How To Become an MRI Technologist

January 9, 2023


Megan Bebout


Are you intrigued by the tech used in medicine? How about those magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines? Are you curious about what goes on inside patients’ bodies? Do you want to save lives?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, a career as a magnetic resonance imaging technologist (or MRI tech) may be right for you. Let’s explore what an MRI tech is before diving into how to become one.


How To Become an MRI Technologist


What is an MRI technologist?

Before you jump in and decide to become an MRI technologist, it’s important to first understand the basics of the medical imaging field. MRI techs are radiologic technology professionals who use an MRI machine or magnetic resonance imaging scanners to take photographs, or MRI scans, of a patient’s organs and tissues.

While operating the MRI scanner is the main responsibility of MRI techs, that’s not all they do. MRI technologists play an important role across health care systems and have other duties including:

  • Correctly positioning patients to get clear photographs during diagnostic imaging examinations
  • Moving image parameters to improve the quality of MRI images
  • Helping patients stay relaxed during MRI procedures
  • Administering contrast media to patients through IVs to enhance image visibility
  • Assisting physicians and other healthcare professionals when they examine images and diagnose patients

Radiologic and MRI technologists work in the diagnostics lab at healthcare facilities and play a vital role in the medical field in diagnosing diseases and injuries. An MRI tech operates the medical imaging technology responsible for identifying cysts, tumors, and more within the photographs taken with MRI scanners.


How to become an MRI tech

Here’s how to become an MRI tech in four steps.

1. Earn an associate degree

How long does it take to become an MRI technologist? Typically, you can become an MRI technologist in as few as three years!

Your first step to becoming an MRI tech is to earn an associate degree in any field that fits your fancy. Pro tip: most aspiring MRI technologists major in biology, anatomy, physics, or another related field.

2. Enroll in an MRI tech program

Once you’ve completed your associate degree program, it’s time to enroll in an MRI program to gain the technical skills you'll need to operate imaging equipment. The key is to apply to accredited MRI programs, so keep your eye out for programs accredited by organizations like the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT), the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

In your accredited program, you’ll build on your associate's degree and continue learning the ins and outs of the job, including magnetic resonance imaging technology, MRI physics, medical terminology, human anatomy, cross-sectional anatomy, MRI safety and advanced techniques, patient care fundamentals and procedures, and more, as well as gaining hands-on experience in the clinical setting. Even better, many MRI technology programs offer clinical work and apprenticeships to give you the opportunity to work alongside MRI technologists in the wild to gain experience in your MRI training, work on your interpersonal skills with patients, and become a more successful MRI tech.

3. Get certified

Here’s the thing: you’re not technically required to get your MRI tech certification after completing an MRI technologist program. However, most employers prefer you have some sort of MRI certificate. Before you can get certified, you must complete the MRI technician training program. Then, you can be certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the ARMRIT.

To earn ARRT certification or gain certification through another credentialing organization, you’ll be required to take an MRI certificate exam. Divided into written and practical components, the MRI technician program certification exam tests didactic competence and clinical competence. Make sure you study!

4. Get your license

Now that you’ve met the education requirements and received your MRI tech certification, you can receive your state license. While not all states require this step, more than 75% of states have licensing laws, so it’s a good idea to get one or two (especially as a traveling MRI tech). Like getting certified, you’ll need to pass an ARRT-administered exam to earn your medical imaging state license.


Magnetic resonance imaging technologists salary and job outlook

There’s a bright future ahead for MRI technologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for magnetic resonance imaging technologists is expected to grow 6% between 2021 and 2031, opening about 16,000 MRI jobs each year in the radiology department of hospitals, outpatient imaging centers, diagnostic imaging centers, and more. One of the main reasons for this career outlook growth is an aging population of baby boomers susceptible to conditions like Alzheimer’s, which requires MRIs and other MRI technology run by radiologic technologists to diagnose and manage.

Another benefit to being an MRI specialist is the median annual salary. The BLS reports a median annual salary for a MRI technologists as $77,360 as of 2022. But when you travel as an MRI technologist, you could earn even more!

Frequently asked questions 

Are there specific requirements or qualifications for enrollment in an MRI tech program?

Enrollment in an MRI tech program typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent, with some programs specifying coursework in biology, anatomy, physiology, or mathematics. Prospective students often need a background in radiologic technology and certification in radiography from recognized bodies like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Clinical experience and meeting GPA requirements are common considerations, along with the submission of recommendation letters and, in some cases, interviews to assess motivation and commitment.

Applicants should anticipate background checks, drug screenings, and adherence to health requirements for clinical rotations. For accurate and current admission criteria, prospective students are encouraged to directly contact the MRI tech program or consult its official website.

What are the ongoing professional development opportunities for MRI technologists after obtaining certification?

After achieving certification as an MRI technologist, professionals can engage in diverse ongoing development opportunities to enhance skills and advance their careers. These include earning Continuing Education (CE) credits through workshops, conferences, or online courses as required by certifying bodies like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Additionally, pursuing advanced certifications, participating in workshops, seminars, and conferences, and accessing online courses and webinars facilitate staying informed about the latest MRI technology developments. Involvement in research projects, joining professional associations, and participating in mentorship programs offer valuable networking and contribute to ongoing professional growth. Healthcare institutions may also provide in-house training programs, and technologists can benefit from vendor-specific training sessions to stay current with evolving technologies. Active pursuit of these opportunities ensures MRI technologists remain competitive and provide high-quality patient care.

Are there regional variations in licensing requirements for MRI technologists?

Yes, licensing requirements for MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technologists can vary by region and country. Licensing and certification requirements are typically established by local or national regulatory bodies, and they may differ based on the specific regulations and standards set by each jurisdiction.

In the United States, for example, MRI technologists are often required to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in MRI. To obtain ARRT certification, individuals usually need to complete an accredited educational program in radiologic technology and pass a certification exam.

It's crucial for individuals pursuing a career as an MRI technologist to be aware of the specific licensing or certification requirements in their particular location. They should consult with local regulatory bodies, professional associations, or educational institutions to get accurate and up-to-date information on the prerequisites for practicing as an MRI technologist in their region.



Whether it’s the pay, the impact, the job outlook, the chance to travel, or something else, there are many reasons to take an MRI technician job. Use this guide to get started in your new career as a successful radiologic technologist in the medical field. And when you’re ready, you know where to find us.