Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Summary

radiologic technologists image
Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients.
Quick Facts: Radiologic and MRI Technologists
2014 Median Pay $57,370 per year
$27.58 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 230,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 9% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 20,700

What Radiologic and MRI Technologists Do

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Work Environment

Radiologic and MRI technologists work in healthcare facilities, and more than half work in hospitals.

How to Become a Radiologic or MRI Technologist

An associate’s degree is the most common educational path for radiologic technologists. Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists and specialize later in their career. Technologists must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary by state.

Pay

The median annual wage for radiologic and MRI technologists was $57,370 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of radiologic and MRI technologists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. As the population grows older, there will be an increase in medical conditions that require imaging as a tool for making diagnoses.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for radiologic and MRI technologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of radiologic and MRI technologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about radiologic and MRI technologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Radiologic and MRI Technologists Do

Radiologic technologists
Radiologic technologists specialize in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging.

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images. 

Duties

Radiologic and MRI technologists typically do the following:

  • Adjust and maintain imaging equipment
  • Precisely follow orders from physicians on what areas of the body to image
  • Prepare patients for procedures, including taking a medical history and answering questions about the procedure
  • Protect the patient by shielding exposed areas that do not need to be imaged
  • Position the patient and the equipment in order to get the correct image
  • Operate the computerized equipment to take the images
  • Work with physicians to evaluate the images and to determine whether additional images need to be taken
  • Keep detailed patient records

Healthcare professionals use many types of equipment to diagnose patients. Radiologic technologists specialize in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Some radiologic technologists prepare a mixture for the patient to drink that allows soft tissue to be viewed on the images that the radiologist reviews.

Radiologic technologists might also specialize in mammography. Mammographers use low-dose x-ray systems to produce images of the breast. Technologists may be certified in multiple specialties.

MRI technologists specialize in magnetic resonance imaging scanners. They inject patients with contrast dyes so that the images will show up on the scanner. The scanners use magnetic fields in combination with the contrast agent to produce images that a physician can use to diagnose medical problems.

Healthcare professionals who specialize in other diagnostic equipment include nuclear medicine technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers, and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists.

Work Environment

Radiologic technologists
Radiologic and MRI technologists work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Radiologic technologists held about 197,000 jobs in 2014. MRI technologists held about 33,600 jobs in 2014.

The industries that employed the most radiologic technologists in 2014 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 59%
Offices of physicians 21
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 8
Outpatient care centers 4

The industries that employed the most MRI technologists in 2014 were as follows: 

Hospitals; state, local, and private 59%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 20
Offices of physicians 14

Radiologic and MRI technologists work in healthcare facilities. Technologists are often on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are disabled.

Injuries and Illnesses

Like other healthcare workers, radiologic and MRI technologists may be exposed to infectious diseases. In addition, because radiologic and MRI technologists work with imaging equipment that uses radiation, they must wear badges that measure radiation levels in the radiation area. Detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose. Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of protective lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices, and by badges that monitor exposure to radiation.

Work Schedules

Most radiologic and MRI technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergency situations, some technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight.

How to Become a Radiologic or MRI Technologist

Radiologic technologists
Radiologic technologists must follow exact instructions to get the images needed to diagnose and treat the patient.

Radiologic and MRI technologists typically need an associate’s degree. Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists and specialize later in their career. Technologists must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary by state.

Education

An associate’s degree is the most common educational requirement for radiologic and MRI technologists. There also are postsecondary education programs that lead to graduate certificates or bachelor’s degrees. Education programs typically include both classroom study and clinical work. Coursework includes anatomy, pathology, patient care, radiation physics and protection, and image evaluation.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits programs in radiography. Completing an accredited program is required for licensure in some states.

High school students who are interested in radiologic or MRI technology should take courses that focus on math and science, such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, and physics. 

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

MRI technologists typically have less than 5 years of work experience as radiologic technologists.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Radiologic and MRI technologists must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary by state. To become licensed, technologists must graduate from an accredited program and must pass a certification exam from the state or from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Many MRI technologists first are licensed or certified radiologic technologists who have the required amount of work experience in magnetic resonance imaging to meet the certification standard. Beginning in 2016, MRI technologists must complete a set number of documented imaging examinations and 16 hours of formal education to be certified. Those who do not have experience as a radiologic technologist must first complete a formal education program before taking the certification exam. MRI certification is available from the ARRT and is accepted by most states for licensure.

For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Radiologic and MRI technologists must follow exact instructions to get the images needed for diagnoses.

Interpersonal skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists work closely with patients who may be in extreme pain or mentally stressed. Technologists must be able to put the patient at ease to get usable images.

Math skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists may need to calculate and mix the right doses of chemicals used in imaging procedures.

Physical stamina. Radiologic and MRI technologists often work on their feet for long periods during their shift and they must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists must understand how to operate complex machinery.

Pay

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

$67,090

Radiologic and MRI technologists

$57,370

Radiologic technologists

$55,870

Health technologists and technicians

$41,430

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for radiologic technologists was $55,870 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,080.

The median annual wage for magnetic resonance imaging technologists was $67,090 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,220.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for radiologic technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $56,980
Hospitals; state, local, and private   56,900
Outpatient care centers   55,750
Offices of physicians   50,990

In May 2014, the median annual wages for MRI technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $68,200
Offices of physicians   67,620
Hospitals; state, local, and private   66,290

Most radiologic and MRI technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergency situations, some technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight.

Job Outlook

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Health technologists and technicians

16%

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

10%

Radiologic and MRI technologists

9%

Radiologic technologists

9%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of radiologic technologists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of MRI technologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the population grows older, there will be an increase in medical conditions, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, which require imaging as a tool for making diagnoses. Radiologic and MRI technologists will be needed to take the images. In addition, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform.

However, employment growth of radiologic and MRI technologists may be tempered, as many medical facilities and third-party payers encourage the use of less-costly, noninvasive imaging technologies, such as ultrasound.

Job Prospects

Technologists who graduate from accredited programs and those with multiple certifications will have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for radiologic and MRI technologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Radiologic and MRI technologists

230,600 251,200 9 20,700

Radiologic technologists

29-2034 197,000 214,200 9 17,200 [XLSX]

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

29-2035 33,600 37,100 10 3,500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of radiologic and MRI technologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Diagnostic medical sonographers

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.

Associate's degree $62,540
Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.

Associate's degree $72,100
Radiation therapists

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Associate's degree $80,090
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Radiologic and MRI Technologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm (visited February 08, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015