How to Become an MRI Tech: Your Step-by-Step Career Guide

Updated on January 15, 2024

Have you considered specializing in the fast-growing medical imaging field as an MRI technologist? With only two years of training, you can launch a stable career capturing detailed internal patient scans using complex machinery.

MRI techs play vital roles in diagnosing illnesses and injuries. They operate sophisticated scanners using strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce 3D anatomical images. High demand exists for skilled technologists as hospitals, sports medicine clinics, and imaging centers rapidly adopt the technology.

Keep reading to discover the step-by-step path to qualify as a certified MRI tech:

Step 1: Earn a Relevant Associate Degree

While a few hospital MRI training programs exist for radiology techs, most imaging centers and radiology group practices require MRI technologist candidates to hold Associate Degrees in fields such as:

Coursework covers core concepts you’ll need to excel as an MRI tech, like:

Clinical rotations at hospitals give students integral hands-on scanner experience with real patients. Top programs provide at least 500+ hours of supervised scan time.

The best degrees take 18-24 months to complete if attending full-time. Consider accredited community college offerings to minimize tuition fees. Various online programs for MRI training now exist as well, catering to working radiology professionals.

Step 2: Pass the MRI Certification Exam

Today, most U.S. states and employers mandate MRI techs pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) MRI certification exam before practicing. So, after completing thorough MRI-focused coursework, register online to sit for this assessment.

The ARRT MRI test thoroughly covers concepts like:

You’ll also need to meet all ethics and educational requirements outlined by the ARRT to qualify for the exam.

Step 3: Apply for State MRI Licensing

On top of the national ARRT certification, a handful of U.S. states also mandate MRI technologists apply for state-specific licenses to practice legally. For instance, California, New Mexico, and New Hampshire have supplemental licensing procedures.

Before accepting an MRI tech job offer, contact your regional state health department office to clarify if added state credentials are necessary based on your exam plans. Requirements for continuing education credits also vary by state to maintain active licensing status.

Step 4: Pursue Ongoing MRI Education

Because MRI technology continually evolves, regularly pursuing continuing education is vital for seasoned techs to remain effective and employable using new scanner software/hardware.

Over a dozen specialized MRI certifications now exist, going beyond general imaging knowledge into niche MRI realms like:

Reputable medical imaging associations like the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) offer both online and in-person courses to help working MRI techs update techniques.

Step 5: Advance Your MRI Career Over Time

Beyond performing patient scans yourself, years of proven MRI imaging experience coupled with added certifications can help qualify you for supervisory roles like:

MRI Tech Salary

Years ExperienceAverage MRI Tech Salary
0-2 years$45,000 – $55,000
3-5 years$55,000 – $65,000
6-10 years$65,000 – $75,000
10+ years$75,000+

Beyond clinical scanning duties, MRI techs can significantly boost pay by moving into specialized roles like application training specialists for vendors or MRI sales representatives. Those with keen business interests can also work up to running entire imaging centers or radiology departments.


The elite diagnostics expertise and complete scanner technology command MRI technologists gain also enables some to segue into hospital IT roles managing critical digital imaging systems and patient records.

Ready to begin this promising, invaluable medical imaging occupation? Contact accredited colleges with online and physical classroom associate degree options to jumpstart your MRI tech training.

Then, in around two years or less, you’ll emerge fully prepared to confidently sit your MRI certification exams and qualify for a stable hospital, clinic, or imaging center position capturing MRI scans that transform patient diagnosis and treatment paths daily.


What degree do you need to become an MRI tech?

Most MRI techs complete an associate’s degree program specializing in MRI, medical radiography, or diagnostic medical sonography. Some hospitals provide onsite 1-2 year MRI tech training for radiology staff as well

How long does it take?

The usual academic route takes about 18-24 months, attending an MRI tech school full-time. This includes summers. Expect program lengths spanning up to 27 months if going part-time while working.
Some hospital MRI tech certificate programs exist, lasting 9-12 months, assuming participants already hold radiography credentials like x-ray tech certification.

How much do MRI techs earn on average?

Average MRI tech salaries range from $45,000 for entry-level hospital trainees up to over $75,000 per year for MRI department heads, lead techs, or top sales/applications specialists after gaining substantial professional experience.