What Does an X-Ray Technician Do? (And How To Become One)
Updated July 17, 2023
An X-ray technician uses advanced technology to create images of a patient's internal body parts so doctors and other medical providers can make a diagnoses. They position patients for imaging, operate equipment and collaborate with physicians to assess the images they capture. If you want to become an X-ray technician, learning more about what they do can help you decide whether this career path fits your goals and skills.
In this article, we explain what an X-ray technician does, the requirements to become one and the average salary, job outlook and work environment of this career.
What does an X-ray technician do?
An X-ray technician, also known as a radiologic technologist, uses an X-ray machine to take radiographic images of patients. They provide those medical images to doctors to assist in making diagnoses. Images from the X-ray machine can also help doctors choose a treatment plan for an injury or illness and evaluate the success of treatment.
Scope of practice
Radiologic technologists work with various patients to perform exams and operate imaging equipment. They may have the following responsibilities:
Operate X-ray equipment to get images of different areas of the body
Adjust X-ray machines as needed to ensure clear and accurate imaging
Evaluate, interpret and report X-ray imaging results
Make treatment recommendations based on X-ray results
Ensure the patient is comfortable and protect them from radiation
Related: What Is a Radiology Technician?
X-ray technician specializations
X-ray technicians can choose to specialize further in the field. Some specializations you may pursue as a radiologic technologist include:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology
Computer tomography (C.T.)
X-ray technician work environment
X-ray technicians can work in various medical settings, including hospitals, doctor's offices, medical laboratories, diagnostic imaging centers and trauma centers. They spend much of their workday standing, adjusting the machine and moving patients to capture the correct angles for imaging. They may also experience radiation exposure daily, but using proper equipment can protect them from harmful effects. Other characteristics of their work environment may include:
Heavy lifting of equipment and patients
Long work hours with possible evening and weekend shifts
Individual work environment
Many X-ray technicians work full time, but their hours may vary depending on the work environment. X-ray technicians working in a medical office can expect typical office hours, while an X-ray technician working for a hospital may also work on evenings and weekends.
Requirements to become an X-ray technician
Becoming a radiologic technologist requires the completion of certain educational and training requirements, which include:
Typically, X-ray technicians have at least an associate degree in radiography, and some hiring managers may require a bachelor's degree. Educational programs in this subject usually offer both coursework and an internship. Course content might include biology, anatomy, physics, imaging and physiology. Choose a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).
Most X-ray technicians begin direct training through an internship that they complete during their degree program. During your education, you can learn how to use X-ray equipment and interpret and analyze imaging under the guidance of an instructor. X-ray technicians continue their training in an entry-level position by collaborating with other technicians in their first few years in the role.
Licensure and certifications
Many states require a license to work as an X-ray technician, and some may also require you to have a certification. To receive radiology licensure, complete a degree from an accredited college and pass a licensing exam. Most X-ray technicians become certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to become a Radiology Technologist in Radiography, or R.T. (R). This certification proves your proficiency in national standards for medical imaging and demonstrates your knowledge of standard tasks for entry-level technologists.
You can also earn other certifications to verify your skills and show your commitment to the field. The following certifications are available as an X-ray technician:
ARRT certification in mammography
The ARRT certification in mammography is available for registered technicians who want to specialize in mammography radiology. To receive the certification, technicians submit proof of successful mammographies and meet clinical experience, ethics and other requirements.
ARRT certification in sonography
This ARRT certification in sonography verifies a registered technician's skills in creating sonograms and can be useful for individuals who want to work in fertility clinics or general practices. To earn the certification, candidates fulfill certain educational and experience requirements and pass an examination.
You use various technical skills to complete your job tasks as a radiologic technologist. Some essential hard skills for this role include:
Radiation safety and protection
Health care compliance
Anatomy and physiology
You can also develop soft skills to succeed as an X-ray technician, including:
Average salary for X-ray technicians
The national average salary for an X-ray technician is $79,716 per year. Your salary may vary depending on your location, experience and type of position. For example, an X-ray technician working in a medical office may earn less than one working in a busy hospital. Some X-ray technicians may have additional certifications in specific types of imaging that allow them to earn higher salaries.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Job outlook for X-ray technicians
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of radiologic and MRI technologists to grow 6% by 2031. That rate matches similar growth in other occupations in the general workforce. According to the BLS, employers may have a demand for X-ray technicians due to a growing older population that may have an increased need for diagnostic imaging procedures.
How to become an X-ray technician
You can become an X-ray technician with the following steps:
1. Pursue an education
Completing your education is the first step to becoming an X-ray technician. Enroll in a certified radiology degree program and take the coursework that can assist you as an X-ray technician, including biology, physiology, imaging and anatomy.
2. Complete an internship
Most radiography programs require the completion of an internship. Use your internship to learn the duties of an X-ray technician and prepare for your licensure exam.
Read more: A Complete Guide to Internships
3. Take the licensure exam
Check with your state to learn about the licensure requirements where you plan to work. If your state requires licensure, schedule and pass the licensing exam. Consider earning the R.T. (R) credential through the ARRT to demonstrate your qualifications to potential employers.
4. Apply for X-ray technician jobs
Once you've completed your education and passed the licensure exam, you can apply for X-ray technician jobs. Use your cover letter and resume to show your academic experience, and list any clinical internships and certifications you've completed.
X-ray technician job description example
Here's an example of a job description for an open X-ray technician position:
Rutgers Hospital is seeking to fill the open position of an X-ray technician. The ideal candidate has a minimum of two years of experience operating an X-ray machine in a hospital environment and holds a current license with the state of Montana as a registered technologist (RT). Communication and time management skills are a requirement in this position, as the position operates in a busy hospital environment. Candidates with specialized experience in mammography may have an advantage in the hiring process.
Careers related to an X-ray technician
Here are some careers that have similar duties and qualifications as X-ray technicians:
Explore more articles
- What Does a Hotel Manager Do? (And How To Become One)
- Learn About Being a Banquet Server
- Learn About Being an IT Business Analyst
- Learn About Being an Analyst
- Careers in Psychology: What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
- What Is an Obstetrician and What Do They Do? (With Salary)
- Learn About Being an Operations Coordinator
- Learn About Being an Outside Sales Representative
- Learn About Being a Dispatcher
- Learn About Being a Urologist
- Learn About Being a District Manager
- What Does a Surgical Technologist Do? (With Requirements)