X-Ray Technician Career Options
Are you curious about a career as an x-ray technician? If you’ve ever had an x-ray, then you might know what the x-ray technician does. X-ray technicians produce x-ray films of parts of the human body for use in diagnosing medical problems. They usually take x-rays of patients in a hospital setting. Hospital x-ray technologists usually have a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree in x-ray or radiologic technology, and most states require them to be licensed. With more training, x-ray technologists can advance to other diagnostic fields and specialties, such as radiology, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Jobs in this field may take place in hospitals, but x-ray technicians also work in doctor’s offices, radiology clinics, dental offices, a veterinary, and convalescent homes. The field is not without risk, since long-term exposure to frequent x-rays is correlated to the development of certain cancers. To prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation, these workers surround the exposed area with radiation protection devices, such as lead shields, or limit the size of the x-ray beam. Technologists wear badges measuring radiation levels in the radiation area, and detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose. This is to ensure the health of both the patients, as well as the staff, due to the amount of exposure they deal with throughout their career.
X-ray technicians are limited in their field of responsibility, as they usually do not discuss findings of an x-ray with a patient. The job may include some diagnostic skills, but the job of reporting to the patient is up to a radiologist, doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner. With that said, the x-ray technician may be able to spot immediate problems on an x-ray, which then are reported to a radiologist or to a doctor. But for those in entry-level positions, they are usually limited to operating the equipment. Even which equipment they can operate will depend on their education and skill level.
If you choose this field, you can expect a variety of working conditions, including working under pressure during stressful situations caused by accidents or severe trauma, or serious pain and chronic conditions. During these times, the x-ray technician is expected to do the work quickly and accurately, so the patient can receive immediate care. This means that technicians need to be properly trained and very comfortable with their set of skills. You need to be able to remain calm, keep your composure, and do your job well even under intense circumstances.
If you want to advance in this career, you’ll need further hands-on training as well as education and certification. You can become a radiologic technologist and keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. Radiologists also may prepare work schedules, evaluate purchases of equipment, or manage a radiology department. Experienced radiographers may perform more complex imaging procedures such as flouroscopies, computer tomographies (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and mammograms. It’s up to you and your career goals as to how much education and training you go on to complete.
Other advanced career options include cardiovascular technologists, diagnostic medical sonographers and nuclear medicine technologists. In all cases, physical stamina is part of this occupation. You may be on your feet for long periods of time and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. You could work 40 hours per week in a full-time job, but you may also be asked to work evenings and weekends or be on call. However, opportunities for part-time and shift work also are available. This may also depend on the type of facility where you work.
If you study to become an x-ray technician, you can rest assured that many career paths are open to you. Depending on how much time you want to commit to furthering your education, there are many opportunities that can become available to you. To give you an idea, workers in related occupations may include:
- Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
- Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists
- Radiation Therapists
- Respiratory Therapists
- Dental Assistants