Career Definition for a MRI Technician
Magnetic Resonance Imaging technicians, or MRI techs, use radio waves and magnetic fields to generate images of tissues and organ systems to search for and diagnose illnesses. Common duties include managing scheduling, prepping patients for and performing MRIs, interpreting results and reporting findings to doctors. MRI techs may work in hospitals, imaging centers, urgent care facilities or physician's offices, and much of the shift will be spent walking or standing. MRI technologists will also move heavy equipment and may have to lift or assist patients into position for a procedure, so workers must be careful to avoid back injury.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree, though a 4-year program is preferred by most employers; license necessary in most states|
|Job Skills||Communication skills, organization, attention to detail, good eyesight|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$60,070 (radiologic and MRI technologists)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||13% growth (radiologic and MRI technologists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The most common level of education for radiology professionals is a 2-year associate degree, though 4-year bachelor's degree programs are becoming more popular and are recommended for those looking for career advancement in the future. Accredited programs are offered through technical schools, colleges, and universities across the country. Most U.S. states now require a license to practice as an MRI technician, and one state's license may not be honored in another state, so students should be sure to meet the requirements of the state in which they intend to practice. There are also voluntary exam-based certifications offered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) that are becoming preferred by employers (www.arrt.org).
MRI technicians need excellent communication skills to interact with patients and physicians. They also need to be highly organized and have an attention to detail to manage large patient loads, especially in a specialized imaging center. MRI techs also need good eyesight to read images accurately.
Career Growth and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the median annual salary for radiologic and MRI technologists was $60,070 in 2017. Additionally, the BLS predicts that the number of jobs across all radiological technology fields will increase by 13% between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov). With the aging population and an increased demand for non-invasive diagnostic procedures, opportunities for MRI technicians should continue to grow. MRI techs can further their careers by specializing in other imaging techniques, such as computed tomography or mammography, or by moving into a management or educational role.
Here are some alternative career options:
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
For those with an interest in medical imaging but who prefer more patient interaction during the imaging procedure, becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer could be the right option. Diagnostic sonographers capture body images using computerized ultrasound equipment. They get the patient ready, record images using an ultrasound wand, take notes for physician review and maintain the equipment. An associate degree or certificate in sonography technology is the minimum requirement to work in this profession, but employers sometimes prefer workers who have also earned professional certification. Diagnostic medical sonographers received a median annual wage of $71,410, as reported by the BLS in May of 2017. The BLS also estimates that these professionals should see a 23% increase in job opportunities between 2016 and 2026.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Somewhat similar to what an MRI tech does, nuclear medicine technologists also set up the procedure, activate the equipment and capture body images. However, they also administer radioactive drugs that enhance the view of tumors and other diseases and make sure the patient does not experience any adverse reactions. To enter this profession, an associate degree in nuclear medicine technology is usually required, but some workers holding a degree in a related field only need to graduate from a nuclear medicine certificate program. Licensure of nuclear medicine technologists is also required in many states, and optional certification can be beneficial when seeking employment. The BLS predicts that nuclear medicine technologists will experience employment growth of 10% from 2016-2026. In May of 2017, the annual median salary for these technologists was $75,660, as seen in BLS figures.