How to Become an X-Ray Tech in California

X-Ray Technician Career in California

The demand for X-Ray technicians across the United States is growing at a faster than average pace according to the bureau of labor statistics, and as part of the health care industry 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.

X-Ray technicians are responsible for operating x-ray imaging machines to provide tests to doctors so they can diagnose problems for patients. X-Ray technicians do not diagnose problems themselves. In addition, these technicians are responsible for controlling the amount of x-ray exposure to their patients so as not to harm them. They also must have good interpersonal skills to be able to talk to patients and reassure them when they are in pain, or confused about what is wrong with them. As an X-Ray technician you can get a job at hospitals, clinics or medical offices, or at some laboratories, or surgical centers.

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.

In California, the department of public health strictly regulates X-ray technicians, so the school you go to must be approved by them. After completing the required education, those interested in beginning the career must apply with the Radiologic Health Branch of the department of public health in order to get certified. The state certification consists of an application and an exam. The application fee is $75 and $100 for the exam. The duration of the certification depends on the scope of responsibility you want to get certified for.

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.

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.

X-Ray Technician Career Q&A

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.