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.
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