How to Become an MRI Technician

Magnetic resonance imaging technicians -- known as MRI techs for short -- are responsible for operating and maintaining magnetic resonance imaging machines to capture images that doctors then use in diagnosing a wide variety of conditions in patients. MRI technicians work closely with patients, preparing them for procedures, administering contrast solutions, positioning and moving patients to get accurate scans, and ensuring that the images obtained are of the highest quality and clarity possible.

MRI tech program requirements and prerequisites

The most common educational path for MRI techs is the associate degree. The associate degree in radiologic or MRI technology typically takes at least two years to complete, though accelerated programs might reduce that time to 18 months or less. Bachelor's degree programs are also available for those who want to become MRI technicians; the coursework usually includes more general education courses than the associate degree, as well as more in-depth classes on anatomy, pathology, radiation physics and the like. Those who have already earned their associate or bachelor's degree in a related health care field might opt for a certificate program, which usually takes up to one year.

The associate or bachelor's degree programs have certain criteria that must be met in order to obtain admission. These might include a high school diploma or equivalent, a minimum GPA, minimum scores on standardized tests, and completion of certain prerequisite courses, such as those in math, science or health. Potential students can expect to provide evidence of these requirements, as well as other admissions materials, such as references, transcripts, letters of recommendation, completed applications or essays.

Necessary skills and qualifications for MRI technicians

Those who become MRI technicians should demonstrate close attention to detail, as well as the mechanical prowess to handle complex machinery. Great communication skills are also a must, as they will be dealing with patients, physicians and other health care professionals on a daily basis. Math skills are necessary in order to confidently calculate dosages of contrast agents. Physical stamina and strength could also be required, as MRI techs are often moving, lifting and positioning patients in order to get the best scans possible.

In some states, MRI technicians must be licensed or certified; the requirements vary from one state to another. Licensing typically requires graduation from an accredited program and the passing of a certification exam. The exam might be administered by the state or by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). For specific state requirements, contact the state's health board.

Many MRI technicians become radiologic technicians first, then gain experience and knowledge of MRI machines and techniques over time. They gradually specialize in magnetic resonance imaging, and when they complete a set number of documented imaging examinations, they are considered eligible to sit for the MRI certification exam.

MRI technician working environment

MRI technicians work in health care facilities including hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of physicians, and medical and diagnostic laboratories. MRI techs often work full-time and might have varying schedules, depending upon the hours of the facility in which they work. They might be on their feet for long periods of time, deal with the physical demands of lifting or moving patients, and could be exposed to radiation in the course of their job. This danger can be alleviated with the proper use of protective gear, such as lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices.

MRI technicians earned a national median annual income of $66,050 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) in May 2013. According to the BLS, employment in magnetic resonance imaging technology is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. This increase is attributed to an aging population, federal health legislation that expands access to medical care, and a shift to outpatient care facilities in order to cut health care costs.


"Radiologic and MRI Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292035.htm

"Radiologic and MRI Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm#tab-1

Certification, The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, https://www.arrt.org/Certification/Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging-Technologist

"What Schooling Is Required to Become an MRI Technician?," Chron.com, Fred Decker, http://work.chron.com/schooling-required-mri-technician-13164.html

MRI Tech Schools