MRI Training Programs and Requirements

MRI technicians are radiologic technologists who specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They interact with patients, both healthy and sick, and are typically supervised by board-certified radiologists. Certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs in radiologic technology provide candidates the hands-on training needed to operate MRI machinery and assist in diagnosing patients.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Most employers prefer to hire MRI technicians with postsecondary education experience, including certificates, associate degrees or bachelor's degrees in radiologic technology. Some employers request prior work experience in the field, which can be obtained through associate's and bachelor's degree programs.

MRI technicians must be receptive to patients' needs, follow instructions closely, pay attention to detail and have strong communication skills with patients and other healthcare professionals. They also need to know how to operate MRI machinery, including peripheral equipment and monitors.

Formal Education

Offered at technical schools, universities and colleges, formal education programs in this area provide both classroom instruction and clinical training. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is one of the leading accrediting agencies of these programs.

Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology

An associate's degree program in radiologic technology generally takes two years to complete. Students learn to produce images of body parts by taking X-rays and to accurately position patients during various radiological procedures. Courses offered include anatomy and physiology, physics, radiologic technology and methods of patient care. Most programs require students to partake in clinical rotations for MRI, ultrasound and radiation therapy.

Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology

Prior to enrolling in a 4-year bachelor's degree programs in radiologic technology, some schools require students to have an associate's degree program in the same field. Students in a bachelor's degree program take courses in pathology, pharmacology, healthcare law and computed tomography. These programs provide hands-on training through an externship offered toward the end of the curriculum.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Certificate

A 1-2 year MRI certificate program can be achieved once students complete a bachelor's degree in radiologic technology or similar field. This type of post baccalaureate program can fulfill continuing education requirements. Typical courses include MRI principles, imaging applications, cross-sectional anatomy and healthcare ethics. Most programs require students to complete more than 500 hours of clinical MRI internships. Graduates can sit for national certification, administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Job Experience

MRI technicians can work in numerous types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, urgent care facilities, physician's offices or imaging centers. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with 2-5 years of MRI experience, with postsecondary externships attributing to work experience. Applicants must know CPR and have a valid state license, while some employers insist upon licensure with the AART.

Licenses and Certifications

Currently there are no national certifications for MRI technicians, although most states require that MRI technicians possess state licenses. Each state has its own requirements, so candidates should verify what those are before they apply for the examination.

The ARRT offers voluntary certification for radiologic technologists, including one in magnetic resonance imaging. Additionally, some states use the ARRT-administered exams for the state's licensing functions. To maintain ARRT certification, applicants must complete 24 hours of continuing education classes every two years.

Workshops and Seminars

Professional organizations offer MRI workshops based upon specific specialties, such as cardiac, cardiovascular and orthopedics. These workshops typically last 3-5 days, are held at conference facilities across the country and allow attendees opportunities to perform MRI scans on volunteers. Topics at these workshops focus on MRI techniques and problem-solving, with a question and answer session available on the last day. Day-long educational MRI seminars, which are held at colleges or universities, allow MRI technicians to learn about patient safety, cross-sectional anatomy skills and identify key elements in MRI scans.

Additional Professional Development

MRI technicians who have completed baccalaureate degree programs can seek further education with a master's degree in radiologic science. A limited number of colleges and universities offer 2-year master's degree programs, which can prepare graduates for careers as educators and administrators. Independent coursework and clinical apprenticeships are at the core of a master's degree program.

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