How to Become a Radiologic or MRI Technologist
Radiologic technologists must follow exact instructions to get the images needed to diagnose and treat the patient.
An associate’s degree is the most common educational path for radiologic and MRI technologists. Technologists must be licensed or certified in some states; requirements vary by state.
There are postsecondary education programs in radiography and MRI that lead to graduate certificates, associate’s degrees, or bachelor’s degrees. Associate’s degree programs are the most common. Education programs typically include both classroom training and clinical training. 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 science and math. Suggested courses include anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, mathematics, and physics.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists. After gaining experience in all of the areas of radiologic technology, they then begin to specialize in giving MRI examinations. After a few years, most technicians are considered to be experienced enough to sit for an MRI certification exam.
Other MRI technologists may be required to complete specific imaging examinations on patients and then have this information verified by a doctor before being considered an MRI technologist.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Radiologic and MRI technologists must be licensed or certified in some 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 are first licensed or certified radiologic technologists who have the required amount of work experience in magnetic resonance imaging to meet certification standards, which includes a set number of documented imaging examinations. Those who are not radiologic technologists need to 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.
Detail oriented. Radiologic and MRI technologists must follow exact instructions to get the images needed to diagnose and treat the patient.
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 dose of chemicals used in imaging procedures.
Physical stamina. Radiologic and MRI technologists often work on their feet for long periods during the day 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.