Do I need an Undergraduate Degree To Become An XRay Technician?

Although it is never a bad idea to have your undergraduate degree, one is not required in order to become an X-Ray Tech. Programs offering certificates can be completed in six months, however, as of 2015, X-ray technicians need to enroll in an accredited institution and earn an associate’s degree to be certified nationally by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In addition, some states ask for the program to meet guidelines set by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Kristy Feldman Senior Editor

Although it is never a bad idea to have your undergraduate degree, one is not required in order to become an X-Ray Tech. Programs offering certificates can be completed in six months, however, as of 2015, X-ray technicians need to enroll in an accredited institution and earn an associate’s degree to be certified nationally by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In addition, some states ask for the program to meet guidelines set by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Although it is never a bad idea to have your undergraduate degree, one is not required in order to become an X-Ray Tech. Programs offering certificates can be completed in six months, however, as of 2015, X-ray technicians need to enroll in an accredited institution and earn an associate’s degree to be certified nationally by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In addition, some states ask for the program to meet guidelines set by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Associates degrees are available in four separate concentrations, including:

  • A.A.S., Radiologic Technology
  • A.A.S., Ultrasound
  • A.S., Radiation Therapy
  • A.S., in Nuclear Medicine

After you have been certified and licensed, a typical work week for an X-ray technician is usually about forty hours per week. Where will you work? Hospitals and doctors’ offices, as well as centers for physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation are the most common settings. Like many other professions, there are temp agencies which will send out techs to different jobs when the need arises. The responsibilities of an x-ray tech include but are not always limited to preparing patients for x-rays, positioning them correctly, taking the xrays and also developing the film so it can be reviewed. For those seeking to branch out, there are opportunities to develop a concentration in specific diagnostic imagery in areas such as mammography, computed tomography (CT), or ultrasound, MRI’s, and fluoroscopic imaging.

The  salary for an x-ray technician

The starting salary for an x-ray tech is around 35K per year, however, specializing in certain types or tiers of radiology will obviously bump up the pay rate to more than 70K annually. It also goes without saying that experience and exposure (no pun intended) to different situations and circumstances makes you more desirable and gives you the ability to command a higher salary. Another factor which may determine your salary is which part of the country you live in.

It's not an easy job

Kristy Feldman Senior Editor

This is not a job that should be taken lightly. X-ray technicians need to be responsible and have excellent attention to detail. Their findings assist the radiologist in diagnosing a patient’s injury, so there is not much, if any, room for error. Whether you end up dealing with general radiological responsibilities or move into a certain concentration within the field, the job requires consistency and a high level of interest and passion. Just think, would you want a person with little more than a vague interest in whether or not your leg is broken reviewing and diagnosing your x-rays? I believe the answer across the board is a resounding “No.” X-ray techs need to be personable, calm, and as mentioned, responsible. It is just as important to be an effective communicator and able to relax the patient as it is to diagnose an injury and work as an integral part of a team.

The bottom line

The bottom line is simply because becoming an x-ray tech does not require a four-year bachelor's degree does NOT mean it is any less difficult or important than jobs which do require more time in school. In fact, becoming an x-ray tech is an excellent opportunity as a gateway to earning a four-year degree, as well as other concentrations within radiological and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In today’s world of economic instability and volatility, you would be foolish not to consider how stable earning a living as an x-ray technician will be. Since it is a job within the healthcare sector, the threat of losing a job like this due to a recession or economic hardships is relatively slim, as opposed to jobs outside of the medical industry. Within a year as an x-ray tech, the opportunities for advancement in a specialized field which earn more money, for example, a CT or MRI Technician, become available. Doctors as well as dentists employ x-ray techs, as do researchers at universities. In fact, the field is expected to grow, and with that growth will come demand for more x-ray techs. It is also a job which earns a higher salary than virtually all other entry-level positions within the healthcare industry. If you are the type of person who enjoys working on a one-to-one level with patients as well as the satisfaction you get from helping people figure out what the problem is and putting them at ease, a career as an x-ray tech is quite fulfilling. The stability and upward mobility in this field means the sky's the limit if you choose to take your skills to another level or in a different direction.

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