The field of radiologic (x-ray) technology offers an excellent career option to those interested in the allied health field. An x-ray technician, or radiologic technologist, is the individual responsible for performing diagnostic x-ray procedures in hospitals, physician offices, and outpatient imaging centers.
The training period for an x-ray technologist is usually 2-4 years in an accredited college or hospital based radiologic technology program. Training will be split between classroom instruction and hands on clinical training in a healthcare setting. The x-ray student will obtain a thorough working knowledge of radiographic physics and anatomy, radiation safety, proper patient positioning and technique, quality control, and darkroom skills. In addition, the student will receive instruction in infection control, sterile technique, body mechanics, and patient privacy. The successful student will also possess good communication skills and demonstrate an ability to quickly adapt to different situations.
On completion of training, the x-ray technologist will be eligible to take a national registry examination administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. This is a comprehensive examination which will address many of the skills required of the x-ray technologist. Successfully passing the registry examination will allow the student to add the designation RT to their name to signify that they are credentialed as a registered radiologic technologist. Many states will also require a state licensure for radiologic technologists. The requirements for state licensure and continuing education will vary from state to state, however licensure is generally necessary for employment in states that require it.
The employment prospects for radiologic technologists will tend to remain strong due to the health care needs of our aging population. While most x-ray technicians are employed by hospitals, a significant number are employed by freestanding imaging centers and outpatient clinics. Others may find employment in private physician offices such as orthopedic or urologic practices, portable x-ray services, or in sales support.
The x-ray technician has a number of opportunities for advancement by acquiring proficiency in specialized diagnostic imaging areas. Among them are MRI, Cat Scan, Mammography, and interventional radiology. These fields require specialized training that may be acquired through on the job training or additional college or trade school based programs. The technician will be eligible to take an additional registry examination for the specialties listed above that will identify them as proficient in that area. Generally speaking the more specialties an x-ray technologist can demonstrate proficiency in, the greater the employment options are.