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 scanner 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. Other duties may include:
- 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
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 tech program. The key is to apply to accredited MRI tech 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 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 a clinical apprenticeship to give you the opportunity to work alongside MRI technologists in the wild to gain experience in your MRI training 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.
Regardless of which organization you choose to get certified through, 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 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.
MRI 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 MRI 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 imaging technology to diagnose and manage.
Another benefit to being an MRI specialist is the average 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!
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.