How to Become an MRI Technician

Doctors request a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test when they need more insight into what is going on with a patient. Although X-rays may be useful in diagnosing mild injuries and illnesses, MRIs allow doctors to see the inside of the body and offers several advantages over the traditional X-ray.

The MRI was developed as a response to patient concerns about the safety of radiation exposure. They provide much clearer images, and patients have no exposure to ionizing radiation. Patients tend to feel less anxious about undergoing medical testing because of this.

What Do MRI Technologists Do?

MRI technologists obtain images of the inside of a patient’s body after receiving a request from a referring doctor. MRI scanners rely on radio waves that interact with an attached computer to create an image. The following are some of the most common suspected conditions that cause doctors to request an MRI for their patients:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cysts
  • Heart problems
  • Joint pain
  • Liver cancer
  • Pelvic pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Tumors

As an MRI technician, one of your main duties is to ensure the patient is comfortable and set up properly for imaging. MRI techs also answer patient questions to help them feel more at ease about having the test. However, they cannot answer medical questions for patients and should refer them back to their doctor for anything related to diagnosis or treatment.

Some MRI tests require technologists to inject intravenous contrast dye into the patient’s body. The purpose of the dye is to help the doctor who ordered the MRI see the difference between certain internal bodily structures more clearly. Whether the patient receives contrast dye or not, MRI technologists are responsible for taking multiple images from different angles and forwarding them to the referring physician.

How to Become an MRI Tech

Becoming an MRI technologist usually starts with getting formal training, usually through an accredited degree program like the Academic Associate of Science degree offered at WCUI School of Medical Imaging. Many of these programs can be completed in under two years. WCUI’s MRI associate degree, for example, takes between 18 and 21 months and teaches you things like:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • How to identify pathologies on an MRI image
  • How to properly operate an MRI scanner
  • Medical ethics and professional standards
  • Patient care during medical imaging

If you’re interested in learning more about the specific things you’ll study in an MRI associate degree program, you can check out our associate MRI program course sheet. Once you’ve completed your degree program, you’re eligible to become a certified MRI technologist by sitting for a registry exam. Employers often prioritize candidates with these certifications when they’re hiring because they demonstrate that you have the skills that they’re looking for.

This is why WCUI offers our Pathways to Registry for our Academic Associate of Science in Magnetic Resonance Imaging students, which includes the registry exams* you’re eligible to take and which exam fees are included in the program cost:

  • American Registry Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)

* These registries are independent organizations and the prerequisites for eligibility can change at any time without WCUI’s knowledge or consent. This document is meant to be a guide only and all students should review the registry’s website for the most up-to-date information.

What Are the Benefits of Pursuing a Career as an MRI Technologist?

Unlike other types of medical careers that take four or more years of education and training, an MRI tech program like the one offered at WCUI can often take less time and sometimes cost less tuition than other healthcare degrees out there. MRI technologists also often have a more stable schedule. Unless you work in a hospital, most MRIs take place during regular business hours, so you won’t necessarily be required to be there on nights and weekends. Other benefits of working as an MRI tech include:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of MRI technologists is expected to grow faster than average: 9.8% in California and 10.6% in Arizona.
  • You’ll have a more predictable work environment.
  • You will have the ability to play a vital role in a patient’s healthcare as part of their medical team.
  • You get the opportunity to work with newly developed technology as soon as it comes out.

What Else Should You Know About Becoming an MRI Technician?

Beyond the training you get, being a successful MRI technologist often requires some non-technical skills like:

  • A strong attention to detail when following doctors’ orders
  • Good communication skills and empathy, especially when dealing with patients who are in stressful situations
  • The ability to maintain a calm demeanor and be patient and precise in your work, even when patient census is high

Becoming an MRI technologist also provides a lot of opportunities for further growth and development. You can expand on your education by studying other areas of medical imaging, or you can expand on your MRI training by seeking out other certifications that are available for professionals beyond ARRT and AMRIT, including:

  • Certified Radiology Administrator (CRA) through the Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA)
  • Certified Radiological Technologist through the American Chiropractic Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ACRRT)
  • Registered Technologist – Computed Tomography (RTCT) through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Registered Technologist – Mammography (RTM) through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist (CNMT) through the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)

If you are interested in becoming an MRI technologist, then right now is a great time to contact WCUI School of Imaging. Please call us at 888-315-4993 to learn more about our MRI Technician Associate Degree Program or complete this form to request that an admissions counselor contact you.

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