MRI Technician & Who Are They and What Does They Do?

Do you want to pursue a career in radiology? Does working with MRI scanners excite you? You should probably consider becoming an MRI technician. MRI technicians operate scanners that capture the internal tissues of the patient’s body to help physicians diagnose illnesses.

Becoming an MRI technician is a great career choice as jobs in the healthcare industry are forecasted to grow. As more baby boomers become senior citizens, there will be more individuals seeking medical imaging to diagnose conditions. This means that the demand for MRI techs will grow. So how do you become an MRI technician? This article highlights information about what the technicians do, the career outlook, and education and certification requirements.

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MRI Technician Vs. X-Ray Technician

While many people assume that an MRI technician and an X-ray technician are similar, there are several differences. The MRI technician is a healthcare professional who is solely trained to use MRI machines. The machines are large and tube-like and use magnetic fields and radio waves for creating diagnostic images. The machines are known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Through the use of strong radio frequencies coupled with magnetic fields, the MRI techs create 3D images that show the body tissues of the patient that other medical practitioners used in making diagnoses.

The MRI technicians typically work under a certified radiologist. The technicians should go through programs that lead to the acquisition of a certificate or an associate’s degree in MRI technology. The technicians are usually trained in pulse sequences, MRI examinations, signal-to-noise ratio, and image production.

On the other hand, X-ray technicians are mainly involved in the production of high-contrast films of skeletal and bone structures. They work using X-ray machines, which are used for checking for any fractured or broken bones in the patient’s body. The X-ray technicians use X-ray machines while being supervised by a physician or radiologist. Other duties that are different or similar to those of MRI techs include setting up the medical examination timetables, adjusting equipment, and shielding the patients from body-damaging radiation that is emitted by the X-ray machines.

The X-ray techs usually have to complete a diploma program or an associate’s degree program in X-ray technology or radiologic technology for them to learn how to operate the X-ray machines and in handling patients. In most instances, X-ray techs typically earn less than MRI techs. PayScale reported that the median salary for certified X-ray techs was $43,938 in 2017. For MRI techs, the median salary was $59,869. More about the current salary of MRI technicians according to BLS will be discussed in detail in this article. In most cases, the salary for both MRI and X-ray technicians is over $40,000.

Job Duties & Career Outlook

Job Duties

An MRI technician is involved with interpreting a physician’s instructions and helping explain MRI procedures to the patients and selecting software options and imaging parameters when operating the MRI machine. They are also tasked with viewing images from an imaging session and keeping records of the results. They maneuver the equipment used in the examination of the patients and prepare them prior to the procedure. Since they work with patients who may not be able to move at the time or are disabled, the MRI techs will move them from wheelchairs onto the table used to perform the imaging procedure, correctly positioning them for imaging.

As an MRI technician, you must possess the skills necessary to operate the various types of equipment that can be used in obtaining images that other medical practitioners can use in performing diagnoses. This implies that you should be able to conduct procedures while operating X-rays, positron-emission tomography, mammography, and computerized axial tomography among other machines that are readily available at your place of work.

MRI techs, for safety, must also wear comfortable shoes as they perform their duties. In most instances, MRI techs are on their feet throughout the day, and you will need to be physically fit because you must reposition the patients and move from one patient room to another. This implies that being in good shape is an added advantage to minimize the strain associated with these responsibilities. This aspect is helpful when working with handicapped or senior patients.

Job Skills

Since you will be interacting with patients, you need to be a good communicator, both in written and verbal aspects. Besides, you will need to be sensitive to the psychological and physical needs of your patients. You will need to follow the directions and instructions provided by the physician and attention to detail. Since you’ll be working with the medical team, you need to relate with them well, communicate effectively, and be a good team player.

You should have the stamina to stay on your feet while working and the physical strength to move patients. You need to have the manual dexterity of operating the machine controls and manipulating table straps. You also must be caring since most of the job will be centered on patient care, including explaining results and diagnostic imaging procedures, taking patient histories, and providing comfort to patients while conducting the procedures. Most of these skills are learned through working with experienced professionals and paying close attention while undergoing training.

2019 Salary and Job Outlook

According to the most recent BLS data, MRI technicians earn an average annual salary of $60,070. However, this depends on where you work. Based on the industries where the technicians work, the BLS provided a salary estimate of:

  • The federal government except for postal service–approximately $63,040
  • Hospitals (including local, state, and private hospitals)–approximately $59,800
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories–$59,570
  • Outpatient care centers–around $58,020
  • Physicians’ offices–around $52,620

Based on states, the top five states where the technicians were most employed with an average annual salary are:

  • California–around $77,650
  • Texas–around $57,350
  • Florida–around $55,210
  • New York–around $68,720
  • Pennsylvania–around $56,140

Based on states, the top five states where the technicians were most salaried are:

  • California–around $77,650
  • District of Columbia–around $77,500
  • Massachusetts–around $72,840
  • Hawaii–around $72,720
  • Oregon–around $71,450

More than half of employed technicians work in hospitals. Other locations where MRI techs work include outpatient centers, medical diagnostic laboratories, and in the federal government. Due to medical emergencies, MRI technicians are needed around the clock. They typically work night shifts, day shifts, holidays, and weekends. MRI technicians advance their careers by accepting to work as managers in medical and radiology imaging departments

Education & Certification Programs

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Career Requirements

To become an MRI technician, you’ll need an associate’s degree in MRI or radiology. Such programs will give you a sound understanding of basic anatomy, physiology, biology, clinical skills, and patient care. State licensure is obtained by passing the certification exam. You will also need experience in a clinical setting. MRI techs must also be able to follow directions and instructions from physicians and communicate effectively with the medical team and the patients. You must understand how to conduct the imaging procedures and how to use the MRI scanners.

The following are the steps to become an MRI technician:

1. Earn an Associate’s Degree

You’ll need to graduate with at least an associate’s degree, which prepares students to work as technicians. The programs combine coursework and laboratory work. You need to first take basic courses in anatomy, physics, and biology prior to enrolling in the program. Ensure that you enroll in a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

2. Clinical Experience

Students enrolled in an associate’s degree program should gain clinical experience at a medical clinic or hospital. Here you will work and learn under a certified and experienced MRI technician. This where you apply what you’ve learned in coursework. Besides, it will lead to employment opportunities.

3. Obtain Licensure and Certification

According to BLS, MRI technicians who graduate with an accredited associate’s degree must earn state licensure, which is usually earned by passing a certification exam offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Individuals who meet the experience and education requirements while in school are eligible for an MRI certification with AART. The examination ensures that the MRI techs understand what it takes to pursue the career, including an understanding of imaging procedures, patient care, data acquisition, processing, and the principles of diagnostic image formation.

4. Earn Additional Certifications

BLS notes that job prospects are best for technicians with more than one certification. Therefore, we recommend that you earn multiple specialty certifications via AART for advancement in your career.

Conclusion

MRI technicians are trained to use MRI machines, which use magnetic fields and radio waves in creating diagnostic images. The technician is involved with interpreting a physician’s instructions, helping explain MRI procedures to the patients, and selecting software options and imaging parameters when operating the MRI machine. You need to be a good communicator, follow directions and instructions provided by the physician, have great attention to detail, possess enough stamina to stay on your feet, and have the physical strength to move patients. Recent BLS data shows that technicians earn an annual average salary of $60,070, but this number depends on where you work.

To become an MRI technician, you need to first earn an associate’s degree, gain clinical experience, obtain licensure and certification, and for upward career mobility, earn additional certifications. We hope this article has adequately addressed what the technicians do, the career outlook, and education and certification requirements.