MRI Technologist Programs
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For those students who have gone through a radiology program and find themselves unsatisfied with making x-rays, a supplemental degree or certificate from one of the many magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tech schools in the U.S. may be the logical next step. These programs, which can take as little as one year to complete (or can include a full bachelor’s of science curriculum), focus on the technology behind operating an MRI machine as well as interpreting its results.
As the U.S. population ages and the healthcare industry as a whole shifts towards outpatient, noninvasive procedures, the demand for MRIs is only expected to increase. Those dedicated students who make the leap into this specialty now are sure to reap the benefits of it in coming years, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) expects the demand for MRI technologists to grow by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026.
Read on to learn more about the demand for MRI techs as well as what type of educational and certification requirements are in place around the country to offer patients the best possible outcomes.
|MRI Technologist fast facts|
|Projected Jobs Created||5,000|
|Projected Job Growth||14%|
|Average Salary (Median)||$70,490|
|Entry-Level EDU||Associate's Degree|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Degree & certification Programs
The job of an MRI technologist is a specialized one. Education for this type of job generally begins after one has already earned an associate’s degree in radiologic technology since MRI technology is a subspecialty of this particular career. Those seeking this specialization may choose to pursue a certificate program or a bachelor’s degree in magnetic resonance imaging. Although this is not a complete list, each program listed below has been accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Accreditation from the ARRT is required for a program’s graduates to be eligible for that organization’s MRI technologist certification exam.
Rhode Island College: In conjunction with Lifespan School of Medical Imaging RIC offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in medical imaging. The diversity of this program, based in Providence, Rhode Island, is particularly attractive since it allows students to concentrate in either diagnostic medical sonography (DMS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine technology (NMT), RT computed tomography, medical imaging management or radiologic technology. As it is a BS program, students are also required to take general education liberal arts courses in order to complete their degree.
West Virginia University Hospitals: As part of the Center for Advanced Imagine, WVU offers a magnetic resonance imaging certificate program out of its Morgantown, West Virginia campus. Unlike 4-year bachelor’s programs, students need to commit to just one year of intensive training that includes didactic and clinical education. Graduates are eligible to site for the ARRT primary certification exam. Applicants to the certificate program must have already completed a JRCERT accredited program in radiologic technology. The program only enrolls four students per year, so it is important that applicants meet all requirements in both their written application as well as their personal interview.
University of Nebraska Medical Center: As part of the School of Allied Health Professions, UNMC offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in magnetic resonance imaging out of its Omaha, Nebraska campus. In order to apply to the program, candidates must have completed an accredited radiography program and have their primary ARRT certification in radiography or another field. The radiography program may be completed at UNMC, but that is not a requirement. Applicants also much have completed 32 specific college prerequisites including 12 semester hours of language or social sciences, three semester hours of math, nine semester hours of natural sciences and eight semester hours of electives. Upon completion of the 9-month program, students can sit for the ARRT certification in MRI technology.
Casper College: Located in Casper, Wyoming with clinical locations in Douglas, Gillette, Sheridan, Lander, Rawlins, and Riverton, this radiography program is set up to meet the needs of any student in Wyoming. Casper College offers a 10-month MRI certificate program to applicants that already hold an associate’s degree. The MRI program is recognized as a primary pathway program by ARRT, which means there are reduced clinical exam requirements for students. Students who complete the primary pathway program will be eligible to sit for the ARRT MRI certification exam.
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts: At GAMA, an MRI associate of science (AS) degree program is offered at the school’s San Mateo, Sacramento and Modesto, California campuses. The program lasts 72 weeks, with 5 days of course work each week (varying days Monday through Saturday). Unlike many other MRI technologist programs, this particular one does not require that incoming students have a previous degree in radiology, which may be an attractive feature for those eager to start work in the MRI field right away. However, an associate’s degree can help an applicant’s prospect for admission.
Thomas Jefferson University: The Thomas Jefferson University School of Health Professions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers a magnetic resonance imaging program that prepares students for entry-level employment in MRI technology. The program has notably high certification rates for graduates. For instance, in 2016, all graduating students passed their MRI certification exam, as compared to the national average of 75 percent and all were employed within a year of graduation. Jefferson gives students many different options for completing the MRI training program, including joint programs with local high schools, making it one of the only MRI tech programs that high school students can start before even graduating from high school.
List of MRI Technologist Schools
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|Career Networks Institute||Orange||California||http://cnicollege.edu/||23|
|Forsyth Technical Community College||Winston Salem||North Carolina||http://www.forsythtech.edu/||14|
|Lake Michigan College||Benton Harbor||Michigan||http://www.lakemichigancollege.edu||13|
|The Community College of Baltimore County||Baltimore||Maryland||http://www.ccbcmd.edu||10|
|Midwestern Career College||Chicago||Illinois||http://www.mccollege.edu||9|
|Gwinnett Technical College||Lawrenceville||Georgia||http://www.GwinnettTech.edu||8|
|Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts||San Mateo||California||http://www.gurnick.edu||6|
|Wake Technical Community College||Raleigh||North Carolina||http://www.waketech.edu/||6|
|Universidad Central Del Caribe||Bayamon||Puerto Rico||http://uccaribe.edu/||5|
|West Virginia University Hospital Departments of Rad Tech and Nutrition||Morgantown||West Virginia||http://www.wvuhradtech.com||4|
|Central Georgia Technical College||Warner Robins||Georgia||http://www.centralgatech.edu||3|
|Grand Rapids Community College||Grand Rapids||Michigan||http://www.grcc.edu||3|
|St Luke's College||Sioux City||Iowa||http://www.stlukescollege.edu||3|
|Lansing Community College||Lansing||Michigan||http://www.lcc.edu||2|
Hybrid & online programs
The George Washington University
HealthInformatics@GW - The George Washington University
Johns Hopkins University
Make no mistake, clinical training and experience is key to becoming a fully educated and prepared MRI tech. However, there are accredited schools that offer the classroom portions of their training programs online for maximum flexibility. This is particularly useful for MRI technologists who may already be working in radiology departments and wish to further their education in a way that fits with their schedule.
Greenville Technical College: With campuses throughout the greater Greenville, South Carolina area, the MRI program at GTC can be quite convenient. The core curriculum is offered completely online and organized so that students need to meet for didactic training just one day per week, with both afternoon and evening schedules available. For clinical training, students must work a total of 495 hours at an approved clinical location that is convenient for them. The GTC program is accredited by the ARRT and allows graduates to sit for their primary certification exam.
Galveston College: Designed to be completed after an associate’s degree, the GC MRI Technology certificate program consists of two semesters of courses which can be completed either on campus in Galveston, Texas or online. The online program allows students to begin in either the fall or spring semester, meaning there can be less lag time between completing one’s AS degree and obtaining MRI certification. Required clinical training hours can be completed at any affiliated GC location, including the University of Texas Medical Branch.
East Tennessee State University: At ETSU, students can apply to their magnetic resonance imaging certificate program through the Office of Professional Development. The didactic courses for the certificate program are completed entirely online while a minimum of 312 clinical hours must be completed before students become eligible for the ARRT exam. Clinical affiliates of the program are available in Tennessee as well as North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, making it an extremely flexible program for many students in the Southeast.
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|Greenville Technical College||Greenville||South Carolina||http://www.gvltec.edu/index.aspx||16|
|Baptist Health System School of Health Professions||San Antonio||Texas||http://www.bshp.edu||8|
|Casa Loma College-Van Nuys||Van Nuys||California||http://www.casalomacollege.edu||7|
|Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College||Orangeburg||South Carolina||http://www.octech.edu||7|
Core & Elective Courses
The curriculum for any MRI program depends largely on whether it is a degree or certificate program. Those MRI technician schools that offer bachelor's degrees tend to have many more requirements, including non-medical general education requirements, included in the curriculum. However, for MRI certificate programs, the focus will be largely on medical, science-related, and MRI-specific courses along with clinical practicums. The courses seen across the spectrum of programs include such titles as:
Introduction to magnetic resonance imaging
Physical principles of magnetic resonance imaging
In a shorter certificate program (which may last less than one year), electives are generally not a part of the curriculum. Rather, students can specialize or explore different work environments through their clinical experiences. Bachelor's degree programs will naturally have more elective flexibility and will likely allow students to choose some number of elective courses outside of the allied health spectrum in order to complete their degree credits.
To be eligible to sit for the ARRT certification exam upon completion of a course, students must graduate from an ARRT-accredited program. The ARRT accrediting process includes a thorough assessment and application to the ARRT Board of Trustees, who reserves the right to follow up this application with an in person verification process. Accreditation can take between 6 and 12 months to complete. A complete guide to accreditation requirements and processes is available online from ARRT.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is another accrediting agency for MRI programs, as well as other programs within the purview of radiology. The JRCERT accreditation process is made clear on the organization's website and includes an MRI program self study, a site visit, report of findings, and ultimately program notification of acceptance or denial.
ARRT and JRCERT accreditation are specific for MRI programs. However, institutions of higher learning usually hold institutional accreditations as well. This accreditation may come from any number of nationally recognized agencies, specifically those listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.
The career outlook for MRI technologists is quite good. Through the year 2026, the U.S. is expected to add 5,000 MRI technologist jobs, which represents a growth of 14 percent (BLS 2017). Compared to the average overall job growth of just 7 percent, this is an impressive rate. As with many healthcare jobs, the demand for MRI technologists is expected to continue growing as the U.S. population, particularly baby boomers, ages and needs more medical care. MRI technology is particularly relevant for older adults as they are prone to breaks and fractures caused by osteoporosis. Hospitals are expected to remain the main employer of MRI technologists, but more physician’s offices and outpatient imaging centers are expected to hire these specialists as well, as the tendency shifts towards a preference for outpatient treatment. Finally, as more Americans are insured under the Affordable Care Act, certified MRI technologists will need to be available to provide diagnostics that can be paid for by these insurance programs. States with larger populations will have a naturally higher demand for MRI techs, while those with older populations, such as Florida, will continue to lead the way with demand.
|Career Facts||MRI Technologist|
|Related Careers||Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Cardiovascular Technologist, Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Radiation Therapist|
|Common Job Titles||Lead MRI Technologist, Lead Technologist/Manager, MRI Specialist, MRI Supervisor, MRI Technologist, Senior Staff Technologist, Staff MRI Technologist, Staff Technologist|
|Technology & Equipment||Medical MRI Quality Assurance or Calibration Devices, Medical MRI Scanners, EMR Software, Medical Image Processing Software, Radiology Information Systems, Teleradiology Systems|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Licensing & Certification
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers certification and registration for those students who have completed MRI tech programs. In order to be eligible for the primary ARRT certification, students must complete an educational program accredited by the ARRT, meet ethics requirements and pass the examination. Once certified, MRI techs become Registered Technologists (R.T.s) and are required to complete continuing education courses each two years in order to maintain their status with ARRT. As of January 1, 2015, all students applying for certification from ARRT must have earned an associate degree, baccalaureate degree, or a graduate degree from an ARRT accredited agency. More information on registering for certification and continuing education is available on the ARRT website.
Certification is also available from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT). The American College of Radiology (ACR) has recognized this certification as being on par with the ARRT certification since 2008 and acceptable for finding employment as an MRI tech. Information on applying for the AMRIT exam is available on their website.
ARRT exams are currently recognized by 37 U.S. states for MRI tech licensing purposes. The other states may require their own licensing exams and credentials. Interested students should be sure to check with their school or with their local state authorities to determine the licensing requirements where they live and intend to work.