Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a magnetic resonance imaging technician. Learn about job duties, salary, education requirements and certification to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technician?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technicians, also called technologists, use MRI scanning machines to create 3-D images of areas in the body. These images are used by physicians to help in diagnosing diseases, injuries or other conditions. Before a procedure, they consult with patients about medical history and answer their questions about MRI diagnostic testing. Then, based on the orders of the physician, they position the patient on the machine and operate the scanner in order to take images of the correct areas of the body. They also inject the patient with contrast dyes that allow the scanner to pick up images of the specified body part. Afterward, they discuss the resulting images with the doctor to help determine whether they are of sufficient quality or if more need to be taken in order to reach a conclusive diagnosis.

The following chart provides information on what you need to know about entering this profession.

Degree Required Associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree
Education Field of Study Radiologic technology
Key Skills Create 3-D images that aid physicians in diagnosis; prepare patients for procedures; keep patient records
Licensure/Certification Required Some states require licensing & certification
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 10%*
Average Salary (2015) $68,340*

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

What Would I Do as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technician?

Magnetic resonance imaging is a specialization in the field of radiologic technology that uses invisible particles to create images of different parts of the body. As an MRI technician, you would use an MRI machine that employs magnets and radio waves to gather information and convert it into a 3-D image. Doctors and their teams use the images you create to form diagnoses and prescribe treatment plans. You could also prepare patients for non-invasive MRI exams, maintain your MRI equipment and use computers to record patients' information.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that MRI technologists made an average salary of $68,340 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also noted that employment was expected to increase 10% between 2014 and 2024. Earning a certificate or degree in the field and learning other types of diagnostic procedures, including computed tomography or mammography, could increase your earning potential.

What Education Do I Need?

Because of the specificity of the technology, you'll need some formal training to become an MRI technician. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology accredits specific MRI training programs at the certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree levels. In an MRI training program, you would study technology in the classroom and practice its use in a supervised clinical setting. Some general radiologic technology programs might teach you about x-ray photography and other diagnostic imaging techniques. Many programs can prepare you to become nationally certified.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Certification is usually voluntary, though you might need to become licensed by your state's health board. While some states use their own licensing exams, others might accept national certification exams administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART). Passing the AART exam also confers a Magnetic Resonance Imaging credential, which requires you to first complete an approved training program (www.arrt.org). If you're already registered with the organization or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and have documented clinical experience, you could also qualify for certification testing.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A closely related career possibility is a job as a radiologic technologist or radiographer. Like MRI technicians, these professionals operate equipment that produces diagnostic images, but they are experts in the use of x-rays and CAT scanners, rather than MRI scanners. To become a radiologic technologist, it is usually necessary to hold at least an associate's degree. Another option for individuals who are interested in the application of radiation technology in medical settings is a job as a radiation therapist. Radiation therapists use machines known as linear accelerators to apply radiation for the treatment of diseases, such as cancer. Like radiologic technologists, radiation therapists must have an associate's degree in order to practice.

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