The healthcare field has been constantly expanding and advancing into the future as the community finds better ways to detect health problems earlier. This is especially true with X-ray technology. If the idea of using the latest in imaging technology on the job sounds exciting to you, a career in medical imaging might be for you.
What Does an X-ray Technician Do?
Radiologic technologists (also known as radiographers, and often holding job titles such as X-ray technician) produce diagnostic images (X-rays) by positioning someone’s body and taking an image1. These medical images detect bone fractures, types of tumors, certain injuries, foreign objects, or other abnormalities.
Medical Imaging: How Does It Work?
Since X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, they can pass through objects. Using X-ray machines to generate images in a healthcare setting has allowed for radiographers to see inside the body, including the tissues and bones. These radiographs (the medical images) have allowed for early detection of abnormal growths like cancer. Different bodily tissues absorb X-rays differently, depending on density: Bony structures appear whiter than other tissues against a black background2. The computer technology behind X-rays has allowed for advanced, life-saving images.
The History of X-rays
In 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered X-rays accidentally in his Wurzburg, Germany, lab, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen3. He dubbed the rays that caused this glow X-rays because of their unknown nature.
However, early practitioners of X-ray technology in the late nineteenth century were unaware of the health risks, which included burns, skin damage, and more3. This new technology quickly began to lose its appeal, but medical doctors developed new ways of protecting the patients and staff4.
Before X-rays and digital imaging, there was only one way for a surgeon to find bullets or shrapnel in military members: By feeling around. Then military doctors came upon the realization of the potential behind X-ray technology. By the 1930s, new understandings of medical protection for patients and staff allowed X-ray technology to integrate safely into the healthcare world. X-rays transitioned into the digital world by the 1970s, saving medical centers time, money, space, and giving them a chance to help more people.
Fast forward to today, and medical imaging has become a modern-age tool to assist medical professionals in diagnoses. It has become a relatively safe and reliable practice for identifying broken bones, diagnosing cancer, or discovering other bodily abnormalities. Medical imaging advances have also made for a more cost-effective tool for saving lives.
How Do I Become an X-ray Technician?
A post-secondary program like the Medical Radiography one that Carrington College offers in Spokane, Washington, can help you learn the necessary skills that are specific to a career in radiographic technology. The workforce needs trained professionals who can use this life-changing technology.
With a mean annual wage of $71,020 in Washington (reported in May 2018), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)4, and a national job outlook that projects 12% growth between 2016 and 20265, radiologic technologist careers can be appealing to anyone who is interested in healthcare and technology.
An associate’s degree is the most common requirement for breaking into a radiologic technologist career, with programs including both classroom study and clinical work6.
According to the BLS6, it’s important for those pursuing a medical imaging career to:
- Be detail oriented
- Have good interpersonal skills
- Be confident in their math skills
- Have physical stamina since radiologic technologists often work on their feet for long periods
- Have the technical skills needed to understand the operation of complex machinery
Do I Need Certification to Work as an X-ray Technician?
The BLS reports that those pursuing a career in medical radiography must be licensed or certified in most states6. In addition, technologists must usually graduate from an accredited program, and pass a certification exam from the state or obtain a certification from a certifying body. Certifications for radiologic technologists are available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), says the BLS6.
Are you interested in training to become a radiologic technologist? Check out information on Carrington College’s Medical Radiography program at the Spokane, Washington, campus: