How to Become an MRI Technologist

Learn how to become an MRI technologist. Research the job duties and the education requirements, and find out how to start a career in MRI technology.

Should I Become an MRI Technologist?

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists are specialized medical professionals who operate MRI machinery to create detailed pictures of internal body structures. They are responsible for preparing patients for their scans and safely using the equipment. This work involves standing for extended periods of time and sometimes lifting or turning patients who need assistance.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree most common; certificate and bachelor's programs available
Degree Field Radiography, radiation therapy, sonography, nuclear medicine technology
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure or certification; employers often require ARRT certification; optional specialty MRI certification available
Experience As least 1 year typically required
Key Skills Technical, math, interpersonal and detail-oriented skills, physical stamina, ability to use complex MRI machinery
Salary $67,090 (2014 median salary for all MRI technologists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (July 2015), MRI Programs

Step 1: Complete an MRI Training Program

Someone who wants to become an MRI technologist typically first completes a postsecondary program in radiography or a similar field. Earning an associate's degree is most common, though certificate and bachelor's degree programs are also available. MRI training programs can be found at technical or community colleges. Topics of study could include patient positioning radiographic exposure, MRI physics, sectional anatomy and imaging procedures. An internship may be required and take another year to complete.

Step 2: Become Registered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

Technicians must be graduates of an accredited training program to be ARRT-certified in one of the relevant subject areas, like radiography or sonography. Students must pass the corresponding ARRT exam to earn certification and become registered with the ARRT. Passing this exam may qualify individuals for state licensure. As of January 2015, the minimum educational requirement for certification is an associate's degree.

Step 3: Earn MRI Certification

The ARRT offers a specialty certification exam for MRI technologists. Candidates must have completed a formal MRI training program and be currently certified through the ARRT in radiography, nuclear medicine technology, sonography or radiation therapy. The American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) also certifies MRI specialists. ARMRIT emphasizes the importance of adequate clinical experience before certification.

Step 4: Work as an MRI Technologist

MRI technologists can seek positions in hospitals, imaging centers, physician's offices and even MRI imaging companies. Additional positions for those interested in MRI technology may include sales representative for MRI manufacturers, radiology department manager or MRI technical advisor.

Step 5: Maintain Credentials

To keep ARRT certifications valid, technologists must keep up with the annual registration requirements. These include following ARRT's regulations and ethics standards. Continued education credits are also required. Those certified in MRI through ARMRIT must also complete periodic continuing education.

Step 6: Consider an Advanced Training Program

Practicing MRI technologists with initial certification may consider enrolling in an advanced MRI certificate program. An advanced program qualifies technologists for post-primary pathway certification. The ARRT offer this type of certification for MRI professionals who hold a primary pathway certification. Beginning in 2016, the ARRT will require candidates for this advanced certification to document 16 hours of structured education.

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