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.

Do I Want to Be 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.

Job Requirements

Aspiring MRI technologists must complete an associate's degree program in a radiologic science and become registered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Then, one can undergo specialty training for the field. The ARRT also offers voluntary certification, which employers often require. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become an MRI technologist.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate's degree plus certificate***
Degree Field Associate's in radiography, radiation therapy, sonography, nuclear medicine technology; certificate in MRI***
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure or certification*; employers often require ARRT-certification/registration and optional specialty MRI certification**
Experience 1-3 years working with MRIs**
Key Skills Science, math, communication, attention to detail*
Technical Skills Complex MRI machinery*
Additional Requirements Physical stamina*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Online job postings (August 2012), ***MRI programs

Step 1: Complete a Formal Training Program Related to Radiologic Science

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 often require at least an associate's degree. These programs can be found at technical or community colleges. Topics of study could include anatomy, patient positioning and radiographic exposure.

Step 2: Become Registered by the ARRT

MRI training programs commonly require applicants to be ARRT-certified in one of the relevant subject areas, like radiography or sonography. After completing an education program, one must pass the corresponding ARRT exam to earn certification and become registered with the ARRT. Passing this exam may qualify one for state licensure or certification as well. By January 2015, the minimum education requirement for certification will be an associate's degree.

Step 3: Complete an MRI Training Program

Vocational schools and technical colleges may offer MRI technology certificate programs. Coursework, lab work and clinical instruction can last 1-2 years. An internship may be required and take another year to complete. Courses include patient care, MRI physics, sectional anatomy, imaging procedures and neuropathophysiology. Hands-on work prepares aspiring MRI technologists for professional work in clinical settings by teaching them how to operate the machinery and treat patients.

Step 4: Earn MRI Certification

Employers commonly require 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 5: 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, one 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.

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