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Become a MRI Assistant: Requirements and Qualifications

Two types of medical support personnel help radiologists (radiation-specializing doctors) with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Radiologist assistants aid radiologists in conducting imaging, caring for patients and performing examinations. MRI assistants aid in patient care and clerical duties for MRI clinics and hospital departments, except the actual operation of the MRI machine.

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MRI Assistant: Choosing a Career Level

The term 'MRI assistant' can refer to different careers. Some clinics use the job title 'MRI assistant' for a combined clerical and patient care position that is similar to a medical assistant job. MRI assistants at this level may maintain patient records, schedule appointments or prepare patients for the MRI procedure. A registered radiologist assistant can actually perform some MRI procedures with a physician's supervision. This career requires a bachelor's degree and certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Becoming an MRI Assistant

Step 1: Graduate from High School

Aspiring MRI assistants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Preparatory classes in biology, mathematics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, English and computer science will support later education.

Step 2: Complete Some Secondary Training

Beyond high school, education qualifications for MRI assistants are flexible. Experience in the medical field or an Associate of Applied Science degree in radiological science or MRI technology can be helpful. Some clinics prefer completion of a nursing assistant or medical assistant training program. Some additional possible requirements include good customer service skills and Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

Step 3: Find an MRI Assistant Position

Many health care settings need MRI assistants. These include hospitals, cancer and imaging centers, clinics and emergency care facilities. These establishments may have human resources departments that advertise any MRI assistant job openings. Newspapers, Internet listings and employment offices are also good resources.

Step 4: Continue Education in the Radiology Field

MRI assistants need to be aware of developments and new technology in radiology, especially in magnetic resonance imaging. Continuing education creates opportunities for more responsibility and higher pay while keeping assistants' jobs secure. MRI assistants could move on to earn bachelor's degrees in radiation technology, perhaps becoming certified radiographers or radiologist assistants.

Becoming a Radiologist Assistant

Step 1: Become a Radiographer

Before enrolling in a radiologist assistant program, an individual must be primary-pathway certified as a radiographer (X-ray technologist) by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Associate's degrees for aspiring radiographers are available at many community colleges. Radiography program graduates must meet ethics standards and pass a certification exam. Work experience as a radiographer may be required for applicants to radiologist assistant degree programs.

Step 2: Complete a Radiologist Assistant Bachelor's or Master's Degree

Radiologist assistants must hold at least a bachelor's degree from an ARRT-accredited program. These programs include coursework in radiologic procedures, pharmacology, pathophysiology, patient assessment, radiation safety, radiobiology and health physics. Clinical experience is required for becoming a certified RA. Some approved programs for radiologist assistants award master's degrees.

Step 3: Pass the RA Certification Examination

The ARRT offers the Registered Radiologist Assistant Examination. This test includes material about patient assessment, drugs, legal and ethical standards, anatomy, and radiation safety. Featuring both multiple-choice questions and case study essay questions, it lasts about seven hours.

Step 4: Become Licensed

RAs must be licensed by the state where they practice. Information on state licensure regulations can be found at the ARRT website (www.arrt.org).

Step 5: Continue Education as Required by the ARRT

Annual registration requirements ensure that certified RAs maintain current radiology knowledge. A registered radiologist assistant must pay an annual fee and agree to comply with ARRT rules and ethical standards.

ARRT-registered RAs must complete 50 continuing education (CE) credits every two years. These include both RA-specific and general requirements as identified by the ARRT. The ARRT website gives details about required CE credits.

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