MRI Technologist Programs
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For students who have completed a radiology program and want to expand their skills beyond taking x-rays, enrolling in a degree or certificate in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist program is a logical next step.
Depending on previous education, an MRI technologist program can take as little as one to two years to complete or four years for a full bachelor of science curriculum. A two-year associate’s degree is required for most entry-level MRI technologist positions. At their core, MRI technologist programs focus on the technology behind operating MRI machines and the skills to interpret their results. MRI technologists provide an essential role in helping diagnose or rule out medical conditions so that patients can get the treatments they need to live healthier lives.
As the healthcare industry continues to shift towards outpatient to meet increasing demands, the demand for MRIs and other non-invasive procedures is expected to increase. The dedicated students who leap this specialty now are sure to reap the benefits of it in coming years, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) expects the demand for MRI technologists to grow by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029. In the same decade, the BLS estimates 16,800 new positions will be needed nationally, making this a sound career investment.
In addition to technical skills, a successful MRI technologist (or MRI tech) must be meticulous in following physicians’ instructions and have a high level of emotional intelligence to put anxious patients at ease to get accurate medical imaging results.
Read on to learn more about the demand for MRI techs in the United States, as well as what type of educational and certification requirements are required to pursue this growing career.
|MRI Technologist fast facts|
|Projected Jobs Created||16,800|
|Projected Job Growth||7%|
|Entry-Level EDU||Associate's Degree|
|Source: BLS 2020|
MRI Technologist Degree & Certification Programs
MRI technologists perform specialized tasks to operate MRI machines which aid physicians in diagnosing or ruling out medical conditions. Education requirements for this job begin at the associate’s degree level but can expand into bachelor’s degree. Those seeking this specialization in areas such as mammography may choose to pursue a graduate-level certificate program or a bachelor’s degree in magnetic resonance imaging.
When researching MRI technologist programs, finding an accredited program is a top requirement. To qualify for MRI certification and registration, candidates must complete a program from a two- or four-year educational program approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the world’s largest credentialing organization medical imaging professionals. Accreditation is awarded to programs and institutions and may hold accreditation status from more than one organization.
The ARRT does not accredit MRI tech programs. Still, it does recognize MRI tech programs that follow course sequences and include essential competencies that provide students with sufficient background knowledge and clinical experience to take the ARRT exams.
Although this is not a complete list, here are some schools that an ARRT-approved organization has accredited.
- Rhode Island College (RIC): 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, allows students to earn a concentration 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 must take general education liberal arts courses to complete their degree. Rhode Island College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
- West Virginia University Hospitals: As part of the Center for Advanced Imaging, WVU offers a magnetic resonance imaging certificate program out of its Morgantown, West Virginia campus. Unlike four-year bachelor’s programs, students need to commit to just one year of intensive training that includes didactic and clinical education. Graduates from this program are eligible to sit for the ARRT primary certification exam. To meet eligibility requirements, applicants to the certificate program must have already completed a Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredited program in radiologic technology. The program only enrolls five students per year, so applicants must meet all their written application requirements and personal interviews. JRCERT accredits West Virginia University Hospital’s MRI program.
- University of Nebraska Medical Center: As part of the College of Allied Health Professions, UNMC offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in magnetic resonance imaging out of its Omaha, Nebraska campus. Candidates must have completed an accredited radiography program and have their primary ARRT certification in radiography or another field to apply to the program. The radiography program may be completed at UNMC, but that is not a requirement. Applicants must 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 nine-month program, students can sit for the ARRT certification in MRI technology. JRCERT accredits UNMC’s MRI tech program, and the Higher Learning Commission accredits UNMC.
- 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 fewer clinical exam requirements for students. Students who complete the primary pathway program will be eligible to sit for the ARRT MRI certification exam. Casper College holds recognition from the ARRT as an MRI Primary Pathway Program.
- Galveston College: Designed to be completed after an associate’s degree, the GC MRI Technology certificate program consists of two semesters of courses that 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. Galveston College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
- Thomas Jefferson University: The Thomas Jefferson University College 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 2019, all graduating students passed their MRI certification exam the first time, and all were employed after 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 graduating from high school. JRCERT accredits this program.
List of MRI Technologist Schools
|Casa Loma College-Van Nuys||Van Nuys||California||www.casalomacollege.edu||51|
|Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts||San Mateo||California||www.gurnick.edu||40|
|Edgecombe Community College||Tarboro||North Carolina||www.edgecombe.edu||37|
|Career Networks Institute||Orange||California||www.cnicollege.edu||27|
|Midwestern Career College||Chicago||Illinois||www.mccollege.edu||26|
|Community College of Baltimore County||Baltimore||Maryland||www.ccbcmd.edu||22|
|National Polytechnic College||Lakewood||California||www.npcollege.edu||20|
|Loma Linda University||Loma Linda||California||home.llu.edu||14|
|Owens Community College||Perrysburg||Ohio||www.owens.edu||13|
|Chattanooga State Community College||Chattanooga||Tennessee||www.chattanoogastate.edu||12|
|Augusta Technical College||Augusta||Georgia||www.augustatech.edu||10|
|College of DuPage||Glen Ellyn||Illinois||www.cod.edu||9|
|Forsyth Technical Community College||Winston-Salem||North Carolina||www.forsythtech.edu||8|
|Truckee Meadows Community College||Reno||Nevada||www.tmcc.edu||8|
|Southern Crescent Technical College||Griffin||Georgia||www.sctech.edu||7|
|Eastern Gateway Community College||Steubenville||Ohio||www.egcc.edu||6|
|Rhode Island College||Providence||Rhode Island||www.ric.edu||6|
|Sacramento Ultrasound Institute||Sacramento||California||sui.edu||6|
|University of Mississippi||University||Mississippi||www.olemiss.edu||6|
|University of New Mexico-Main Campus||Albuquerque||New Mexico||www.unm.edu||6|
|Southwest University at El Paso||El Paso||Texas||southwestuniversity.edu||5|
|Universidad Central Del Caribe||Bayamon||Puerto Rico||www.uccaribe.edu||4|
|Athens Technical College||Athens||Georgia||www.athenstech.edu||4|
|Saint Louis University||Saint Louis||Missouri||www.slu.edu||4|
|Sinclair Community College||Dayton||Ohio||www.sinclair.edu||4|
|University of Nebraska Medical Center||Omaha||Nebraska||www.unmc.edu||4|
|West Virginia University Hospital Departments of Rad Tech and Nutrition||Morgantown||West Virginia||www.wvuhradtech.com||4|
|Lake Michigan College||Benton Harbor||Michigan||www.lakemichigancollege.edu||3|
|Wake Technical Community College||Raleigh||North Carolina||www.waketech.edu||3|
|Washtenaw Community College||Ann Arbor||Michigan||www.wccnet.edu||3|
|William Rainey Harper College||Palatine||Illinois||www.harpercollege.edu||3|
|Autry Technology Center||Enid||Oklahoma||autrytech.edu||2|
|Central Georgia Technical College||Warner Robins||Georgia||www.centralgatech.edu||2|
|Grand Rapids Community College||Grand Rapids||Michigan||www.grcc.edu||2|
|Lansing Community College||Lansing||Michigan||www.lcc.edu||2|
|St Luke's College||Sioux City||Iowa||www.stlukescollege.edu||2|
MRI Tech Schools – Hybrid & Online Programs
Clinical training and experience are the keys to becoming a fully educated and prepared MRI tech. However, accredited schools 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 while working in their current positions. Here is a list of hybrid and online MRI technologist programs.
Greenville Technical College: With campuses throughout the greater Greenville, South Carolina area, the GTC’s MRI program can be quite convenient. The core curriculum is offered entirely 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 practice, students must work a total of 495 hours at an approved clinical location site. The GTC program is recognized by the ARRT and allows graduates to sit for their primary certification exam.
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts: At GAMA, an MRI associate of science (AS) hybrid degree program is offered with didactic classes online and clinical rotations at the school’s Arizona campus in Phoenix and Orlando and Tampa campuses in Florida. The program lasts 72 weeks, with five 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. Two start dates are available each year. This program is recognized by ARRT and accredited by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
East Tennessee State University: At ETSU, students who hold an associate’s degree in radiography can earn a bachelor’s of science degree in radiologic science online. This 120-credit hour program accepts transfer credits and features courses such as allied health professionals, interprofessional allied health teams, clinical education, and digital imaging in radiology technology. This program is unique because it allows associate degree holders to transfer allied health professional course credits from a community college to count towards bachelor’s degree completion. To be eligible for this program, applicants must have a 2.5 GPA for transferable credit to be eligible, transcripts proving two-year degree completion, and be licensed or eligible for professional licensure in radiologic science. Additionally, ETSU offers an MRI certificate on-campus for registered radiologic technologists to advance their professional skills. ETSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Weber State University||Ogden||Utah||www.weber.edu||20|
|Greenville Technical College||Greenville||South Carolina||www.gvltec.edu||12|
|Mitchell Technical Institute||Mitchell||South Dakota||www.mitchelltech.edu||12|
|Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College||Orangeburg||South Carolina||www.octech.edu||7|
MRI Tech School Core & Elective Courses
MRI technologist program curriculum varies depending on whether it is a degree or certificate program. Bachelor’s degree programs 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 mainly on medical, science-related, and MRI-specific courses along with on-site 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 shorter certificate programs (which can be completed in less than one year), electives are generally not a part of the curriculum. Instead, students can specialize or explore different work environments through their clinical experiences. Bachelor's degree programs will naturally have more elective flexibility. They will likely allow students to choose some elective courses outside of the allied health spectrum to complete their degree credits.
MRI Technologist Program Accreditation
To be eligible to sit for the ARRT certification exam upon completing a course, students must graduate from an ARRT-recognized program. The ARRT approval 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 six to 12 months to complete, and the AART provides a list of current approved programmatic and institutional accreditation organizations.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is an accrediting organization for MRI programs and other programs within the purview of radiology. The JRCERT accreditation process aims to ensure educational program excellence and requires all programs seeking accreditation to complete an MRI program self-study, a site visit, report of findings, and pay a fee. JRCERT is the only agency recognized by the US Department of Education for accrediting traditional and distance education programs in radiography and magnetic resonance and other similar disciplines.
In line with JRCERT standards of excellence, the ARRT recognizes MRI technologist programs for program quality and holds a list of approved accreditation organizations, including JRCERT. The organizations on the ARRT list of recognized accreditation entities include programmatic and institutional accrediting bodies.
Institutions of higher learning usually hold institutional accreditations as well. This level of accreditation may come from any number of nationally recognized agencies listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website. Institutional accreditation is typically assigned by region:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
As previously discussed, the career outlook for MRI technologists is promising. Between 2019 and 2029, the U.S. is expected to add 16,800 MRI technologist jobs, representing an overall growth rate of 7 percent (BLS 2020). Compared to the national rate growth rate for all occupations at 4 percent, MRI technologist careers are in high demand.
As with other healthcare sectors, the demand for MRI technologists is expected to continue growing as the baby boomers population ages and requires more medical care. Older adults can be prone to breaks and fractures caused by osteoporosis, requiring proper MRI technology diagnosis. The BLS lists the top work environments for MRI technologists as follows:
- Hospitals: 61 percent
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories: 18 percent
- Physician’s offices: 14 percent
- Outpatient imaging centers: 3 percent
Now that more Americans are insured under the Affordable Care Act, certified MRI technologists will need to provide diagnostics covered by expanding enrollment in insurance programs. States with larger populations will have a naturally higher demand for MRI techs, and in 2019, the BLS showed the highest levels of employment were concentrated in the following states:
- California: 3,150 MRI technologists employed
- Florida: 3,040
- Texas: 2,540
- New York: 2,410
- Illinois: 2,130
Finally, the BLS (May 2019) reported that the 37,900 MRI techs in the U.S. earned an average annual salary of $74,270 and the following percentiles:
- 10th percentile: $51,150
- 25th percentile: $61,030
- 50th percentile (median): $73,410
- 75th percentile: $87,280
- 90th percentile: $101,580
|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, May 2019|
Licensing & Certification for MRI Techs
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers certification and registration for those students who have completed MRI tech programs. To be eligible for the primary ARRT certification, students must complete an educational program approved by the ARRT, meet ethics requirements and pass the examination.
Once certified by the ARRT, MRI techs become Registered Technologists (RTs) and are required to complete continuing education courses every two years 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 a program or institution on the ARRT-approved accreditation list. 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.
While having a radiology license isn’t required by all states, more than 75 percent of states have licensing laws that require ARRT credentials to work legally. 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.
For up-to-date state-level licensing and MRI certification requirements, please visit the MRI tech certification guide.