MRI Technician: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for MRI technicians. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, job growth and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an MRI Technician

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technicians perform scans of the body using radio wave energy. The resulting images are used to help physicians diagnose patient conditions or illnesses. Prior to taking diagnostic images, technicians must make sure MRI equipment is maintained and calibrated. Since the images are needed by physicians to make diagnostic decisions, they must follow physicians' orders precisely. When preparing patients for MRI scans, technicians make sure patients are positioned properly in the machine and that all safety protocols are followed. To operate MRI equipment you will need to be able to use computer software. Check out the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree; optional specialty certificates available
Education Field of Study Radiologic technology
Key Skills Use MRI equipment, help physician evaluate quality of images, interact compassionately with patients who may be in distress
Licensure Required Many states require licensure & certification
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,720*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Could I Expect During My Career as an MRI Technician?

As a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technician, you use radio frequency technology to scan different parts of a patient's body to help with diagnoses. The result of an MRI is a 3-dimensional image of the body, which doctors then interpret. The technician prepares and operates the MRI machine, positions the patient and records the results.

What Is My Occupational Outlook?

The career outlook for MRI technicians is excellent, with demand increasing at a faster rate than average. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 10% rise in job opportunities for MRI technicians and technologists between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). As MRI equipment becomes less expensive, it will become a more common component of treatment for various medical conditions and will also be applied to a greater variety of conditions. A growing and aging population will also require an increasing use of MRI procedures.

The BLS also reported that most MRI technicians are employed by hospitals, diagnostic imaging centers and private physicians. Their median annual salary was $67,720 in May 2015.

What Educational Requirements Should I Meet?

While MRI technicians usually need an Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology, bachelor's degree programs are also available. To obtain specialization in MRIs, you could pursue a 1-year certificate program if you are already licensed in a related area. Such programs include courses in sectional anatomy, pathology and physics, in addition to practical, hands-on training.

According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), many states require MRI technicians to obtain licensure (www.arrt.org). Certification is often required for licensure, and candidates must pass an exam administered by the ARRT. Master's degrees are also available for those interested in administrative or supervisory positions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians are similar to MRI technicians. These professionals are also trained to use medical imaging technology to create diagnostic images for physicians. Two other related careers include nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists. Nuclear medicine technologists use radioactive drugs that cause abnormalities to appear in the human body, thus creating diagnostic images. Radiation therapists are trained to administer radiation to treat cancer and other illnesses.

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