A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist is responsible for injecting patients with contrast dyes so that they can view diagnostic images of their bodies which are then scanned using magnetic resonance imaging. MRI Technologists are also responsible for ensuring that the produced image is of high quality. Additionally, these professionals are responsible for monitoring patient safety and comfort during the imaging process.
These professionals may also administer gadolinium contrast dosage intravenously, explain procedures to patients, position them on the examination table, interview them regarding health histories and enter data into electronic health records.
“In a nutshell, being an MRI Tech is a blessing. The career is really unique in certain ways, and techs need have to have a lot of compassion,” Gilbert Cortez, an MRI Tech practicing in Texas, said. “The work is very stimulating for the brain, especially when keeping up with industry changes.”
He added that when working with imaging machinery and software, like with any type of computer, advancements are always being made. Therefore, the career is up-and-coming, and can additionally be quite demanding and competitive at times. Learn about other careers in imaging and diagnostics, such as that of a Sonographer, today!
“I would say everyone that I work with on MRIs here in San Antonio is satisfied with their line of work and pay,” Cortez said.
To become a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist, professionals need to obtain an associate’s degree from a post-secondary education program, often offered through community colleges or vocational schools. Usually, these programs involve in-class instruction, including classes on anatomy, patient care, pathology, image evaluation and radiation physics and protection, and clinical experience.
Upon completion of one of these programs, a MRI Technologist must become licensed through the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists in the state which they wish to practice. Oftentimes, MRI Technologists start out as Radiologic Technologists and later specialize in magnetic resonance imaging.
“I achieved my MRI education through the Army, so much of my education was military-driven,” Cortez explained. “This path was really fast-paced and involved more on-site and ‘pick the skills up as you go’ training as opposed to the 2-year MRI Tech programs.”
Today, Cortex explained that learners are able to come to the facility in which he works and he provides much of this same on-site training, helping them obtain accreditation through the American Radiological Technologist Association. He said that depending on the state of employment, professionals may also be required to take continuing education classes every two years to maintain this accreditation.
The best ways to advance in a career as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist are to take on managerial positions as a shift supervisor of Chief / Lead / Senior MRI Technologist as a specific healthcare setting. Additionally, some MRI Techs choose to pursue advanced educations, helping them to secure more managerial roles or MRI Scanner roles in either education for research.
“The best thing to do when trying to advance in your career as an MRI Tech is to strive to also get into the research side of things, such as to build protocols. They may also choose to get into electronics, and therefore be hired by big companies to assist with surgeries,” Cortez said. “Honestly, there’s so much room for growth.”
He further explained that there is now an increasing need for MRI Techs who are willing to travel. As many Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists with families or other responsibilities are unable to commit to traveling, those who can may better set themselves up for advancement opportunities.
“Ultimately, if professionals want to move up they have to get away from the clinical start setting. I would suggest trying to get into research or academics,” Cortez advised. “We do a lot of research, which keeps our minds growing and helps grow the technologies.”
To perform as an effective MRI Technologist, these professionals should possess strong mathematical skills, allowing them to calculate and mix the correct and accurate doses of chemicals necessary for imaging. They should also possess physical stamina, as much of their responsibilities involve long periods of standing to complete.
Furthermore, Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists should have the technical skills needed to understand and operate the complex imaging machinery and software, in addition to the interpersonal skills necessary to communicate with both patients and other healthcare career professionals.
“You have to really make an effort to work with every patient who enters the facility, and take the time to help them feel comfortable,” Cortez stressed. “Some companies push for quantities over quality. This is sad because ultimately the patients are the ones who suffer, and may have to wait in lobbies for over an hour depending on the setting.”
“Obviously MRI skills are important, but compassion is a huge part of this career. If you don’t have the people person skills and social skills needed to work with diversity and culture and to help you build patient rapport in your community, handling this workload will be very difficult,” Cortez explained. “Sometimes the people who come in here are sick, and they need your help and expect you to to help make the experience as pleasant as possible.”
Other qualities which make for a strong MRI Technologists including being detail-oriented, allowing them to follow instruction, and being kind, considerate and respectful to patients. Some patients may enter imaging settings fearful of their results, and an MRI Technologist should be able to make them feel as comfortable as possible having the imaging test performed.
“I can tell you that most compassionate-type Technologists are the ones who work for people who really need the help, and not just for the bread and butter stuff,” Cortez said. “MRI Techs should really be able to open up to their patients, just like their patients are going to open up to them.”
Most Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists work full time, and depending on their employment setting their services can be required in emergency situations, and therefore during evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Additionally, these professionals may be exposed to infectious diseases more than professionals in other healthcare occupations.
“MRI Techs are challenged mentally each day,” Cortez said. “If you get up really early, work during the day or work for a hospital, you’re always running around. Many of these facilities also never close, so MRI Techs are always facing challenges as they accommodate patients.”
He continued by stating that professionals in this occupation need to be open-minded because patient schedules for facility needs can change at a moment’s notice. Cortez said that above-all, MRI Techs need to expect to be busy each day in the role.
“When you get home, you’re not going to want to play on your phone or computer, your eyes will need to relax,” he said. “What I do is I go to get massages, just to get my mind back in relaxation mode again. You definitely have to shut down when you get home and take your mind off of work.”
Now is a great time to start the career path of becoming a MRI Scanner! Why? Over the next decade, this career in healthcare is projected to grow 9 percent — faster than the average for all occupations. Ultimately, this growth can be attributed to an increased awareness of healthcare conditions, such as cancer, which require MRIs prior to diagnosis. Also, as the baby boom generation ages, they require more healthcare tests, including MRIs as well, to diagnose medical conditions.
The industries with the highest level of employment in this occupation are local, state and private hospital settings, medical and diagnostic laboratories, the offices of Family Physicians, outpatient care centers and other ambulatory healthcare services. States with the highest employment level in this occupation are Florida, California, Texas, Michigan and New York.
“When learners are in their clinical practice settings, they should really work to leave a good impression at that place,” Cortez advised. “They will all need a place to start, and if people at a clinical setting know them and see how they are, that’s the best place to start and get a foot in the door. The field is pretty competitive today, so many place will not tend to hire MRI Techs who are new in the field and without much experience.”
The median annual wage for MRI Technologists was $71,670. While the lowest 10 percent were recorded to have made less than $50,220, the highest earning 10 percent made more than $99,180. The top paying employers of MRI Scanners are scientific research and development services, management of companies and enterprises, post-secondary education settings, outpatient care centers and employment services. Additionally, the top paying state within this occupation is Nevada, followed by the District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
“Depending on experience and the ability to be flexible, I would say the salary for this occupation ranges from $40,000 to about $90,000,” Cortez confirmed. “If an employee can find a way to provide more services to their employer, chances are they will definitely help the employer meet their financial goals. An example would be the willingness to move around from clinic to clinic as needed to help an employer.”
The American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) is the certifying body that requires specific MRI education, hands-on experience and in-depth clinical training prior to become a practicing MRI Technologist.
- Pursue a volunteer program at a hospital to ensure that there is interest in this field
- Take allied health courses if possible
- Research the career and possible educational programs
- Apply to possible programs
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Gilbert Cortez
Practice: University Hospital San Antonio TX, Trauma Center Level I
Location: San Antonio, TX
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Make sure you’re able to multitask. You definitely have to keep an open mind, and think about all the people relying on you before you decide to call out. You can’t just keep yourself in mind.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“They see dollar signs and the potential to make a lot of money, but once they get into this career they realize the occupation is not for them.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“How much information do I need to know about Magnetic Resonance Imaging before entering the workforce? The answer is just enough to pass the exam, the majority of the technology and occupation-specific is learned on-site.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“I knew this was going to become an up-and-coming field in radiology. Once you get into the stream of MRI technology, you can’t stop and you have to go with it. Being able to do new things each year was really stimulating for me. This gives me more drive to keep my skills up.”
In one word, what makes you so successful?
*Credentialing organizations: American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists