Answered: How to Become an MRI Tech
MRI technologists (also called technicians or techs) are an integral part of the growing allied health industry. MRI techs prepare and position patients for MRI procedures, and gather images of the insides of patients’ bodies by using a computerized MRI scanner.
MRI techs are also expected to speak with and even calm down patients, as an MRI can be a stressful procedure. Once the 3D images are ready for analysis, radiologists or physicians will assess them to develop diagnoses.
The demand for these allied health professionals has never been higher, and there’s never been a better time to get involved in the industry. But how can you become an MRI tech?
Before Applying to MRI Technologist School
Each MRI tech training program will have its own minimum enrollment requirements. Some may only need a high school diploma or GED for you to apply, while other programs may demand a more thorough background, like an associate degree, or partial college attendance.
There are, however, some great ways to stand out and gain experience before attending MRI tech programs.
Sign Up For Related Classes in High School
If you’re currently in high school and know that you want to pursue a career in the MRI field, be sure to take as many science and math courses as you can. Biology, chemistry, physics, and even computer science will give you an edge with applications, as well as in your future studies.
If your high school offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in science and mathematics, take the initiative to sign up for a few of them. Not only does testing out future college courses in a single high school semester save you a lot of time and money, but it shows initiative to future colleges, programs and employers.
Take First Aid Training
Learning basic first aid and CPR are highly important skills at any age, but did you know that, starting in 2016, most states began requiring high school graduates to complete CPR training? If your state doesn’t happen to be one of them, or if you graduated before the requirement came into effect, check out CPR and first aid training offers in your area!
Not only does holding a certification look great on applications, but some schools require applicants to have one even before applying.
Get Involved in Your Community
Volunteering or interning at local clinics, seniors’ centers, or hospitals helps you build necessary interpersonal skills for a career in magnetic resonance imaging. Not only that, but these opportunities offer excellent insights into whether a specific field is the right fit for you.
How Long Does it Take to Become an MRI Tech?
While each program may have its own minimum requirements to enroll, almost all require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Some MRI tech programs require some college or an associate’s degree before entering. Depending which combination of programs you choose and your prior education, you can generally expect to spend between 3 and 5 years studying to be a fully qualified MRI technologist.
Typically, an MRI tech needs to obtain one of the following degrees or certificates:
- Associate or bachelor’s of science in radiography with MRI
- Certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree in MRI Technology
MRI Technology Associate’s Degree
Most MRI techs initially start with an associate’s degree. After completing an associate’s degree in radiologic technology or a related field, students should expect to complete another 1-2 years in an MRI technology certification program that focuses on more specialized instruction.
Be sure to study at an MRI training program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. This will ensure that you’ll receive the proper certification upon completing the course, but also that you’ll receive training that will adequately prepare you for your future career.
What Will You Study?
There’s a great deal of classroom instruction in an associate’s degree program. This includes basic health care practices, patient procedures, anatomy and evaluations using MRI images and scans. Students are then allowed to engage in supervised, hands-on practice in a clinical setting with MRI equipment.
How to Apply to an Associate’s Program
To be considered, most MRI associate programs require strong high school math and science (physics, biology, chemistry) grades and test scores. Only consider MRI associate’s programs that are approved for by American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART).
Bachelor’s of Science in Medical Imaging
A four-year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Medical Imaging allows students to devote themselves to a more specific MRI focus, like nuclear medicine technology or even radiologic technology. Students will not only be required to pass general education courses, but specific classes like anatomy, pathology and physics (including radiation) will be vital to your success.
How to Apply
Every four-year college or university has its own acceptance criteria, but typically, you’ll need a high school diploma, the required coursework from high school, and sufficient scores from either the SAT or ACT (depending on location). Each four-year program has different requirements for application. Some accept applicants straight from high school, while some first require an associate’s degree or certification.
MRI Technologist Certification Is Required
Magnetic Resonance Imaging certification programs are excellent options for those who already hold an associate degree, or are considering a change in a current medical career. In order to be registered in your field, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited training program and pass a certification exam.
All techs need to obtain one of the following certifications:
In order to be certified by ARRT, new MRI techs can expect to complete a rigorous one to two year training program with an accredited organization. Students should expect a variety of coursework, including classroom, clinical, and hands-on training, which includes shadowing seasoned veterans in the field.
After completing the initial ARRT certification, specialization certificates via ‘post-primary pathways’ are available. You might specialize in a subject like Mammography, Vascular Sonography, or Bone Densitometry. Specializations can build upon a student’s knowledge and experience, and specialists typically earn higher salaries than their counterparts.
The ARMRIT certification offers applicants an alternative route to becoming certified MRI technicians. The ARMRIT exam caters to those focused on MRI technology only. With this general qualification, most MRI techs work in the growing outpatient imaging center market, rather than in hospitals.
Many Employers Prefer AART Certification
Being registered with the ARRT is a great way to show a wide range of potential employers that you have what it takes to meet the nationally-endorsed qualifications in your field. ARRT also has a solid reputation for its stringent testing of applicants in multiple medical imaging fields.
You cannot take the ARRT exam without first going through an accredited MRI training program, but signing up for exam dates couldn’t be easier. You’ll be given your results 2-3 weeks after completing your exam, and you’ll be allowed two more retakes within three years. Should you fail to successfully complete the exam within this period, you’ll need to complete another round of training.
In some states, MRI techs who meet these requirements are also eligible for licensure, so be sure to check with your state’s governing board before taking the ARRT exam.
Each year, MRI techs are expected to renew their registration, and every two years, they need to spend 24 hours completing continuing MRI tech training.
MRI Tech Licensing
Though many states require a state license to work as an MRI tech, not all of them do. Be sure to check with your own state’s licensing board to see which rules apply.
Even if a license with ARRT or American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) might not be necessary in all states, most employers encourage these certifications.
Consider a Career in the MRI Field
With countless MRI jobs in NJ and an industry set to grow by 9% over the next decade, there’s never been a better time to study MRI technology.
If you live in the tri-state area and are interested in an allied health career, check out our program page to find more information or sign up for our MRI training course.