Radiology students looking to further their careers in medical imaging may pursue certifications from schools that offer magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) programs.
Schools that offer MRI technology programs produce technologists and technicians who operate MRI scanners to create diagnostic images(1).
Jobs in MRI technology are specialized, as they are a subspecialty of radiologic technology. Students with backgrounds in similar education courses typically pursue MRI bachelor’s degrees or certificate programs from accredited MRI tech schools.
The accrediting agencies for MRI programs include the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), and the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT).
The demand for MRI technologists increases along with the growth of the American aging population. In fact, the job outlook of MRI techs is projected to grow eleven percent from 2018 to 2028. This employment rate is much faster than the average for all occupations(2).
In May 2019, the median annual wage for MRI techs was $73,410. The top industries where they worked included outpatient care centers, diagnostic laboratories, medical centers, hospitals (state, local, private), and physician’s offices(3).
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Tech Schools
Many state universities and private colleges offer MRI programs for aspiring MRI technologists. These programs may be included under radiology tech programs.
Depending on the school, students may spend two to four years training under an MRI program. Students who have a background in radiologic technology or radiology programs have better chances of qualifying for MRI certificate programs.
Some schools offer online magnetic resonance imaging programs. This format covers subjects from physiology and anatomy.
Programs for MRI technicians require a lot of hands-on experience. A traditional classroom setting remains the best mode of instruction.
MRI tech school tuition fees may vary among students. Enrollees from other states may require extra fees for board, on top of the program costs.
Still, MRI tech schools may offer financial aid options for aspiring technologists. Scholarships and grants are available for eligible students.
Graduates of accredited MRI programs are eligible to take the ARRT exam and other official licensure tests. Employers typically consider certified MRI technologists for their medical centers.
Certified MRI technicians who have passed the ARRT exam must renew their license within its two-year validity. Renewal involves completion of continuing education.
Below is a summary of MRI tech schools and the programs that they offer, including the program length and cost.
|State||MRI Tech School||Programs Offered||Entrance Requirements||Certification/Degree||Program Length||Tuition|
|Texas||Southwest University at El Paso||Associate of Applied Science in Magnetic Resonance Imaging||High school diploma||Associate of Applied Science degree(AAS)||22 months (96 weeks)||$40,397.00(4)|
|Galveston College||Magnetic Resonance Imaging||High school diploma or GED certificate||Post-associate degree certificate||1 year (3 semesters)||$1,395.00 (minimum estimate based on $45/credit-hour(5) * 31-credit hours(6))|
|Arizona||GateWay Community College||Associate of Applied Science in Medical Radiography||High school diploma or GED verification||AAS degree||2 years (5 semesters)||$9,875 - $13,440; $1,593 for certificate of completion in MRI(7)|
|West Coast Ultrasound Institute||Academic Associate of Science In Magnetic Resonance Imaging;Magnetic Resonance Imaging Diploma||Proof of graduation from an accredited high school||AAS; Diploma||18 months;9 months||$38,666.00(8); $20,429.50(9)|
|California||Casa Loma College-Van Nuys||Magnetic Resonance Imaging||High school diploma or equivalent||AAS degree||22 months||$37,340(10)|
|Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts||A.S. In Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)||High school diploma or GED||AS degree||72 weeks||$39,818.70(11)|
|New York||Hudson Valley Community College||Radiologic Technology||Regents diploma (75 or above) or non-regents diploma (85 or above)||AAS degree||2 years||$2,400 (minimum per term)(12)|
|Trocaire College||Radiologic Technology||High school diploma (minimum average of 85%) or GED diploma (minimum score of 2,750)||AAS degree||81 semester hours||$8,990 (12-19 credit hour full-time students per semester)(13)|
|Florida||Gulf Coast Community College||Radiography Associate Of Science Degree Program||High school and college transcriptsMinimum grade of C in prerequisite courses (listed under program’s checklist)||AS degree||23 months||$7,603.75 (based on AS program estimated cost of $98.75 per credit hour(14) * 77 credit hours)(15)|
|Med Academy||Associate of Science in MRI Technology||High school diploma or GED||AAS degree||24 months||$35,700 (based on $340 per credit hour * 105 credit hours)(16)|
Based on a May 2019 report on occupational employment statistics, Texas had the highest employment level among MRI technicians. Among an estimated 2,540 employees, the annual mean wage for this occupation was $73,570(17).
The Texas Department of State Health Services oversees the licensure of MRI technicians in Texas. MRI techs may also join the Texas Society of Radiologic Technologists for continuing education and networking.
With an annual mean wage of $80,830, the Arizona nonmetropolitan area was the top paying location for MRI techs in May 2019(18).
MRI technologists based in Arizona may join the Arizona State Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASSRT). This society uses MRI technology for three-dimensional diagnostic imaging to find invasive and harmful cancers within the human body.
Based on the Occupational Employment Statistics of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California has the highest employment rate of magnetic resonance imaging technologists(19). The annual mean wage as of May 2019 was $97,180.
California-based MRI technicians must have a license from the Radiologic Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health. Professionals may also join the California Society of Radiologic Technologists for related services.
According to the BLS, this is the fourth state with the highest employment level for MRI techs. At $84,280, New York had the second highest annual mean wage as of May 2019(20).
MRI technicians may seek licensure from the New York Department of Health. These professionals may also join the New York State Society of Radiologic Sciences for support from local members of the medical imaging industry.
With 3,040 recorded employees in May 2019, Florida State had the second highest employment level for MRI techs in America. The BLS listed Florida’s annual mean wage for MRI technologists at $63,980(21).
MRI technicians looking for work in Florida may join the Florida Society of Radiologic Technologists. This society offers networking opportunities, job postings, and support for continuing education requirements.
How to Choose an MRI Tech School
Students have several criteria to consider when selecting an MRI tech school.
Verify the accreditation of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging program the school offers. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is a notable organization that accredits programs.
Graduation from an accredited program is necessary for licensure, which is important to get entry-level jobs in the industry.
Some MRI schools only admit certified radiologic technologists as students of their MRI programs.
Certified or licensed radiologic technologists or radiographers have likely completed necessary courses, such as physiology and anatomy.
Some schools offer online options for students who may already be working at clinical sites. Students must consider MRI programs that fit their schedules, if flexibility is an issue.
However, MRI technology is a very hands-on industry, so students should reassess their scheduling conflicts when choosing an MRI tech school.
What Does It Take to Be an MRI Tech?
Many MRI techs begin their careers as radiologists with experience in computed tomography technology or using X-rays for medical imaging. In most cases, MRI techs require an associate’s degree.
Although associate’s degrees are the most common educational requirement for MRI technologists, students may pursue postsecondary education programs for bachelor of science degrees or graduate certificates.
A Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging degree is also useful for applying to MRI schools. Students of this course have experience with specific studies, including radiologic technology and nuclear medicine.
Aspiring MRI techs must undergo programs with accreditation from the ARMRIT. The JRCERT accredits programs in radiography.
Once students complete a program with accreditation from any official organization, they are eligible to take the ARRT exam.
The ARRT and the ARMRIT are the main certifying bodies for MRI tech programs. Graduates from accredited programs must pass MRI certification exams from these organizations to become licensed MRI techs.
Upon completion of the initial ARRT certification program, students may pursue post-primary pathways for specialization certificates.
Special subjects may include vascular sonography, bone densitometry, diagnostic medical sonography, and mammography. Specialists in these fields may earn higher salaries.
Some states may not require MRI technologists to be certified. However, hospital or imaging center employers prefer hiring certified technologists.
The state’s health board may have specific licensure requirements. Prospective technologists may contact their corresponding state health board for details.
Essential Qualities of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
- MRI technologists must be detail oriented. Acquiring diagnostic images needs precision and following exact instructions.
- MRI techs have substantial technical knowledge. They work with complex machinery that require more than basic operational skills and understanding.
- MRI techs need good endurance. They require the physical stamina to transport patients where they need to be. MRI techs also require the strength to work long clinical rotations, as patients may need assistance at any time of their shift.
- MRI techs need interpersonal skills for patient care. MRI techs work closely with patients who may be experiencing pain and stress.
- MRI technologists may also need ample math skills to calculate chemical doses for correct imaging procedures. Prospects who have taken appropriate mathematics coursework in high school may do better in MRI tech programs.
MRI Technicians vs. MRI Technologists
MRI technology involves medical imaging, similar to X-ray, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, and mammography.
Careers in this field include MRI technicians and MRI technologists. Both job titles require associate’s degrees in related fields.
Both occupations ensure that patients are ready for the magnetic resonance imaging process. MRI procedure preparations include filling out a patient’s medical history chart and applying chemicals to correctly capture images of the patient for diagnosis.
These professionals also make sure that patients are positioned properly before using MRI scanners and equipment.
Responsibilities of an MRI Technician
MRI technicians have physically demanding jobs. These professionals are integral members of a medical diagnostic team who constantly work on their feet.
MRI technicians require licensure and an associate’s degree in a related field. Their responsibilities include:
- Following directions from physicians
- Preparing MRI equipment for procedures
- Preparing patients for their MRI scans
- Assisting patients with mobility impairment
- Explaining MRI procedures to patients
- Covering a patient’s body parts that do not need to be scanned
Responsibilities of an MRI Technologist
MRI technologists are essential members of the allied health industry. These technologists have likely completed associate degrees in radiologic technology or allied health sciences prior to their MRI career.
These medical professionals are meticulous since they work closely with doctors and keep medical records. Among their responsibilities are:
- Meeting with patients to explain procedures
- Answering a patient’s questions about the procedures
- Preparing a patient and positioning them correctly
- Operating MRI scanners to capture a patient’s images
- Updating a patient’s medical records
Magnetic resonance imaging is an essential part of health sciences. Training programs for MRI technologists produce professionals in the medical imaging industry. These images are useful for diagnostic treatments.
Many schools offer radiology programs with MRI training for immediate integration into the workforce. The aging population of America is increasing, thus making MRI technology a valuable career path.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for MRI technologists is higher than the average of all occupations. MRI technologists are evidently in demand.
Students may take MRI programs online or on-site. However, MRI technologists are extremely hands-on with their work and would benefit greatly from classroom and on-site instruction.
Aspiring MRI technicians typically require an associate’s degree in allied health sciences or radiology. Students then pursue ARRT-accredited MRI programs.
Upon completion of an MRI program from an accredited school, graduates can take the ARRT exam for licensure purposes.
Licensed MRI technicians may join MRI societies within their state of residence for career opportunities. These groups have connections to physician’s offices, medical centers, and support further education courses.
Joining a local MRI society is essential to expanding one’s clinical experience as an MRI technician.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm.
- “Tuition Breakdown.” Southwest University at El Paso. https://southwestuniversity.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PROGRAM-TUITION-BREAKDOWN-AS-OF-SEP-2019.pdf
- “Calculating Tuition & Fees.” Galveston College. https://gc.edu/admissions/calculating-tuition-fees-2/
- “Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology Certificate Program - Curriculum.” Galveston College. https://gc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MRI-CERTIFICATE.pdf
- “Radiologic Technology - Program Cost” Gateway Community College. https://www.gatewaycc.edu/medical-radiography
- “Fee Schedule Fall 2019: Tuition, Fees, Books & Supplies.” West Coast Ultrasound Institute - Phoenix Campus. https://wcui.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2019/06/WCUI-2019-2020-School-Catalog.pdf
- Career Programs at Casa Loma College-Van Nuys, College Tuition Compare, https://www.collegetuitioncompare.com/career/casa-loma-college-van-nuys
- “MRI Program Overview.” Gurnick Academy. https://www.gurnick.edu/programs/mri-program/
- “Tuition and Fees.” Hudson Valley Community College. https://catalog.hvcc.edu/content.php?catoid=3&navoid=103
- “Tuition and Fees.” Trocaire College. https://trocaire.edu/admissions-aid/tuition-and-fees/
- “Tuition and Fees.” Gulf Coast State College. https://www.gulfcoast.edu/tuition-aid/tuition-fees/index.html
- “Radiography Program Curriculum Sequence.” Gulf Coast State College. https://www.gulfcoast.edu/academics/programs/radiography-as/curriculum.html
- “Associate of Science in MRI Technology.” Med Academy. https://www.medacademy.education/programs/mri-technology-a-s-program/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292035.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292035.htm