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X is for X-ray (Radiologic) Technician

by Cameron Macht
February 2017

Radiologic technologists and technicians take x-rays at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They might also specialize in computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans, mammography, and other forms of medical imaging but would not include diagnostic medical sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologists, which are all separate occupations with different technical skills and duties and are not included in this article.

While it may seem easy to picture what x-ray technicians do, they actually have a long list of typical tasks above and beyond just taking x-ray images although that is the primary responsibility. According to DEED's Occupational Employment Statistics tool, a radiologic technician:

  • Operates or oversees the operation of radiologic and magnetic imaging equipment to produce photographs of the body for diagnostic purposes
  • Operates mobile x-ray equipment in an operating room, emergency room, or at the patient's bedside
  • Positions the imaging equipment and adjusts controls to set exposure time and distance, according to the specifications of the examination
  • Positions the patient on the examining table and adjusts equipment to obtain the optimum view of specific the body area(s) requested by the physician
  • Explains procedures and observes patients to ensure safety and comfort, reduce anxieties, and obtain patient cooperation during the scan
  • Monitors the video display of the area(s) being scanned and adjusts density or contrast to improve picture quality
  • Keys commands and data into a computer to document and specify scan sequences, adjust transmitters and receivers, or photograph certain images
  • Reviews and evaluates developed x-rays, video tape, or computer generated information for technical quality
  • Monitors the use of radiation safety measures to comply with government regulations and to ensure the safety of patients and staff
  • Administers oral or injected contrast media to patients
  • Demonstrates new equipment, procedures, and techniques and provides technical assistance to other staff

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

As such, radiologic technologists and technicians typically need an Associate's Degree and must also pass the American Registry of Radiological Technologists (ARRT) Limited Scope X-ray Operator Exam.1 There are 10 programs focused on radiologic technology available through Minnesota State locations, including three certificate programs and seven Associate Degree programs, two of which can be completed online. In addition the Minnesota Department of Health provides a list of test locations, exams and handbooks, and related courses at training providers in the state and online.2 These training programs usually include both classroom study — in courses like anatomy, pathology, and patient care — as well as significant work in a clinical setting.

Graduates from these programs will find a hospitable job market, with high current and future demand in a variety of health care settings. Data from DEED's Job Vacancy Survey shows that the number of job openings for radiologic technicians has been swelling in recent years, and median wage offers have been rising as well. Employers in the state have reported an average of more than 110 vacancies for radiologic technicians over the past three years, and the median hourly wage offer climbed to $21.61 in the second quarter of 2016, which was nearly $4.00 more per hour than in 2006 (see Figure 1).

Because of the 24-7 nature of the healthcare industry, most radiologic technicians work full time, and also work evenings, weekends, and in emergency situations. Obviously hazards from radiation exist in this occupation, but the use of shielding devices such as protective aprons, gloves, and walls help minimize and monitor exposure. X-ray technicians also wear badges that measure radiation levels and keep detailed records on their cumulative lifetime dose. Once placed, radiologic technicians enjoy relatively high wages. Entry level wages that start around $22 per hour rise to more than $30 at the median and to $38.50 at the 90th percentile. The largest number of x-ray technicians work in the Twin Cities metro area, but Southeast Minnesota also has a large concentration of workers to serve the region's rapidly growing healthcare sector (see Table 1).

Table 1. Employment and Wage Data for Radiologic Technicians in Minnesota
Geography Estimated Regional Employment Median Hourly Wage
Minnesota 4,260 $30.47
Twin Cities 2,270 $31.06
Southeast 770 $32.44
Central 440 $29.68
Northwest 320 $26.49
Northeast 260 $29.37
Southwest 180 $26.64
Source: DEED OES program

Speaking of growth, as the population ages, there will be increased demand for x-ray technicians in Minnesota. Employment is projected to rise 10.7 percent from 2014 to 2024, more than twice as fast as the total of all occupations in the state. In addition to the more than 400 new jobs that are expected to be created, there may also be 730 replacement openings for existing workers who retire or leave the field. The bulk of the growth will again be found in the Twin Cities and Southeast Minnesota (see Table 2).

Table 2. Employment Projections for Radiologic Technicians in Minnesota
Geography Projected Change, 2014-2024
New Jobs Created Percent Change Replacement Openings Total Openings
Minnesota 418 10.7% 730 1,150
Twin Cities 250 12.7% 370 620
Southeast 80 11.2% 130 210
Central 50 11.3% 80 130
Northwest 27 8.1% 60 90
Northeast 6 2.6% 40 40
Southwest 4 1.9% 30 40
Source: DEED 2014-2024 Employment Outlook

1 Minnesota Department of Health. X-ray Limited Scope X-Ray Operator and Bone Density Equipment Operator Exams. Retrieved from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/radiation/xray/xrayoperator.html

2 Minnesota State CAREERwise Education. Programs in Radiologic Technology/Science. Retrieved from https://www.careerwise.mnscu.edu/education/educationProgram?cip_default=510911

3 Ibid.

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