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Magnetic Resonance Technologist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for magnetic resonance imaging technologists. Get the facts about job duties, licensing, education requirements and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Magnetic Resonance Technologist?

A magnetic resonance technologist, more commonly known as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist, is an expert in the operation of MRI scanners. This machinery is used to create detailed digital images of soft tissue areas in the human body, which are used by physicians to diagnose medical conditions. Based on physicians' orders, they prepare patients for MRI imaging by positioning them appropriately and shielding areas of the body that do not need to be imaged. After the procedure, they may work with physicians to help evaluate the produced images and decide whether another MRI scan is necessary.

The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know about entering this profession.

Degree Required Associate's degree most common; bachelor's degree and certificate programs available
Education Field of Study Radiologic technology, radiography, magnetic resonance imaging
Key Responsibilities Prepare patients for & conduct imaging procedures; report results to doctor; keep patient records; maintain equipment
Licensure/Certification Licensing &/or certification required in some states, specifics vary by state
Job Growth (2018-2028) 9%*
Average Salary (2018) $72,230*

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

What Type of Work Would I Do as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist?

As an MRI technologist, you will prepare patients for this imaging procedure. You may need to administer medication, such as an intravenous contrast dye. For closed MRIs, patients are required to lie very still in a confined space. You will need to provide comfort and reassurance to patients before and during this procedure.

After the procedure, you may communicate with referring physicians and will often be involved in patient follow-up. You will be responsible for keeping records and ensuring that the equipment is well maintained. Safety will also be an important aspect in this field.

What Licenses and Education Do I Need?

The majority of states require licensing for MRI technologists. Consult your state's health department or state licensure department for specific regulations in your state. The American Registry of Radiologic Technicians' (ARRT) exam is used in many states.

An associate's degree is the most common educational level in the field. Certificate programs are also available through hospitals and some vocational schools; some colleges and universities do offer bachelor's degree programs. All of these programs will cover operation of the equipment and general principles of MRI imaging. Bachelor's degree programs following the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine curriculum involve learning about the properties of magnetism, learning about the superconducting magnets used for image acquisition and learning factors important to optimizing image quality, such as selection of pulse sequences.

Most certification and licensure will require continuing education, as advances in the field are frequent. The American College of Radiology also recommends that cardiac MRI technologists be certified in basic life support and be able to use an automatic external defibrillator.

Where Can I Work?

Most MRI technologists work in hospitals and independent diagnostic imaging centers. MRI equipment is large and expensive, and physicians' offices are unlikely to own their own imaging equipment. Some imaging centers own mobile vans equipped with magnetic resonance imaging, so you may travel to hospitals and doctors' offices offering the procedure in different locations.

What's the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for MRI technologists is expected to grow by 9% from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). This is faster than average, and it is due in part to the increase in the size of the elderly population, as well as to the growing number of patients with access to healthcare insurance. In May 2018, MRI technologists earned an average annual wage of $72,230, with an estimated 38,540 workers employed in the U.S.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A closely related option is a career as a radiologic technologist, also known as a radiographer. Like MRI technologists, these professionals use radiation-based equipment for diagnostic procedures, but they specialize in the use of x-rays, rather than MRI scanners. The minimum educational requirement for the job is an associate's degree. Alternatively, individuals who are interested in the use of radiation technology for patient treatment may want to consider a career as a radiation therapist. Radiation therapists, who must also hold at least an associate's degree, use radiation to treat patients with cancer and other diseases.