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To become an x-ray machine operator, also known as a radiologic technician or entry-level radiology worker, an individual must complete a minimum of a certificate program in radiology, take a licensure examination if required by her jurisdiction and apply for open x-ray machine operator positions. A student may do this in 21 months to four years, depending on how specialized she wants to be. Individuals who start out as basic or limited operators may advance in the radiology field with more experience, training and education.
When a person wants to become an x-ray machine operator, the first task is to prepare for the position in high school. Courses that are applicable to radiologic technician work include physics, math, chemistry, biology and math. If offered, a person also should take courses such as health or health professions, as well as computers and communications.
Once a person has a high school diploma or graduate equivalency degree (GED), she must investigate radiology programs, which are available from some hospitals, as well as vocational and technical colleges, traditional colleges and universities. The absolute minimum amount of training yields a certificate, with certificate programs lasting 21 to 24 months. Individuals may choose to get an associate's degree, which is the most prevalent educational level for radiologic technicians. This makes sense for students because the amount of time can can be identical to a certificate program and because an associate's degree makes it easier to go back to earn a higher degree. If a person wants to be more competitive or become more specialized in radiology, she can earn a bachelor's degree.
When looking at radiology programs to become an x-ray machine operator, a student should check that the program is accredited. Accredited means that a larger agency or organization has reviewed the program and endorses it based on the fact the program meets specific industry requirements and standards. In the United States, the major accrediting agency for radiology programs is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Application to any accredited radiology program requires submission of high school transcripts, letters of recommendation preferably from those in radiology, a formal application form and an entrance or processing fee.
Once accepted into a radiology program, someone who wants to become an x-ray machine operator takes core or foundational courses such as anatomy and physiology. Radiology-specific classes such as radiation physics, patient positioning, radiobiology, principles of imaging and radiation protection also are within curricula. Additional study includes pathology, medical terminology and medical ethics. Although some coursework is available online, virtually all programs require students to complete clinical, hands-on study so students get practice physically doing x-ray-related tasks.
Following completion of a basic radiology program, a person who wants to become an x-ray machine operator must take a competency test for licensure if required by their jurisdiction. Testing and licensure ensures that the student understands not only the technical principals of x-ray machine operation, but also the applications of x-rays in the medical environment and what is necessary to keep both technicians and patients safe during x-ray procedures. If a person receives additional education, work experience and training, she may advance to higher level radiology positions, such as technologist or radiologist assistant.