How to Become an MRI Technician:
The Definitive Guide


Are you interested in the medical field, but want to take a slightly more behind the scenes role?

An MRI Technician is someone who works in the radiology department, managing magnetic resonance imaging machines to take pictures of the insides of patients’ bodies.

MRI’s are used to detect cancers, Alzheimer’s, cysts, and so much more.

This type of career doesn’t require much blood work or needles, so it’s perfect for the squeamish people out there.


What is an MRI Technician?

MRI’s are used to look inside of patients’ bodies in order to determine if they have an illness, disease, break, or sprain.

An MRI Technician is someone who helps patients get settled into the MRI machine, works the MRI machine, and cleans it for the next patient.

There are MRI Technicians that work in hospitals, labs, and even private practices.

Wherever you decide to gain employment as an MRI Technician, you will be an integral part of the medical field.

Duties

As an MRI Technician, it is unlikely that you will sit around on the job, most MRI Technicians have several daily tasks that they must complete, including:

  • Position patients for MRI scans
  • Screen patients for safety concerns
  • Assist radiologist with procedures
  • Preparing and administering IVs
  • Maintain patient records
  • Evaluate MRI scans

Salary

The average MRI Technician in the United States makes about $74,000 a year.

However, when just starting out in this career, it is likely that you will make closer to $51,000.

Now, after many years of experience and certification, some MRI Technicians can make over $100,000 a year.

There are certain areas that have higher salaries for MRI Technicians, such as California and Florida.

This is due to higher populations as well as a higher elderly population.

Those who work in big hospitals or large labs will also typically make more money in this career as opposed to MRI Technicians who work in small labs or private practices.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $74,270

$51K
$61K
$74K
$87K
$101K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$59,820
Alaska$90,010
Arizona$80,450
Arkansas$59,780
California$97,180
Colorado$82,120
Connecticut$81,060
Delaware$78,500
District of Columbia$86,200
Florida$63,980
Georgia$69,140
Hawaii$96,540
Idaho$74,040
Illinois$71,780
Indiana$67,330
Iowa$61,840
Kansas$64,790
Kentucky$69,770
Louisiana$62,370
Maine$73,620
Maryland$75,540
Massachusetts$85,990
Michigan$63,860
Minnesota$80,840
Mississippi$63,330
Missouri$63,350
Montana$73,940
Nebraska$66,640
Nevada$92,580
New Hampshire$77,130
New Jersey$83,880
New Mexico$70,490
New York$84,280
North Carolina$69,220
North Dakota$63,020
Ohio$66,160
Oklahoma$66,490
Oregon$86,860
Pennsylvania$64,180
Rhode Island$85,760
South Carolina$61,020
South Dakota$59,390
Tennessee$60,140
Texas$73,570
Utah$78,060
Vermont$75,900
Virginia$71,770
Washington$95,150
West Virginia$68,710
Wisconsin$71,550
Wyoming$63,810
Puerto Rico$33,690

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $97,180.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $97,180
Hawaii - $96,540
Washington - $95,150
Nevada - $92,580
Alaska - $90,010
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become an MRI Technician

Step 1Earn a Degree

It wouldn’t be wise to go into an MRI Technician job with no experience or education.

In fact, most employers won’t even allow that to happen.

That’s because it takes a skilled professional to work an MRI machine, and that’s why it can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years to become an MRI Technician.

There are a couple of different types of programs that an MRI Technician should consider when looking for education.

A one year program will provide basic entry-level education on becoming an MRI Technician.

It is likely that you will also have to do clinical lab work and possibly an internship in one of these programs.

There are several topics that are covered in a one year program, including:

  • Anatomy for Imaging
  • Patient Care and Procedures
  • MRI Principles
  • Medical Terminology

If you would rather earn an Associate’s degree, there are many programs across the United States both online and in person.

This should take about two years to finish, and often requires an internship and clinical lab work in order to graduate.

Along with the classes that you’ll take with a one year program, an Associates degree program also provides courses on:

  • Image Evaluation
  • Radiation Physics
  • Physiology
  • Healthcare Practices

Step 2Get Certified

After gaining a certificate or an Associate’s degree, an MRI Technician should consider becoming certified.

There aren’t many employers that will hire an MRI Technician without certification.

It’s also necessary to gain licensure to become an MRI Technician in some states, but not all.

It’s important to find out what requirements your state has before beginning a career as an MRI Technician.

There are two main certifications for MRI Technicians:

  • MRI Tech certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
  • Certified MRI Tech certification from the American Registry of Magnetic Imaging Technologists

In order to gain certification, you’ll need to provide proof of completion of an MRI Technician program, and also pass an exam.

When it comes to getting licensed as an MRI Technician, you will also be required to take an exam.

Many people take their licensing exam through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Step 3Gain Experience

There is a chance that you had to do an internship in order to graduate, especially if you were working toward an Associate’s degree.

In that case, you may have already had a job lined up for after graduation or at least a good amount of hands-on experience.

Either way, there are some great places you can work as an MRI Technician, especially with certification and a degree:

  • Hospitals
  • Labs
  • Urgent Care Clinics
  • Radiology Centers

Most one year certificates and Associate’s degrees can lead to entry-level careers as an MRI Technician, if you are looking to begin a journey in the medical field, you may need to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

Step 4Further Your Career

A four-year degree can lead to many new opportunities in the medical field.

Aside from an MRI Technician, with a Bachelors degree, you can become employed as:

  • Staff Technologist
  • MRI Technologist
  • MRI Specialist

The type of role that you can play in your hospital or medical facility depends on the type of degree that you obtain.

Most Bachelor’s degrees that pertain to MRI Technicians have to do with radiology.

There will be many courses to take in this type of degree program, like:

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Computer Tomography
  • Radiologic Technology

There are programs that can be done online as well as ones that can be done in person.

The choice is yours, but just remember that any internships or clinical labs should be done in person for maximum hands-on experience.


Education

Graduating from high school is a great way to start your training as an MRI Technician.

However, there won’t be many employers that will hire you without some type of certificate or degree.

It should take anywhere from one to two years to get a basic MRI Technician education.

One year programs are available online, at community colleges, and universities across the country.

Some of the best institutes to earn an MRI Technician certificate are:

  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
  • American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
  • The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

These programs allow students to learn entry-level skills as an MRI Technician.

In one of these one-year programs you will likely take classes including:

  • Radiography
  • Physics
  • Radiation Technology
  • Research and Development
  • Nuclear Medicine

Some one-year programs require an internship and lab work, this provides much-needed knowledge and hands-on education.

With a two year degree, you can get a more in-depth feel of the MRI field. 

There are many online programs for Associates degrees as well, but most MRI Technicians earn in-person degrees through classroom work and lab work.

Along with the various classes that you will take through a one year program, a two-year program has classes that may include:

  • Computed Tomography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Sonography
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Human Anatomy
  • Clinical Decision Making

It’s possible to graduate early with MRI Technician experience, depending on how many hours you have used MRI technology.

Most programs require at least 2,000 hours of MRI training in order to graduate.

Those who want to earn a Bachelors degree can spend another two years in order to gain promotions in areas like:

  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Radiology Administrator
  • Pediatric Radiographer

Depending on whether you want to make the medical field your lifelong career, or if you just want to step into the role of an MRI Technologist for a little bit, there are a variety of education programs.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

Some states will require that MRI Technicians become licensed in order to gain employment, other states may require that an MRI Technician earns certification.

It all depends on where you live, but the main goal is to gain as many credentials as you can.

This will show employers and patients that you are competent in the field.

Licensing is required in about 75% of states, and the licensing exam information can be found on your state’s website.

Another place to find great information about licensing is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

In order to be eligible for this license, you will need to have an accredited certificate or degree.

Then, you’ll need to pay the exam fee, which can vary by state.

The exam is typically multiple-choice and computer-based, and you’ll have 90 days to take the exam from the time you pay for it.

If your state doesn’t require a license, or you want to earn extra certification, you can earn the Certified MRI Technician credential from:

  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
  • American Registry of Magnetic Imaging Technologists

Both certifications are called Certified MRI Technician.

From the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, the Certified MRI Technician credential can be earned once you have:

  • Finished an accredited degree program
  • Completed an ARRT educational program
  • Passed Ethics requirements
  • Passed the exam

The exam is computer-based and is made up of mostly multiple-choice questions.

This certification will cost about $250 to earn.

The other certification, from the American Registry of Magnetic Imaging Technologists, has similar requirements:

  • A completed educational program
  • Pass Ethics requirements
  • Pass an exam

This exam is also multiple-choice and will cover topics including:

  • Physics
  • Bioeffects
  • Safety and Patient Care
  • Cross-Sectional Anatomy
  • Ethics

It takes a score of at least 70 to pass this exam.

Both certifications require renewal after three years, and licensing also requires renewal every three years.

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

When you are looking to become certified as an MRI Technician, you may be required to enroll in extra educational programs.

These programs can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 8 weeks to finish and will require both classroom learning and labs.

The program will coincide with the certification that you want to gain.

In order to be eligible for this type of program, you will likely need to become part of the association, like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

After that, you will need to take the exam to become a certified MRI Technician.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

There should be no issue finding employment as an MRI Technician in the near future.

In fact, over the next decade, this career will grow around 7 percent.

That’s quite a lot more than many other careers in the medical field, especially technologists and technicians.

The reason for this rise in MRI Technician career opportunities is the baby boomer population.

As this generation gets older, more MRI treatments will be necessary.

MRIs are used to diagnose illnesses like Alzheimer’s and cancer, which will be more prevalent with the baby boomer population.

Those with certification and specializations will find it easier to gain employment as an MRI Technician.

Employment Growth Projection: 7%

38,700
2018
41,400
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 2,700 jobs.

MRI Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become an MRI Technician?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

Without a solid education, an MRI Technician doesn’t have much upward mobility, that’s why this job is a bit unsatisfactory for some.

The hours can be long and draining as well, but the pay makes it more bearable.

The fact that this career requires helping patients makes the job worth doing for many MRI Technicians. 

Like many other careers in the medical field, it is typical for an MRI Technician to work over 40 hours a week, and varying shifts throughout the workweek.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

Working as an MRI Technician can be a very rewarding career.

In fact, most MRI Technicians make close to $74,000 a year.

When just beginning your career as an MRI Technician, it’s important to note that you will make closer to $50,000 to start.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for growth, as MRI Technicians at the top of their career can make over $100,000 in some areas.

Having relevant education and certification will provide more career opportunities for MRI Technicians as well.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

Having a career as an MRI Technician can be very fruitful, and over the next ten years, you won’t have to worry about finding a job opening.

There will be a growth of around 7 percent in this career over the next decade.

This is great news for those who are interested in this career field, as they shouldn’t have an issue finding a job anytime soon.

Working in largely populated areas, in big hospitals, or in areas with a high elderly population, will provide more job opportunities in this field.

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

Education Duration

There are several different types of programs available for those interested in becoming an MRI Technician.

The minimum time it takes to earn a certificate in this field is one year.

If you are looking for a more in-depth education, you can earn an Associate’s degree, which takes about two years to finish.

For MRI Technicians who want to further their career in the medical field, a Bachelor’s degree might be appropriate.

This type of degree takes about four years to finish.

All in all, it can take anywhere from one to four years to become an MRI Technician.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Not only will you need patience and a steady hand to work as an MRI Technician, but you’ll also need the following skills:

  • Math and science knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Understanding of anatomy and physiology
  • Ability to work alone or as a team
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Compassion for others
  • Great writing skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to decipher non-verbal skills
  • Manual dexterity
  • Sense of urgency
  • Stress management
  • Ability to work quickly and accurately

With a job as an MRI Technician, you will work with several types of people, which means you’ll also need to know how to speak to a variety of patients, so having great communication skills is a must.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does an MRI Technician make?

On average in the United States, an MRI Technician brings in about $74,000 annually.

Those who have certification and many years of experience as an MRI Technician can expect to make over $100,000 a year in some areas.

Having little experience or education can lead to a smaller salary, starting at around $50,000 a year.

There are many ways to earn promotions and raises as an MRI Technician.

Q. What does an MRI Technician do?

An MRI Technician is an integral part of the medical field.

With a career as an MRI Technician, you can expect to take pictures of the insides of patients’ bodies with a special machine.

This machine takes a lot of education and experience to understand and learn.

You will also counsel patients when they are worried, and also speak with doctors and other medical team members to diagnose and treat patients.

Q. Is there a demand for MRI Technicians?

With the aging baby boomer population, there will likely continue to be a need for MRI Technicians, at least for the next several years.

This career will be around for many years because MRIs are one of the clearest ways to see inside a person’s body.

With advancements in technology, MRIs are becoming clearer and easier to use every day.

If you are looking to start a career as an MRI Technician, now is a great time to begin your journey.

Q. How long does it take to become an MRI Technician?

A typical MRI Technician program should take about one year to complete.

For those looking for more education, an Associate’s degree may be a better option.

This should take about two years to finish for full-time students.

Along with any other certifications and licensing it should take anywhere from 1 and a half years to 2 and a half years to become an MRI Technician.

Q. How much does it cost to become an MRI Technician?

The average MRI Technician program can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on how long the program is, and which type of internships are available.

To earn an Associate’s degree, you will likely need to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Associates degrees at universities can be more expensive than community college or trade schools.

Online schools can also be more expensive, but may not offer in-person clinicals or labs.

It should cost anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 to become an MRI Technician.


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