Can I Become a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist with an Associate’s Degree?

Working in a healthcare position where you can play a role in diagnosing illnesses or injuries and help patients can be very rewarding. Individuals intrigued by this potential career but not the idea of spending years in college often wonder if it’s possible to become a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist with an associate’s degree. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists must earn at least an associate’s degree, obtain work experience and certification. Here is the pathway towards becoming a magnetic resonance imaging technologist along with some general career information for MRI technologists.

Education Requirements

The education requirements for becoming a magnetic resonance imaging technologist includes having at least an associate’s degree. Some individuals pursue certificate or bachelor’s degree programs in MRI technology, but an associate’s degree is the most common educational path. To earn the degree, students complete courses in patient care, image evaluation, anatomy, radiation physics and protection and physiology as well as clinical education.

The clinical education usually involves completing a supervised internship working in a radiology or radiologic department. MRI Programs should be accredited by the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology also accredits radiography programs. Many individuals begin their careers working as radiologic technologists for at least five years before advancing to work as MRI technologists.

Certification/Licensure

Although most states require radiologic technologists be certified or licensed, very few states require magnetic imaging technologists be licensed, but this can vary from state to state. Even though it may not be required, most employers want their MRI technologists to be certified. The candidate must complete the following requirements to be eligible for certification.

  • Complete an accredited associate’s degree MRI program
  • Pass a state certification exam
  • Pass a certification exam from a certifying body

Aspiring MRI technologists can obtain certification from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Candidates wishing to obtain ARRT certification must also pass an ethics requirement in addition to the associate’s degree and the certification exam.

The ARRT also offers certification in nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, sonography and radiography. To maintain certification, the MRI technologist must complete at least 24 continuing education credits every two years.

Career Outlook

The aging population of baby-boomers has increased the need for more imaging testing to help make accurate diagnosis, which has put a demand out for qualified magnetic resonance technologists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The decade of 2016-2026 should have MRI technologists experiencing a 14 percent job growth.

Magnetic resonance technologist annual wages range from $50,220 to $99,180 or more as of a May 2018 report by the bureau. The average annual wage was $72,230. Wages can vary by certain factors such as degree level, experience, employer, location and number of certifications. MRI technologists with multiple certifications typically see the best job opportunities and earn higher wages.

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Working as a magnetic resonance imaging technologist can be a very rewarding job because the individual is helping doctors and patients come to accurate diagnosis. With only an associate’s degree required to become an MRI technologist, it’s a career that an individual can become part of in only a couple of years.