How To Become an MRI Technician in the US

According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), MRI technicians are among the highest paid medical technicians in the US. As of 2010, they have an average starting pay of at least $50,000 and can make more than $65,000 a year.

An MRI technician basically operates a magnetic resonance imaging machine. This machine is highly sophisticated medical equipment used to assist doctors in detecting tumors and diagnosing other health problems.

mri technician

If you are interested, you too can become an MRI technician. There are two ways to become a certified MRI technician. One is through the primary pathway while the other is through cross-training.


Primary Pathway

If you have no background yet as a medical technician, you should take the primary pathway:

Step 1 – Start by getting more science courses in high school.

Although not mandatory, taking additional science courses can give you a good foundation when you take up MRI programs in college.

Step 2 – Apply for an MRI-accredited program.

After you have finished high school, you may enroll in an MRI program offered by your college or university. MRI programs may include certificate programs and associate or bachelor’s degrees.

A certificate program just takes six months to complete. A bachelor’s degree may require at least four years. The type of program you choose may depend on your career goal and finances. For instance, getting a bachelor’s degree entails more expense, but it can also give you management opportunities in the future. Be sure that the program you choose is accredited by an agency approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Step 3 – Complete the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Clinical Experience requirement.

This requirement can be met by undergoing clinical rotation and hands-on training for at least 1,000 hours. Most students are able to complete this training in two years.

Step 4 – Apply for an ARRT certification.

Taking an ARRT certification exam is voluntary, but it can give you an advantage when eventually applying for a job. If you have graduated from an MRI-accredited program on or before December 31, 2012, you may apply for an ARRT certification within five years from program completion. Beginning January 1, 2013, applications for ARRT certification must be within three years from program completion.

One of the certification requirements to be an MRI technician is to demonstrate your competence in clinical tasks. These tasks may include general care, MRI procedures, and quality-control tests as specified by ARRT.

Step 5 – Get a state license.

Getting a state license is required by most states. The requirements may vary from state to state, but normally involve a licensing examination. If you already have an ARRT certification, your state licensing examination may be waived.

After getting your state license, you may then apply for work as an MRI technician.




If you already are a medical technician in another medical field, you can be an MRI technician by way of cross-training:

Step 1 – Meet the eligibility requirement.

To be eligible for cross-training, you should be ARRT-registered in any of the following fields:

  • Radiography
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology (acceptable if NMTCB-registered)
  • Sonography (acceptable if ARDMS-registered).

Step 2 – Apply for an MRI certificate program.  

If you are eligible for cross-training, you may apply for an accredited MRI program for health care workers. But if you are currently working, you could enroll in an online MRI certificate program for more flexibility with your schedule.

Step 3 – Complete the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Clinical Experience requirement.

This requirement is the same as in Step 3 of the Primary Pathway. But if you already have had some training before, you might be able to complete this requirement sooner.

Step 4 – Apply for an ARRT certification.

To apply for an ARRT certification, you must demonstrate your competence in MRI-related clinical tasks. You must also present a certification in another ARRT-eligible field, as outlined in Step 1 of Cross-Training.

Step 5 – Get a state license.

Depending on the state where you intend to work, you may be required to get a state license before you could apply for a job as an MRI technician. Renewal of your ARRT registration as an MRI technician is required every two years. But before you could renew your ARRT registration, you must also comply with the continuing education requirements of your profession, such as seminar trainings.

Many hospitals in the US offer MRI services for both outpatients and inpatients. This service provides an opportunity for potential MRI technicians.

An MRI technician is a noble profession and a high-paying job at that. If you are interested to become a certified MRI technician, consider the steps as outlined above, whether you are just starting or are already an experienced medical technician.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment