How Can I Become an MRI Tech?
MRI technologists are an integral part of the booming allied health industry. Responsible for preparing and positioning patients for MRI procedures, these techs then gather images of their patients’ internal structures by using a computerized MRI scanner. MRI techs are also expected to speak with and calm nervous patients, as this medical procedure may be stressful for some.
Once the 3D images are ready for analysis, radiologists or physicians will assess them. Though MRI techs don’t have the authority to diagnose patients, their accurate images are the lynchpin.
With the demand for this allied health career higher than ever, there’s never been a better time to get involved in the industry. So how do you become an MRI tech? Keep reading to find out!
Before Applying to MRI Technologist School
MRI tech programs have different minimum enrollment prerequisites. Some may only require a high school diploma or GED to apply, while other programs may demand a more thorough background (like an associate degree or partial college attendance).
Before applying to MRI tech school, there are a few 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 – take as many science and math courses as possible. Biology, chemistry, physics, and even computer science will give you an edge with applications and 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. Testing out of future college courses in a single high school semester saves a lot of time and money. Even if you don’t ace the final exam, having college-level courses under your belt shows initiative to future colleges, programs and employers.
Take First Aid Training
Learning basic first aid and CPR are 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 you graduated before the requirement came into effect, check out Red Cross offers in your area!
Not only does holding a certification look great on applications, some schools even require applicants to have one even before they can apply.
Get Involved in Your Community
Volunteering or interning at local clinics, seniors’ centers, and hospitals helps you build necessary interpersonal skills for an MRI career. These opportunities also offer excellent insights into whether a specific field is the right fit.
How Long Does it Take to Become an MRI Tech?
Depending on the combination of programs and your prior education, most tech hopefuls generally expect to spend between 3 and 5 years studying to be fully qualified.
Typically, an MRI tech needs to obtain one of the following degrees or certificates:
- Associate or bachelor’s of science - Radiography with MRI
- Certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree - MRI Technology
MRI Technology Associate’s Degree
After completing an associate’s degree in radiologic technology or a related field, students should expect to spend another 1-2 years in an MRI tech certification program that focuses on more specialized instruction.
Be sure to choose a program which is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. This ensures that you’ll receive the proper certification upon completing the course and that your training will adequately prepare you for your future career.
What Will You Study?
In associate’s degree programs, there’s a great deal of classroom instruction covering basic health care practices, patient procedures, anatomy and evaluations using MRI images and scans. Students also engage in supervised, hands-on practice with MRI equipment in a clinical setting.
How to Apply to an Associate’s Program
To be considered, most MRI associate programs require strong high school math and science (e.g. physics, biology, chemistry) grades and test scores. Only consider MRI associate’s programs that are approved by the 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 dedicate themselves to a more specific focus, like nuclear medicine or radiologic technology. Students are required to pass general education courses and specific classes like anatomy, pathology and physics (including radiation).
How to Apply
Every four-year college and university has its own acceptance criteria, but typically, you’ll need a high school diploma, required coursework from high school, and sufficient scores from either the SAT or ACT (depending on your location). Some MRI schools accept applicants straight from high school, while some first require an associate’s degree or certification.
MRI Technologist Certification Is Required to Work
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. To obtain your registration, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited training program and pass a certification exam.
Techs need to obtain one of the following certifications:
- ARRT certification
- ARMRIT certification (which offers only MRI Tech Certification).
In order to be ARRT-certified, new MRI techs should expect to complete a rigorous 1-2 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.
The ARMRIT certification offers applicants an alternative route, catering to those focused only on MRI technology. With this general qualification, most MRI techs work in the growing outpatient imaging center market, rather than in hospitals.
Many Employers Prefer ARRT Certification
ARRT has a solid reputation for testing its students in multiple medical imaging fields. Having your ARRT certification is a great way to show potential employers that you have what it takes to meet the qualifications in your field.
While you can’t take the ARRT exam without going through an accredited MRI training program first, signing up for exam dates couldn’t be easier.
You’ll be given your results 2-3 weeks after taking your exam, and you’ll be allowed two more retakes within three years. If 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. Before taking the ARRT exam, be sure to check with your state’s governing board.
Continuing Education Is Key
Each year, MRI techs are expected to renew their registration. Every two years, they need to spend 24 hours completing their 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. Check your state’s licensing board to see which rules apply.
Even if a license with ARRT or ARMRIT might not be necessary, most employers specifically look for these certifications in order to hire fully trained individuals.
Consider a Career in the MRI Field
With thousands of MRI jobs in New Jersey – and the field set to grow by 13% over the next decade – there’s never been a better time to join this sector.
If you live in the tri-state area and are interested in an allied health career, discover more by checking out our MRI Technologist program page!