Radiologic & MRI Technologist

If the challenge of maintaining a cheerful patient bedside manner while creating precise medical images is appealing, a career as a radiologic or MRI technologist requires these skills and more.

When a patient comes into a clinical setting with an injury or is in pain, a radiologic technologist (RT) is responsible for taking x-rays or using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to create images that give physicians accurate information, so a patient can be treated appropriately. Why is accurate medical imaging important? X-rays and MRI scans can tell a physician whether a patient’s injury is a sprain or a break and whether or not the injury needs a compression bandage for a few days or a plaster cast for multiple weeks to heal properly.

Since patients undergoing x-rays or MRI scans are typically in physical and emotional discomfort, a radiologic or MRI technologist needs to be patient and communicative as well as technically skilled and safety-oriented to get the most accurate imaging results quickly without causing harm.

Those who enjoy studying science and seeing patients will be glad to know that careers in radiologic MRI technology are growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that radiologic and MRI technologist jobs are expected to grow 6 percent nationally between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the 3 percent national average for all occupations (BLS 2023). The BLS also estimates that 15,400 new positions will be available nationwide in that same timeframe.

Becoming a radiologic or MRI technologist requires a minimum of an associate’s degree, completion of a one-year radiologic or MRI program, and a certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)—the leading credentialing organization for medical imaging careers. Bachelor’s degrees in radiology and MRI technology are also available, and additional requirements may be needed for state licensure.

To learn more about radiologic and MRI technologist careers, read on for detailed information about ARRT certification, educational programs, state licensure requirements, and salary data for this profession.

Radiologic & MRI Technologists – Specializations & Degree Types

At a minimum, radiologic and MRI technologists must complete an associate’s degree plus an additional one-year educational program in radiology to be eligible for ARRT certification exams. The ARRT provides 15 specialization credentials for certified radiologic MRI technologists. There are three eligibility pathways for ARRT certification: primary, post-primary, and RRA (Registered Radiologist Assistant) pathways.

Primary pathway eligibility requirements include an associate’s degree and an ARRT-accredited educational program completion. The following specialization credentials can be earned through the primary pathway:  

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Nuclear medicine technology
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiography
  • Sonography
  • Vascular sonography

Post-primary pathway eligibility requirements include a current ARRT certification or a credential from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). The following specialization credentials can be earned through the post-primary pathway:

  • Bone densitometry
  • Breast sonography
  • Cardiac interventional radiography
  • Computed tomography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Mammography
  • Vascular interventional radiography
  • Vascular sonography

As part of earning the RRA credential, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, be certified and registered with ARRT in radiography, have at least one year of acceptable clinical experience in radiography, and have completed an ARRT-approved radiologist assistant educational program.

Admissions Requirements for Radiologic & MRI Technology Programs

What’s unique about the ARRT is that it allows certification applicants to complete educational programs in any order, meaning an associate’s degree can be completed after a one-year educational program. Even though the ARRT does not require an associate’s degree to be completed before a radiology program, keep in mind that some one-year radiology educational programs may require an associate’s degree as an admissions requirement.

Typical admissions requirements for radiology and MRI technology programs include:

  • Application to an educational institution
  • Application to a specific educational program within the institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Proof of immunizations
  • Criminal background check
  • CPR certification
  • Personal statement

Radiologic & MRI Technology Program Accreditation

The importance of attending an accredited education program cannot be over-emphasized. Firstly, accredited programs and institutions have met peer-reviewed academic rigor and professionalism standards. Second, becoming an ARRT-certified radiologic MRI technologist requires completing an educational program accredited by regional and programmatic institutions.

  • ARRT-recognized accreditation agencies are organizations that accredit institutions that confer associate’s degrees, which are required to apply for the primary pathway for ARRT certification.
  • The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits radiologic technology programs. Graduating from one of these one-year accredited programs is required to apply for ARRT certification.
  • The American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (AMRIT) accredits 18- and 24-month MRI degree and certificate programs.

On-Campus Radiologic & MRI Technology Degree Programs

Owens Community College

Owens Community College offers three on-campus radiology programs, including two associate degrees of applied science in radiologic technology and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a pre-radiologic technology concentration.

Students who enroll in the four-semester concentration option can choose to apply to the RT two-year program or transfer their studies to a different institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. The associate’s degree programs require six semesters to complete, including didactic classes in radiology, magnetic resonance imaging, and in-person clinical experience. Graduates from the associate’s degree programs are prepared to take the ARRT certification exam.

The AAS degree program in radiologic technology comprises 63 to 64 credits, including courses such as introduction to radiologic physics; radiologic technology; anatomy and physiology; and medical informatics; among others. Courses in the 65 to 66 credit magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) AAS program include MRI patient care and safety; introductions to MR physics; MRI physics; MRI procedures; pathophysiology for MRI; and language of medicine.

  • Location: Toledo, OH
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four to six semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($167.50 per credit); out-of-state ($335 per credit)

Southern Illinois University’s School of Health Sciences (SIU)

SIU offers a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography specialization as part of the fourth year of the radiologic sciences bachelor’s degree program.

In the program’s first year, students can expect to take basic science and general core courses and health-related electives. The second and third years of the program cover the coursework in the two-year radiography program, which JRCERT accredits. This fourth-year program allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree and an MRI specialization.

Additionally, SIU offers a fully online bachelor’s degree in radiological sciences management education for working professionals. This degree is designed for working imaging professionals with MRI, radiation therapy, and diagnostic medical sonography careers who want to pivot into management roles.

  • Location: Carbondale, IN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year
  • Estimated Tuition: $9,638 per year

National Polytechnic College

National Polytechnic College offers students the option of completing either a diploma or an associate’s in applied science in MRI technology. Both programs include comprehensive education in physics, math, human anatomy, medical terminology, computer skills, and patient care. The associate’s degree program also includes general education classes such as English and history.

Both program graduates are eligible to sit for the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) National Certification Examination. All students participate in an externship before completing their program, which provides them with valuable hands-on experience caring for patients.

  • Location: Lakewood, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC); American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (18 months) AAS (22 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Diploma ($34,893.50); AAS ($38,896)

Saint Louis University – Doisy College of Health Sciences

Saint Louis University Doisy College of Health Sciences offers a bachelor of science in magnetic resonance imaging. This four-year program can be used as a stepping stone into a career as an MRI technologist or as preparation for further studies such as medical school, a physician’s assistant program, or nursing school. Students who have already completed an associate’s in radiology can finish the necessary coursework in two years.

To ensure graduates have a well-rounded education, Saint Louis University requires comprehensive general education coursework in classes such as theology, math, science, psychology, and literature. Required coursework directly related to MRI education includes clinical MRI and image production; patient care and MRI safety; and instrumentation and quality analysis.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $52,260 per year

Thomas Jefferson University – College of Health Professions

For the past five years, the bachelor of science in MRI technology at Thomas Jefferson University College of Health Professions has boasted a 100 percent employment rate, and its five-year average benchmark established by the JRCERT for the ARRT exam is 75%. This four-year intensive program helps prepare students to work in this field with critical thinking skills, clinical experiences, and professional development expertise.

This program can also be completed as part of a dual concentration. This allows students to gain a secondary skill that can help with employability and job advancement. Other programs that can be completed concurrently include radiation therapy, medical dosimetry, computed tomography, invasive cardiovascular technology, radiography, abdomen-extended & OB/GYN (ultrasound), cardiac sonography, and vascular sonography.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,355 per credit

Online or Hybrid Radiologic & MRI Technology Degree Programs

Bay College

The Michigan Radiologic and Imaging Sciences Consortium (a partnership of Bay de Noc Community College and the following colleges: Lansing Community College, Kellogg Community College, Grand Rapids Community College, Mid-Michigan Community College, Grand Valley State University, and Lake Michigan College) based in Lansing, MI, offers a fully online associate degree in applied science (AAS) and a certificate of completion for those who already have an associate’s degree.

This JRCERT-accredited MRI program prepares students for radiologic MRI technologist careers through courses in pathophysiology, physics, and other applied science courses. Professional ethics are also emphasized through professional attitudes, values, and behaviors that support professional growth on medical imaging teams. Students completing an associate’s degree or a certificate of completion are eligible to take the ARRT MRI certification exam.

  • Location: Lansing, MI
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One or two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Delta County Residents ($150 per credit); Dickinson County Residents ($223 per credit); Michigan In-State Residents and Wisconsin Reciprocal Counties ($258 per credit); Out of State Residents ($316 per credit); International Students ($349 per credit)

University of Nebraska Medical Center

The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Allied Health Professions offers a fully online imaging sciences degree advancement option. This program is designed for medical imaging professionals who have completed an accredited radiography, radiation therapy, sonography, or nuclear medicine program and want to further their educational and professional opportunities.

Because it is a degree advancement program and doesn’t include a clinical education component, it is not JRCERT-accredited, but the University of Nebraska is regionally accredited. This program is ideal for students who are willing to attend school for an additional year, earn a bachelor of science (BS) in medical imaging and therapeutic sciences, and pursue radiography specializations in pediatrics, cardiovascular, and oncology.

  • Location: Omaha, NE
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $341 per credit

Elgin Community College

There are several degree options for aspiring radiologic technologists at Elgin Community College. Students can complete a 72-credit associate of applied science degree in radiography if they have not completed any previous medical imaging education. Also, Elgin offers a 27-credit MRI certificate as a stand-alone option or as a specialization while earning an associate’s degree.

The associate’s degree must be completed in person, but the MRI portion of the program can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format. Graduates with either an associate’s or a certificate will be ready for entry-level work in this field. Additionally, credits earned in this program can be transferred to a four-year college and used towards completing a bachelor’s degree.

  • Location: Elgin, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (two years); MRI certificate (three semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district resident and in-district internet ($132 per credit); out-of-district resident ($297 per credit); out-of-district internet only ($260 per credit)

University of Cincinnati – College of Allied Health Sciences

The MRI certificate program at the University of Cincinnati College of Allied Health Sciences is for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree but need additional education to enter this field. Classes are offered primarily online with in-person clinical instruction. This program is three semesters long of intensive studies. Many students also chose to complete an additional three semesters in nuclear medicine technology.

Admission requirements to this program include already completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and prerequisite coursework in math, science, and anatomy. Additionally, applicants must have a 2.8 undergraduate GPA and a C or higher in all prerequisite coursework.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $6,785 per semester (UC Uptown); $3,753 per semester (UC Blue Ash); $3,534 per semester (UC Clermont)

Midwestern Career College

The associate’s of applied science in MRI technology at Midwestern Career College is taught in a hybrid format, allowing for both flexible instruction and quality in-person classes. In addition to learning the skills necessary to operate MRI equipment, students learn interpersonal skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

To complete this program, students must earn 810 hours of externship experience. The externship is performed at clinics where students will be working side by side with MRI technologists. This allows students to develop their patient care skills alongside their technical skills. All hours are supervised to ensure students complete the necessary training to excel in this field.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE); American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $690 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Radiologic or MRI Technologist?

It generally takes approximately three to four years after high school to become a radiologic MRI technologist. Certification requires a two-year associate’s degree and a one- or two-year radiologist program that can be completed before or after earning an associate’s degree.

Graduates from these programs may choose to spend additional time studying for the exam after completing their educational requirements or take time to earn additional specialized certifications.

How To Become a Radiologic & MRI Technologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Graduate from High School (Four Years)

High school students interested in pursuing radiologic MRI technologist careers are advised to take as many courses as possible in science and mathematics to prepare for college-level coursework and gain admission into a reputable college or university.

Courses in the natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry, are recommended as well as anatomy and physiology. Part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer work opportunities can provide valuable early career insight and help applicants stand out in the eyes of admissions committees.

Step Two: Earn an Associate’s Degree (Two Years)

General education requirements are often earned in the first two years of college or university studies, and an associate’s degree is required for ARRT certification. Most associate’s degree programs cover English writing and speaking, humanities, history, science, mathematics, social science, and elective courses. The ARRT requires that a candidate’s associate’s degree be earned at a school recognized by their list of accreditation organizations.

Step Three: Complete an ARRT-Recognized Educational Program (One Year or More)

Phase two of the primary pathway to ARRT certification is completing an ARRT-recognized educational program. Radiology educational programs are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). This organization verifies that the highest standards of educational rigor and program quality are met. Graduates from JRCERT-accredited programs earn a certificate of completion, which is required for ARRT exam eligibility.

Step Four: Take the ARRT Certification Exam (Less Than One Year)

All candidates, regardless of the type of certification they are seeking, must meet requirements in education, ethics, and examination. The ARRT doesn’t endorse any specific study materials, but students can refer to the ARRT content specifications, which are included in JRCERT-accredited programs, to prepare for the exam.

When an applicant receives their candidate status, the ARRT provides a 365-day window for a candidate to complete an ARRT exam.

Step Five: Maintain Certification Credentials (Every Two Years)

RTs must renew their certification credentials every two years by completing an annual renewal form and reporting 24 credits of approved continuing education activities. Continuing education activities include online classes, self-study readings, seminar lectures, and classroom learning. Most activities count for more than one credit.

Furthermore, the ARRT provides a list of professional membership societies for radiologic and MRI technologists to stay current on industry trends and advance the medical imaging profession.

What Do Radiologic & MRI Technologists Do?

Simply put, radiologic technologists take x-rays of areas of patients’ bodies as requested by a physician. MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to make diagnostic images of a patient’s entire body or specific areas as requested. Safety and accuracy are of primary importance in this profession, so RTs must possess a wide range of scientific and social responsibilities, including:

  • Operating and maintaining imaging equipment
  • Following specific orders from physicians about which areas of a patient’s body to image
  • Preparing patients for imaging procedures
  • Positioning the patient and the equipment for accurate image results
  • Following safety procedures for themselves and patients
  • Communicating with physicians to see if additional images are needed
  • Keeping detailed patient records

MRI technologists have additional skills, such as injecting patients with contrast dyes to make potential diagnoses appear clearly on images. MRI technologists are also tasked with impressing upon patients the importance of staying completely still during MRI scans so that the images can be captured clearly without movement blur.

Radiologic & MRI Technologists – Certifications & Licensure

As previously mentioned, the ARRT provides 15 RT certification types, but some states also require a license to practice legally as radiologic technologists. More than 75 percent of states have laws requiring RTs to earn state licensure. Some states require ARRT certification before applying for state licensure.

The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ARST) lists individual state licensure requirements for radiologic technologists. Future RTs are strongly advised to research state licensure requirements for the states where they intend to work.

How Much Do Radiologic (MRI) Technologists Make?

While salary data depends on the cost of living, years of experience, and specialty certifications, radiologic technologists earn salaries that are above the national average compared to all occupations.

The 215,820 currently employed RTs in the United States earn annual salaries of $70,240 (BLS May 2022) with the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $47,760
  • 25th percentile: $57,350
  • 50th percentile (median): $65,140
  • 75th percentile: $80,050
  • 90th percentile: $97,940

There are 38,380 magnetic resonance imaging technologists employed in the United States. The average annual salary is $81,530 (BLS May 2022) with the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $60,530
  • 25th percentile: $67,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $80,090
  • 75th percentile: $93,360
  • 90th percentile: $104,850

Radiologic (MRI) Technologists Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a radiologic (MRI) technologist career. 

Become a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists work in labs, hospitals, and clinics, where they perform venipunctures on patients to draw their blood for laboratory tests. Typically phlebotomists have completed a technical education program and have obtained a national-level certification.

  • Typical Education: Certificate or associate degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Medical Technologists (AMT), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC)

Become an Endoscopy Technician

Endoscopies are a non-invasive procedure using a thin, flexible tube to examine the digestive tract. Endoscopy technicians have completed specialized training in endoscopy and assist physicians in performing an endoscope.

  • Typical Education: Certificate or associate degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA), Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. (CBSPD)

Become a Registered Nurse

Nurses are essential to most healthcare settings. They can provide a wide range of services, including administering vaccines, assisting with procedures, changing dressings, maintaining client records, monitoring patients, and educating patients. Often, they are the healthcare providers that patients interact with the most.

  • Typical Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)

Become a Medical Assistant

Whether they provide clerical or clinical support, medical assistants are essential to a smooth-running healthcare setting. They can take vital signs, monitor patients, administer medications per doctor’s orders, and prepare patients for procedures. They can also work on the administrative side of an office, helping with billing, charting, scheduling appointments, and more.

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Healthcareer Association, American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), National Center for Competency Testing, and American Medical Technologists
Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd


Rachel Drummond has written about integrating contemplative movement practices such as yoga into healthcare professions since 2019, promoting the idea that mental and physical well-being are critical components of effective patient care and self-care in the high-stress world of healthcare.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.

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