanding radation, its production, and how to control it.

Satisfactory completion of a Certificate Program requires clinical rotations.


It is possible to school online to be an X-Ray tech. An X-ray tech’s education is never truly complete. Advancements and innovations in the field of radiologic imaging occur constantly.

Some states don’t demand the licensing of X-ray techs. Whatever state you work in you must be certified. American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification affords you the best chance of finding work. In states that require licensing ARRT certification is a must.

Jobs

Hospital X-ray techs might have to work nights weekends and holidays. The number of jobs available in private practices and health systems is increasing. These are most likely to be 9-5 jobs.

stock photo of medical team

Salary

An X-ray tech salary, at the entry level, can be anywhere from $26,000 to $55,000 per year. A mid-level x-ray tech can expect to earn around $61,000 per year. Experienced x-ray tech professionals can earn upwards of $85,000 per year. A tech’s rate of pay varies from state to state. The median salary for 80% of techs is $38,660-$82,590 yearly. The rate of pay depends upon experience.

Pay for x-ray tech professionals range in America; cost-of-living and the presence of the healthcare community can raise the yearly wage for these tech professionals. In addition, as the medical industry grows, so too does the need for these tech professionals, meaning hourly and yearly wages keeps going up.

Tech professionals in this field will be interested in learning that this position is still very much in demand; however, the amount of education a professional has and their credentials can have an impact on their yearly wages. Those tech professionals with a graduate degree and credentials often make twice as much as a counterpart with an undergraduate degree.

Requirements

Potential x-ray techs should be aware that working in this field requires, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, a lot of fundamental comprehension of STEM fields. This means that x-ray tech professionals need to be proficient in the following:

  • Biology
  • Statistics
  • Technology
  • Anatomy
  • Computer Science
  • Chemistry
  • Math
  • Law
  • Ethics

woman touching medical device

These are just a few of the x-ray tech requirements that will be expected to be understood when they begin their education. In fact, because x-ray tech professionals are known to be so skilled, some institutions may require tech professionals to have prerequisites completed prior to applying to different degree pathways.

Undergraduate

Associate degrees are easy to come by for x-ray professionals. Many institutions, especially those who work on allied health services, tend to have x-ray degrees available.

There aren’t many mandatory aspects to applying for this degree. This comes from this being the absolute minimum higher education degree available for these tech professionals. In fact, all a student needs is to have a 3.0 GPA or higher to enroll.

Bachelor degrees for x-ray tech professionals can be a little more competitive. Students generally to have not only completed a credential exam but also have an accredited associate’s degree from a university. There may also be STEM prerequisites; these are courses that must be completed prior to beginning the curriculum pathway.

Graduate

X-ray tech professionals who reach the graduate level will be required to pass not only the GRE, but also provide evidence of their credentials and prior work experience. Tech professionals also might be required to demonstrate prior higher education institution experience in the form of at least an associate’s degree.

X-ray degrees are extremely competitive, especially at the graduate level. Students must not only show that they are tech professionals in the field, they also are tasked with providing references and a personal essay on how they view their career in the future.

Graduate schools may also require evidence of a work experience or internship at the undergraduate level for potential students. X-ray tech professionals will be aware of this as they move closer to graduate education. Their advisors will no doubt give them information of what will be expected of x-ray tech professionals at the graduate level.

Traditional Programs

Those who are interested in becoming x-ray tech professionals will often begin their journey with a traditional degree, usually at the undergraduate level. From there, these tech professionals will move through the education system towards graduate degrees. This enables them to make more money as their career progresses.

So what does this mean for students interested in going through x-ray tech programs? It means that a lot of time in a higher educational institution is necessary.

Tech professionals in the x-ray field often earn at least an associate’s degree; however, most will try to earn at least a graduate degree. This is because the x-ray tech field is filled with consummate professionals that continue to educate themselves to become competitive in the field. Here are some things that any potential x-ray tech must keep in mind when building their career pathway in this field.

Accreditation

Radiologic technology course curriculums, which are the course curriculums that x-ray tech professionals are interested in, are accredited by JRCERT. This is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, and it is the premier accrediting body that focuses on this field.

X-ray technician professionals will want to find a degree that is accredited by JRCERT. Not only does it help students gain credentials once they graduate, it is also a distinction that every professional could use on their resumes.

x ray tech with a salary from an online school education

Undergraduate

It is possible to become an x-ray technician with just an associate’s degree; however, a bachelor’s degree is always preferable to employers. A technician who also has credentials and is licensed by the state with just an associate’s degree will have an easier time finding employment than those with a bachelor’s degree and no credentials.

A technician would be best served by focusing on earning a bachelor’s degree through an accredited program. These degrees provide professionals with the fundamentals necessary for this position, including hands-on lesson and work experience. It is recommended that any technician interested in specializing in x-ray or ultrasound work focus on finding an undergraduate degree that fits their needs.

Specialized or concentrated degrees in this field are possible for the ambitious technician; however, it may require a move to a different city or state. That’s because this field is readily available in healthcare and medical communities that are partnered with big cities. It is therefore advisable that a technician weigh a move for their education against the potential benefit.

Graduate

X-ray technician professionals will see not only a spike in their compensation but a difference in the positions they are eligible for, based on whether or not they have earned a graduate degree. That’s why so many technician professionals focus on earning a master’s degree in x-ray technology.

Unfortunately, there are few places that are focused on x-ray or ultrasound technology from the public and private institutions. That’s because this field is still seen as a medical specialty, so the field is generally regulated by institutions that focus on medical curriculums.

Still, it is possible for x-ray tech professionals to find a suitable curriculum. With hands-on learning based on lab simulations and work experiences,

Online Institutions

Online schools are fast becoming an option for x-ray techs. This is because many of them work full-time in the field and need a flexible way to continue their education.

But the road to completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree isn’t easy for these professionals. X-ray techs are skilled professionals, meaning that hands-on training is part of their education. Virtual schooling may actually be a detriment to their understanding of the field.

However, it is possible for these professionals to get a partially virtual education. Many course curriculums offer hybrid course curriculums designed to focus on professionals who are already in the field. Because of the specificity of the field, it is important that professionals are clear on what these type of course curriculums can do for them.

Accreditation

Unlike traditional course curriculums, most ultrasound and sonography virtual course curriculums do not offer accreditation. Students will want to take this into account; many states require completion of an accredited curriculum in order to qualify for licensure. Students without licensure cannot work legally in the field.

Accreditation for these course curriculums is a difficult process for most institutions. JRCERT accreditation generally requires that a student receives supervised hands-on training. Wholly virtual course curriculums cannot offer this; hybrid course curriculums are also not currently eligible.

The fact that virtual education is fast becoming a primary source of professional education is changing the view on accreditation. Many employers understand that professionals continue their studies while they work. Traditional course curriculums do not fit their needs, making accreditation less of an issue.

For now, however, accreditation is critical for a student if they have not yet received their credentials or licensure. Students who have credentials in good standing are better served by virtual course curriculums; those without credentials should consider part-time study in a traditional curriculum that is accredited.

Curriculum Options

Fully virtual course curriculums for x-ray techs are rare. This might be because the field requires a lot of lab sessions and practicums that need to be supervised. There is also a lot of necessary technical information that is best suited to learn in a traditional classroom setting.

There are, however, some institutions that do offer hybrid course curriculums. This is a great option for students who are already working in the field and are earning their graduate degree. Because hybrid course curriculums tend to have on-campus residency necessities that amount to about a week for every semester, it enables students to work full-time and finish their education.

Degrees offered

It is possible to find a variety of degrees in the field at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Radiology degrees are quite difficult to find virtual, but many institutions do offer general degrees with concentrations in this area.

Some sample degrees that may hold concentrations in radiology or ultrasound are:

  • Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Services
  • Bachelor of Business Administration – Health Services Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Science in Health Services Administration
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Business Administration – Health Care Management

Students are encouraged to find more information on virtual radiology concentrations and course curriculums. When they find a school that offers this specialty, it is best to call the admissions department to see if the concentration is still available prior to applying to that curriculum.

What You Need to Know

Undergraduate virtual institutions for an x-ray tech differ from graduate course curriculums in that only an associate’s degree does not require some sort of credentials or work experience for application.

Bachelor’s degrees, as well as graduate degrees, require ARDMS or RT credentials. They also require students to have a position in the field prior to application. Work experience can be as little as one year, but most virtual course curriculums do require some work experience.

Why Require Work Experience for Bachelor’s and Graduate Degrees?

The idea that a virtual curriculum would require work experience may be confusing to some students. The truth is, a virtual curriculum requires a great deal of self-discipline; it also requires prior knowledge of the field. A student without prior knowledge will spend more time in an institution to learn information that is easily obtained while working in the field.

Many students who take on a bachelor’s or master’s degree will have already obtained an associate’s degree. This makes virtual education much easier; most of these degree course curriculums have prerequisite courses, which can be tested out of with work experience.

X-ray tech professionals who do not have prior work experience shouldn’t worry, however. A fully virtual associate’s degree in this field can be found and normally takes less than one academic year to complete. After the associate’s degree is completed, they can apply for credentials and find work in the field, albeit at an entry-level position.

Certification

Xray techs are some of the most skilled techs in the medical field, so it makes sense that they will hold credentials from an independent professional organization. It’s a sign of excellence when it comes to the field in general, and holding credential can improve a professional’s chances of finding rewarding employment.

Types of Credentials

There are a few types of certifications that are available to an x-ray tech. These include:

  • Registered Technologist (RT) from ARRT
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology Credential
  • American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

There are a variety of others, but earning a credential from ARRT remains the gold standard for this field. That’s because the credential can be general or work as a specialty credential. Samples of the specialty options include:

  • Cardiac Interventional Radiography
  • Breast Sonography
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Vascular Interventional Radiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Sonography
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Mammography

Most professionals in the field choose to earn at least one credential in order to improve their chances of finding employment. Those who hold several credentials generally have a specification within the field and are therefore expected to hold themselves up to a high standard. This includes holding different credentials in good standing throughout their careers.

Is it Required?

Most employers do not require potential employees to have this distinction, but anyone who is interested in becoming a successful x-ray technician will see this as mandatory. Additionally, while it is currently optional in some states, others have made it mandatory to obtain the RT distinction prior to becoming licensed as a tech.

It is important to note that x-ray technicians who have the RT recognition on their CV or resume often earn higher wages and find more positions that are available to them. It can also lead to advancement within a professional’s workplace, so it’s always a good idea to pursue the distinction.

The Test and Recertification

The RT credential can only be obtained by professionals who have graduated from an accredited university; most professionals complete graduate education prior to sitting for the exam. They also must have a certain number of clinical hours and work experience; this depends on their educational background.

The test itself consists of 220 questions and can be completed in four hours. The credential is based on a pass/fail basis. About 330,000 x ray tech professionals across the country have completed this requirement.

The credential is valid for two years; professionals must complete recertification in order to have a credential in good standing. Recertification can happen in one of two ways:

  • Complete 24 hours of continuing education credits — includes virtual courses, workshops, and conference attendance
  • Successfully pass a written exam every two years

A credential that expires or is in poor standing is more of a detriment to professionals than not ever having the distinction in the first place. It’s critical, then, for professionals to understand that this credential will require maintenance after the initial examination.