For those interested in working with people to provide a valuable service, becoming an X-ray technologist could be the ideal path. This is a field of the medical industry that is very much necessary as it allows for a better understanding of the health and placement of bones and tissues within the body. Take a closer look at what it takes to become an X-ray technologist and what you can expect along the way.

What Is an X-Ray Technologist?

X-ray technologists typically work in various clinical settings to provide specialized diagnostic screenings of patients. They operate equipment that allows an X-ray beam to pass through a person’s body. Depending on the type of X-Ray, the process will capture images of what is found. This image, whether on film or a digital file, is then used by the doctor to determine the next course of treatment for the patient. X-Ray Technicians are sometimes confused with X-Ray Technologists. X-Ray Technicians provide maintenance and repair to X-Ray equipment.

What Are the Job Duties of an X-Ray Technologist?

The job of an X-ray technologist involves working directly with patients to provide support and compassion while using X-ray equipment. The job typically requires understanding the use of the X-ray equipment, reading doctor orders to know what type of application is necessary, and then supporting the patient through the process. This will involve specific steps such as selecting the proper ionizing factors for diagnosis needed and then positioning the patient appropriately.

The job’s tasks differ slightly based on the location being X-rayed, such as a person’s chest, limbs, other areas. After positioning, the technologist operates the equipment according to manufacturer standards, checks the images to ensure they are adequate, and then sends those images to the requesting provider. They do not diagnose patients, nor do they consult patients on the results of the X-rays.

In addition to these tasks, X-ray technologists are required to maintain sanitary conditions, log the work they do, update patient records, and manage equipment updates.

What Skills Does an X-Ray Technologist Need to Have?

The skills needed in this field include:

  • Having the ability to provide compassionate care to patients, as many may be struggling with pain and emotional distress
  • Attention to detail is critical, as it will require obtaining very detailed diagnostics and operating equipment in a very effective and efficient manner
  • Professionalism in communication is also a core component of this job as it can be stressful to work in some areas
  • Having a good understanding of the medical industry and medical terminology, or the ability to learn this science-based curriculum is key
  • Being able to work with equipment including operating it, maintaining it, cleaning it, and calibrating it according to industry specifics

Radiography vs Radiology

When choosing a path for your medical education, you may wish to carefully consider the difference between radiography and radiology. Both play a very valuable role in the diagnostic steps a patient receives.

Radiographers are highly specialized professionals who use some of today’s most advanced scanning equipment. This includes X-rays but may also include CT scanners and digital fluoroscopes. Radiographers have specialized training.

Radiologists do not perform actual testing of patients or take images. Rather, they are highly trained, licensed medical professionals, and doctors in their own right. They specialize in the field of radiology. Typically, they will take the images created by an x-ray technologist and use them to make a diagnosis. If you wish to pursue a degree as a radiologist, you’ll need to enroll in medical school to do so.

Where Do X-Ray Technologists Work?

X-Ray technologists work in a wide range of fields and environments. This may include:

  • Hospitals including emergency rooms
  • Urgent care centers
  • Physician offices especially those that handle orthopedics
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Medical laboratories
  • Federal government offices
  • Research facilities

How Much Does X-Ray Technologists Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the field of radiological technologists and technicians is likely to see growth and demand in the coming years. In California, there are currently nearly 18,000 people working in this field. The hourly mean wage for them is $47.92 per hour and annual mean wage is $99,680. In Tennessee, there are nearly 4,000 radiological technologists and technicians working, and an estimated 16% growth in jobs by 2030. As of Apr 15, 2024, the average hourly pay for a Radiology Technician in Tennessee is $37.72 an hour.

How to Become an X-Ray Technologist

Making the decision to become an x-ray technologist can be an exciting one, but there are several steps to the process. At Casa Loma College, you can enroll in the Medical Radiography Degree Program, at either our Los Angeles campus or our Nashville campus, to pursue this position and get into the field quickly.

Most of the time, you can pursue education to become an x-ray technologist you will need to have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.

The first step is education. There is quite a bit for students to learn so they can provide the highest level of care to their patients. Most often, students will need to have an associates degree that comes from an accredited and well-qualified school. The school must be certified by an organization such as the American Registry of Radiographic Technologists or, in some cases, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.

During your education, you will typically learn:

  • The principles of radiographic image production\radiographic procedures
  • Anatomy and pathophysiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Radiographic sciences
  • Ethics in medicine

Once a student completes their education, they will then need to obtain their license. In California, this is done through the Radiologic Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health. You will need to meet the state’s requirements for licensing, which may mean completing a state-mandated test and then working to complete a background check.

Often, individuals will also spend some time in an externship, where they will work within a diagnostic location to learn in a hands-on environment. Working in a lab like this can help to provide a wide range of benefits including learning how to work with patients and operate in a busy environment.

If you are considering a career in this field, turn to Casa Loma College to learn more about what to expect and to apply for the Medical Radiology Program available. You can earn your associates degree in a matter of weeks through this program.