MRI Tech

If you like helping people and the challenge of mastering complex medical equipment, consider a job as an MRI technician.

What Does an MRI Technician Do?

An MRI tech operates a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to create several cross-sectional images of an area of a patient’s body. These are combined to create a 3D image, which is used as a diagnostic tool.

The technician, also called an MRI technologist, explains the procedure and places the patient in a specific position. For some scans, the technician administers a contrast dye intravenously to improve the quality of the image. (The dye is used to see vascularity in masses or tumors.)

Be warned that MRI technicians spend a lot of time on their feet. But with a good pair of shoes, a willingness to learn and strong communication skills, you can find yourself in an in-demand, well-paying medical career.

How Much Do MRI Techs Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average MRI tech in the U.S. makes $65,140 annually. However, the wage range is fairly broad, with the 10th percentile making $47,760 and more experienced MRI techs making closer to $97,940 per year. MRI tech salary variables include experience, skill level and other achievements, such as certifications.

$ 61,700 - $ 101,200
$ 80,200
MRI technicians prepare a patient for a scan
MRI technicians thrive in a fast-paced environment, working with patients to ensure their scans go smoothly and communicating constantly with other medical personnel. (Credit: VILevi/Shutterstock)

Job Responsibilities

From maintaining communication with radiologists and other professionals with clinical experience, to paying close attention to detail during scans, an MRI specialist or technician has a variety of job responsibilities. In a typical day, an MRI tech will:

  • Consult with the radiologist
  • Calibrate and adjust equipment for each image
  • Communicate with patient to go over medical history and answer questions
  • Make sure the patient gets into and maintains the right position using immobilization or support devices
  • Prepare contrast agent and inject via IV
  • Minimize radiation exposure to patient, self and other staff
  • Monitor patient’s well-being during scan
  • Evaluate MRI scan for quality 
  • Maintain imaging equipment
  • Assist with clerical functions

How to Become an MRI Tech

Interested in learning the fastest way to become an MRI tech?

Students will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Postsecondary paths include a certificate, an associate degree plus certification, or a bachelor’s degree. The latter is less common.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to become an MRI tech, the answer depends on the path you choose. Certificate programs can last from a few months to 26 months. Shorter programs don’t lead to certification, but you can get certified after you gain experience.

Associate degree programs in applied science typically last two years. All students are required to complete a clinical internship. Internship hours vary by program (up to about 2,000 hours), but the degree track typically requires more hours than the certificate track.

MRI programs cover human anatomy, medical imaging, MRI technology, radiation physics and physiology. Degree programs also include college-level general education courses.

After graduating from an accredited program, students must pass a certification exam before they can work as MRI technicians. More on that below.

Most students start out as radiology techs and develop a specialization in MRIs

Becoming an MRI Technician: FAQs

What degree is best for MRI Tech?

The most common route is earning an associate degree. You can also pursue a bachelor’s degree as you gain skills and expertise.

Are there any other qualifications?

Becoming an MRI technician requires certification. Two groups, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT), offer certification. 

Certified MRI technologists must maintain annual registration of their ARRT certification and fulfill 24 hours of continuing education courses every two years.

Some states require technicians to be licensed.

Where do MRI technicians work?

They work in hospitals, radiology centers and outpatient care centers. Evening, weekend and on-call work is often required.

Is there a demand for MRI technicians?

Employment is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. As with many medical jobs, this one will benefit from an aging population that requires more medical scans.

What qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful MRI techs typically share these traits. They:

  • Communicate well
  • Have a knack for operating complex machinery and computers
  • Are able lift or move patients
  • Like working in a fast-paced environment
  • Are detail-oriented
The bottom line:

If you think you would enjoy working directly with patients and want to be a part of a fast-paced medical environment, consider this career. You’ll get the satisfaction of helping doctors diagnose medical conditions while earning a good salary as an allied health professional. That's why it's one of SkillPointe's top-paying trade jobs. And we can help you find an MRI tech program or job that makes sense for your life.

How I Became an MRI Technician

Joseph Seibert, MRI tech ambassador, stands in front of an MRI machine

How I Became an MRI Technician

Joseph Seibert admits he had "no clue" what he wanted to do when he was a younger man. Then he learned about medical imaging technology and shadowed technicians at a local hospital.

"I was amazed with the whole process," he says. "The patient interaction and the tech's ability to calm a person who was hurt and scared, having doctors and nursing staff all working together to treat someone ... After one day, I knew I wanted to spend my life doing it."

Read more about how one visit changed his career path.

Ask the Expert

Neil Huber, MRI technologist, founder and CEO of Pulse Radiology Education

Ask the Expert

Neil Huber was an MRI technologist for nine years before he decided to jump into another side of the business — helping radiologic technologists more easily get the training they need to advance. He started Pulse Radiology Education with that goal in mind, and the company has educated hundreds of technologists since.

Empathy and fast-focus are the skills that helped him and the qualities that he thinks help technologists reach the next level. Find out why he thinks MRI tech is a such a great career.

MRI Technician Training in Your Area

Rend Lake College logo

MRI Certificate

Rend Lake College
Ina (378.5 Miles)
Lone Star College System logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Advanced Technical Certificate

Lone Star College System
The Woodlands (477.1 Miles)
School logo for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana

Radiologic Technology - Magnetic Resonance Certificate

Ivy Tech Community College - Terre Haute
Terre Haute (478.1 Miles)
Austin Community College District logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Certificate

Austin Community College District
Austin (481.5 Miles)
South Suburban College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Certificate

South Suburban College
South Holland (533.6 Miles)
Southern Union State Community College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Certificate

Southern Union State Community College
Wadley (634.6 Miles)
Lansing Community College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology, A.A.S.

Lansing Community College
Lansing (707.6 Miles)
Lansing Community College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology Certificate of Achievement

Lansing Community College
Lansing (707.6 Miles)
Mountain Empire Community College logo

Computed Tomography (SWCC)

Mountain Empire Community College
Big Stone Gap (714.6 Miles)
Athens Technical College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Specialist Certificate

Athens Technical College
Athens (727.2 Miles)
Bay de Noc Community College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist, A.A.S.

Bay de Noc Community College
Escanaba (747.1 Miles)
Cleveland Community College logo

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Certificate

Cleveland Community College
Shelby (802.0 Miles)