Become a MRI Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an MRI technician. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as an MRI technician.

Should I Become an MRI Technician?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technicians operate the scanners that capture images inside a patient's body to help diagnose ailments. They are responsible for preparing patients for the procedure and positioning them inside the scanners that use powerful magnets instead of radiation. The captured images are then reviewed by a physician. Some techs work nights, holidays and weekends in order to offer emergency services around the clock.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Licensure/Certification State licensure may be earned by passing a certification examination
Experience Experience in a clinical setting is required for certification eligibility
Key Skills Must be able to follow directions from physicians, communicate effectively with patients, have a basic understanding of the sciences and imaging procedures, and must have extensive knowledge of how to operate MRI scanners
Salary (2014) $67,090 annually (median salary for all MRI technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS);

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

Aspiring MRI technicians will often need to graduate with at least an associate's degree. MRI programs are available at the associate's degree level and will prepare graduates to work as a technician. The program combines academic coursework with laboratory requirements. Before beginning MRI-specific courses, students will take basic science courses in biology, physics and anatomy. MRI courses include MRI physics, MRI procedures, MRI imaging analysis and pathophysiology.

Success Tip

  • Choose an accredited program. In order to be eligible for certification, you will need to choose a program that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

Step 2: Participate in a Clinical Experience

Students in an MRI program at the associate's degree level will be required to participate in a clinical experience at a hospital or medical clinic. This offers individuals an opportunity to work and learn under an experienced MRI technician. Students will begin to apply what they have learned in their coursework to a practical setting.

Success Tip

  • Begin developing connections. Participating in a clinical experience can also lead to employment opportunities, so it's important to begin developing contacts in the field. Upon graduation, your clinical experience can lead to job interviews or employment.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure and Certification

According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, imaging professionals who graduate from an accredited program can earn state licensure by passing certification offered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Those who meet the MRI education and experience requirements while in school are eligible for MRI certification with the organization. To obtain certification, individuals must pass an examination. The exam ensures that MRI technicians understand elements of patient care, imaging procedures, data acquisition and processing and physical principles of image formation.

Step 4: Earn Additional Certifications

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that job prospects are often best for technicians or technologists with more than one certification. Earning multiple specialty certifications through the ARRT may lead to career advancement.

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