What Do X-Ray Technologists Make? And Other Key Questions Answered

illustration of man standing behind x ray machine 

You’ve been looking into potential careers and working as an X-ray technologist sounds pretty interesting. You like that jobs in healthcare offer the chance to directly impact people for the better, while providing you with a stable career you can feel good about. And in the case of X-ray technologists, there’s that neat little perk of looking inside people to assist in their healing and well-being.

Unfortunately, the number of times you’ll get to say, “Whoa, that’s pretty cool!” isn’t always a great indicator of whether a career path is viable. You need to know whether an X-ray technologist salary will meet your needs long-term and whether it would be a worthwhile role to invest your time in. Only you will know whether pursuing this career is worth it for you—but we gathered some of the essential information about the X-ray technologist (sometimes called X-ray tech) job to make your choice easier.

Where can I find X-ray technologist salary information?

Diagnostic imaging is a surprisingly wide field—which can make it harder to find reliable salary information for the specific job title of X-ray technologist. That said, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) can shed some light on a closely related role. The DOL reports that radiologic technologists (a subset of diagnostic imaging that includes X-ray techs) made a median annual wage of $59,520 in 2018.1

This figure for determining X-ray tech salary draws on information from radiologic technologists with varying levels of training. Radiologic technologists who work with additional imaging types outside the scope of an X-ray tech may be able to command a higher salary—for instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologists earn more on average.2. Those employed by the federal government are at the top of the list, with the BLS reporting a median annual wage of $65,230.2 Radiologic technologists in hospitals made a median annual salary of $60,700, and those who worked in physician offices made a median annual salary of $53,990 according to the BLS.2

What are the job duties of an X-ray technologist?

The short answer? To create accurate and legible diagnostic images. But that’s just part of the work of an X-ray tech. They take care of their imaging equipment, prepare patients for procedures, position and protect the patient to image the area a physician orders and work with physicians to evaluate the images and take more if necessary.

The BLS points out that radiologic technologists specialize in both X-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging.2 Some rad techs might choose to gain certification in specialized areas like mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

But that definitely isn’t everything. For a deeper dive into the daily work, check out “What They Don’t Tell You in the Radiologist Technology Job Description.”

Where do X-ray technologists work?

X-ray techs work pretty much where you’d expect them to—the BLS reports over half (59 percent) of these jobs were found at hospitals in 2016. But some also work in doctor’s offices, outpatient care centers and even medical laboratories.2

If you feel drawn to working with a certain demographic, you can also seek positions in healthcare facilities that serve those groups. For example, if you love children—a children’s hospital or pediatric clinic could be the perfect choice. Or maybe you could find work at a specialized oncology clinic to be part of the team that helps patients fight back against cancer. There are many types of healthcare facilities out there, which gives would-be X-ray techs and radiologic technologists some options to pick an ideal work setting.

There are even mobile X-ray labs and support X-ray services for telehealth initiatives where you could find yourself working in locations like professional sports institutions, correctional facilities, schools and more.

What skills does an X-ray tech need?

X-ray technologists obviously need specialized training to operate, maintain and understand their imaging equipment. This training, as well as an understanding of anatomy and physiology, is typically covered by radiologic technologist degree programs. But beyond the technical skills, there are some important nontechnical skills needed for success, according to the BLS.1

  • Attention to detail: Creating the correct image for diagnostics requires precision as mistakes can be time consuming and costly.
  • Interpersonal skills: Radiologic technologists work face to face with patients who may be under stress or in pain, so being able to keep people at ease through the course of a procedure is important.
  • Physical stamina: The job can be physically demanding as radiologic technologists often work on their feet for long stretches and may need strength to get patients into place.

What education do you need to become an X-ray technologist?

Before diving into pursuing this career, it’s important to know the road ahead of you. The good news on this front is that X-ray techs and radiologic technologists have a relatively short path into the field when compared to some healthcare professionals. An associate’s degree is the most common educational requirement for radiologic technologists, according to the BLS.2 It’s important to note that in many states, the radiologic technologist program must be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Without this accreditation, students in those areas may not be permitted to gain their license. So what does that mean in terms of time? The Rasmussen College Radiologic Technology Associate’s degree program can be completed in as few as 24 months.3

In many states earning a degree isn’t the final step—radiologic technologists will also need to become licensed in the state they wish to practice. To become licensed, technologists must usually graduate from an accredited program, and pass a certification exam.

Looking inside the X-ray tech career path

Now that you have some of the basic information on what an X-ray technician career can offer, you are in a better position to decide whether this is the right move for you.

Leaning towards yes? Take a closer look at the steps that could take you to that medical imaging lab with our article “How to Become an X-Ray Tech: A Step-by-Step Guide.”

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [salary data accessed July, 2019] www.bls.gov/oes/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed June, 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
3Completion time is dependent on number of courses completed each term.

Accreditation Information:
Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
The Radiologic Technology Associate’s degree program at the Lake Elmo/Woodbury campus in Minnesota and the Land O’Lakes/East Pasco campus in Florida is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

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Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She earned her MFA in poetry and teaches as an adjunct English instructor. She loves to write, teach and talk about the power of effective communication.

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