How To Become A Radiologic Technologist or MRI Technologist

The job of the Radiologic Technologist or MRI Technologist plays a critical role in the well-being of many. They’re often one of the first healthcare professionals you meet when you have a health problem. You, too, can enter this field with an associate degree. If you are interested in this branch of healthcare, check out our guide below. 

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Are there differences between a Radiologic Technologist and an MRI Technologist?

Although they are similar, the Radiologic Technologist is primarily tasked with performing procedures, such as X-rays and CT scans. In contrast, the MRI Technologist specializes in Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRIs.

What are the differences between these two testing techniques? Generally, CT scans use radiation to record images, such as mammography to take breast tissue images. 

MRIs do not use radiation but provide a more in-depth and detailed look into the soft tissues like the brain and other inner organs. The results of both types of imagery are used to diagnose a patient’s health issue.

What does a Radiologic Technologist or MRI Technologist do?

Generally, both types of Technologists in this field have similar job descriptions, although additional training is required to be an MRI Tech.

The following job duties pertain to both: 

  • Prepare the patient for the test
  • Adjust patient and the equipment to get the best images
  • Maintain the imaging equipment
  • Keep patient records, including gathering patient history and recording test results
  • Work closely with the physician ordering the test
  • Prepare and inject patients with contrast media, if needed
  • And, much more! 

What specializations should I consider?

If you choose, you may concentrate on a particular type of imagery, such as:

  • MRI Technologist
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • CT Scan Technologist
  • X-Ray Technician
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Mammography Technologist
  • Fetal Sonography

How much do Radiologic and MRI Technologists earn?

The BLS states the following average wages as of May 2020:

  • Radiologic Technologist – Earned $61,900 per year, while the highest 10% earned upwards of $92,660 annually.
  • MRI Technologist – Earned $74,690 annually, while the highest 10% earned annual wages upwards of $104,210.

How do I become a Radiologic or MRI Technologist?

If you are interested in becoming a Radiologic or MRI Technologist, you will need to earn an associate degree.

If your end goal is to work as an MRI Technician, you will, most likely, be required to have work experience as a Radiologic Technologist first. 

Also, if you are a high school student thinking ahead… It would help if you considered focusing on math and science-related classes, such as physics, biology, anatomy, and chemistry, to give you a leg up while earning your associate degree.

How long will it take to earn an Associate of Radiologic Technology degree?

Although most associate degrees take two years to complete, a degree in radiologic technology may take a little more time due to the clinical requirements needed to complete a program. 

What will I learn in an Associate of Radiologic Technology degree program?

Coursework may include the following:

  • Introductory Anatomy and Biology
  • Diagnostic Concepts
  • Biochemistry
  • Foundations of Radiography Therapy
  • Radiographic Protection
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Sonography (Ultrasound)
  • Patient Care & Recordkeeping
  • Specialized Clinical Imaging
  • Pathophysiology
  • And, much more!

What is the accrediting agency for Radiological and MRI associate programs?

Look for programs accredited by the: 

Is there a job demand for Radiologic and MRI Technologists?

According to the BLS, as of May 2020, the field of Radiologic and MRI Technology is expected to grow. Between 2020 and 2030, approximately 20,800 new openings per year are expected to arise, which is a 9% increase. 

The increase in an aging population will be a major contributor to the faster than average job growth rate. 

Does exposure to radiation make this job dangerous?

Any job in the field of healthcare comes with its disadvantages, particularly due to the exposure to infectious diseases and everyday colds, flu, and now… Covid. 

As a Radiologic Technologist, exposure to low-dose radiation is a concern, no doubt. However, you must be safe at all times as you wear protective lead aprons, shields, and gloves while working with radiation. Also, employees wear badges that monitor their radiation exposure over the life of their careers.

Do I need a license to be a Radiologic and MRI Technologist?

Depending on your state’s requirements, you may need to have a license or be certified to perform your duties, especially in the field of radiologic technology. And… even if the state does not require it, most prospective employers will expect you to be certified in your area of expertise. 

Certifications can be obtained through the: 

In addition, you will be expected to be certified in basic life support (BLS) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Where do Radiologic and MRI Techs work?

Typically, Radiologic and MRI Techs work regular work weeks and by appointment; however, in specific settings, such as a hospital, emergencies arise that require technicians to be available on weekends, holidays, and nights. 

In fact, the top employer of Radiologic and MRI Technicians is within the hospital setting, followed by medical and diagnostic labs, physician’s offices, and outpatient care centers. 

How will I know becoming a Radiation or MRI Technologist is for me?

On a personal note, becoming a Radiological or MRI Technologist takes a caring and compassionate heart. Many patients who come to you are facing the reality of devastating test results. Although you may not be authorized to give test results, you may know that the patient may be facing the worst news of their life… and you will need to be able to handle that stress. 

Besides being adequately trained, you will need to be a good communicator, detail-oriented, have excellent organizational skills, and be in excellent physical condition.