How to Become an X-Ray Tech in California

The demand for X-Ray technicians across the United States is growing quickly. And, the need for these professionals is not expected to go away.  If you are looking for a career with good pay, long-term stability and one that you can get into without a four-year degree, you should consider becoming an X-Ray technician.

Training & Education

Schools with Radiography or Sonography in California

CBD College

  • Los Angeles

Pima Medical Institute

  • San Diego
  • San Marcos

Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health

How Long Does it Take?

The minimum duration of education and training for prospective x-ray technicians in California is 2 years. However, some students may take more depending on the pathway they pursue and their schedules. Certificate programs, which offer a basic level of training, can be completed in as little as one year. Students pursuing shorter programs may seek additional training under an accredited medical radiologist to fulfill California’s qualification requirements. Associate degree programs, offering more comprehensive training, generally take about 2 years, while Bachelor’s degrees in radiologic technology or related fields can extend the duration to 3 to 4 years. Clinical experience and coursework are critical components of these programs, ensuring students are well-prepared for their careers.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of completing X-ray technician training can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the type of program, location, and duration. On average, a certificate program may cost around $6,000 to $10,000, while an associate degree program could range from $6,000 to $15,000 or more. Tuition, textbooks, clinical fees, and equipment costs are all considerations. Financial aid, scholarships, and grants may help offset expenses for eligible students, making it more affordable.

Salary & Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for x-ray technicians is $67,180 annually, or $32.30 per hour. Overall employment for radiologic technicians is projected to grow by 6%, faster than the average for all occupations (3%). About 16,000 career openings are projected to open each year, on average.

Career Overview


California requires prospective x-ray technicians to complete a two-year training program in radiologic technology approved by the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association.

Alternatively, prospective X-ray technicians must have two years of experience and training in radiologic techniques and methods under an accredited medical radiologist. Consequently, the most accessible route for future x-ray technicians in California is acquiring an associate’s degree in radiologic technology, which can be completed flexibly by students’ schedule demands.

Getting Started

Usually junior colleges and vocational schools provide the fastest way to get into the career with one to two year programs. The prices of the programs vary widely, and can end in diplomas, or associate degrees.

Most programs will require students to go through basic math, science and anatomy courses first, and then students will start taking specific classes about x-ray technology and operating the machines. Many of the programs also include lab work or internships before graduation so that you can graduate with some feel for what the real work will be like.

How Do You Get Certified?

To become a certified X-ray technician in California, you should start by completing an accredited radiologic technology program, typically resulting in an associate degree or certificate. After your education, pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)certification exam, which is a national requirement.
After completing the exam, apply for state licensure through the >California Department of Public Health’s Radiologic Health Branch (RHB). You must provide documentation of your ARRT certification, education, and clinical experience. Be prepared to undergo a criminal background check and pay the necessary application and licensing fees. Maintain your certification through continuing education, ensuring you stay up-to-date with industry standards and practices.

State Certifications

California requires two fundamental certifications for prospective x-ray technicians to complete before employment. The first is the national certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and the second is state licensure through the California Department of Public Health’s Radiologic Health Branch, which requires you to provide proof of your ARRT certification, education, clinical experience, and meet other state-specific requirements. These certifications ensure you are qualified to perform radiologic procedures safely and effectively in California’s healthcare settings.

To continue practicing as an X-Ray technician you must make sure you don’t let your certification expire. It is unlawful to practice without state certification, and the costs to renew the certification more than double from $70 to $150 if you wait to renew after your certification is expired.

The process to renew consists of filling out an application, but before doing so you must take 24 hours of continuing education courses in your x-ray field within two years from the expiration of your certification.

What Does an X-Ray Technician Do?

An X-ray technician, also known as a radiologic technologist, plays a crucial role in the medical field by operating X-ray machines to create images of a patient’s internal structures.

They follow physician’s orders to capture clear and precise images for diagnostic purposes, aiding in the detection and treatment of various medical conditions, such as bone fractures, tumors, and respiratory illnesses.

X-ray technicians ensure patients are correctly positioned and shielded from unnecessary radiation exposure. They maintain and calibrate the imaging equipment, keep detailed records, and may also assist in more complex imaging procedures like CT scans or MRIs.

Compassion, technical skill, and attention to detail are important qualities for success in this profession.

Work Environment

Once you’re ready to find a job, be prepared for hard work. While the hours for X-Ray technicians aren’t as hectic as other health care professionals, while at work, technicians are on their feet a majority of the time, and keep busy. In hospitals, they may work in more fast paced hectic settings where they could work “on-call” shifts and may be called into the emergency room during busy times as needed.

Radiology vs. X-Ray Technicians: What’s The Difference?

Radiology is a broader medical specialty encompassing the interpretation and diagnosis of medical images, including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and more. Radiologists are medical doctors who interpret these images to diagnose and treat various conditions. In contrast, X-ray technicians capture these images.

They operate the imaging equipment, ensure patient positioning, and emphasize safety during the imaging process. While radiologists analyze the images, X-ray technicians focus on the technical aspects of producing high-quality diagnostic images.

Interview with an X-Ray Tech

A Q&A session with Barbara Kavalvs, an X-Ray Technician, who works at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas, CA. Barbara provides great insight into the career of an X-Ray Technician.

Q: Describe your average daily routine. What types of tasks are you expected to complete as part of your job?

A: To take x-rays of people that come into the ER. If they break a bone, we are there to x-ray. If there is a trauma (car accident, etc.) we are there immediately to take x-rays before the patient can be moved. We also take x-rays in the operating room (OR) while surgery is being performed. Mostly for orthopedics, when screws or plates need to be inserted to hold bones together. We also x-ray internal organs by injecting contrast materials that is radiopaque. This includes stomachs, intestines, colon, kidneys, uterus, fallopian tubes, etc. We use a method called fluoroscopy, which is a live x-ray, like a movie.

Q: What do you like the most about being an X-Ray Technician?

A: I enjoy helping people. I also enjoy how interesting the human body is.

Q: What do you dislike, if anything, about being an X-Ray Technician?

A: You are exhausted at the end of your shift. At times it is very stressful, especially if you work at a trauma center. The pace is extremely fast at hospitals.

Q: What is your work environment like?

A: My work environment is very busy and very stressful. You just learn how to work under these conditions. I work with great people and that makes all the difference.

Q: What is your work schedule like?

A: I work 8 hour shifts, but at places you can work 12 or 16 hour shifts. Grave yard shift if tough to stay awake, but some people love it. You can also take “call” overnight which means if they get busy they will call you to come in.

Q: Where did you get the training necessary for your job?

A: I took a 2 year college program and earned an AS degree in radiology. You must also complete so many clinical hours. You then must take a registry exam earning you an “RT” degree. This will allow you to be licensed in the state. The program is difficult and involves a lot of math, physics and anatomy. It is a very interesting field, but right now there is a waiting list at some colleges.

Q: Would you recommend your job as an X-Ray Technician to another person?

A: I love my job and yes, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference. My daughter just joined the program as well.

Q: What is the next step in your career?

A: I will be staying as an x-ray technician for the foreseeable time being.

Read another interview about being an x-ray technician with Diane Nieves.