Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.
What they do
Radiologic and MRI technologists typically do the following:
- Adjust and maintain imaging equipment
- Precisely follow orders from physicians on what areas of the body to image
- Prepare patients for procedures, including taking a medical history and answering questions about the procedure
- Protect the patient by shielding exposed areas that do not need to be imaged
- Position the patient and the equipment in order to get the correct image
- Operate the computerized equipment to take the images
- Work with physicians to evaluate the images and to determine whether additional images need to be taken
- Keep detailed patient records
Healthcare professionals use many types of equipment to diagnose patients. Radiologic technologists specialize in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Some radiologic technologists prepare a mixture for the patient to drink that allows soft tissue to be viewed on the images that the radiologist reviews.
Radiologic technologists might also specialize in mammography. Mammographers use low-dose x-ray systems to produce images of the breast. Technologists may be certified in multiple specialties.
MRI technologists specialize in magnetic resonance imaging scanners. They inject patients with contrast dyes so that the images will show up on the scanner. The scanners use magnetic fields in combination with the contrast agent to produce images that a physician can use to diagnose medical problems.
Healthcare professionals who specialize in other diagnostic equipment include nuclear medicine technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers, and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists.
Radiologic and MRI technologists are often on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are disabled.
Like other healthcare workers, radiologic and MRI technologists may be exposed to infectious diseases. In addition, because radiologic technologists work with imaging equipment that uses radiation, they must wear badges that measure radiation levels in the radiation area. Detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose. Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of protective lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices, and by badges that monitor exposure to radiation.
Most radiologic and MRI technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergency situations, some technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight.
How to become a Radiologic and MRI Technologist
Radiologic technologists and MRI technologists typically need an associate degree. Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists and specialize later in their career. Radiologic technologists must be licensed or certified in most states. Few states license MRI technologists. Employers typically require or prefer prospective technologists to be certified even if the state does not require it.
An associate degree is the most common educational requirement for radiologic and MRI technologists. There also are postsecondary education programs that lead to graduate certificates or bachelor’s degrees. Education programs typically include both classroom study and clinical work. Coursework includes anatomy, pathology, patient care, radiation physics and protection, and image evaluation.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits programs in radiography and the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) accredits MRI programs. Completing an accredited program is required for licensure in some states.
High school students who are interested in radiologic or MRI technology should take courses that focus on math and science, such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, and physics.
MRI technologists typically have less than 5 years of work experience as radiologic technologists.
Radiologic technologists must be licensed or certified in most states. Few states license MRI technologists. Requirements vary by state.
To become licensed, technologists must usually graduate from an accredited program, and pass a certification exam from the state or obtain a certification from a certifying body. Certifications for radiologic technologists are available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Certifications for MRI technologists are available from the ARRT and from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT). For specific licensure requirements for radiologic technologists and MRI technologists, contact the state’s health board.
Employers typically require or prefer prospective technologists to be certified even if the state does not require it.
The median annual wage for magnetic resonance imaging technologists was $73,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,580.
The median annual wage for radiologic technologists and technicians was $60,510 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,760.
Employment of radiologic technologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of MRI technologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
As the baby-boom population grows older, there may be an increase in medical conditions, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, which require imaging as a tool for making diagnoses. Radiologic and MRI technologists will be needed to take the images.
Similar Job Titles
Computed Tomography Technologist (CT Technologist), Mammographer, Mammography Technologist, Radiographer, Radiologic Technologist (RT), Radiological Technologist, Radiology Technologist, Staff Technologist, X-Ray Technologist (X-Ray Tech)
Chief Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist (Chief MRI Technologist), Magnetic Resonance Imaging Coordinator (MRI Coordinator), Magnetic Resonance Imaging Director, Magnetic Resonance Imaging Quality Assurance Coordinator (MRI Quality Assurance Coordinator), Medical Imaging Director, MRI Specialist (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Specialist), MRI Supervisor (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Supervisor), MRI Technologist (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist), Staff Technologist, Technologist
Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Respiratory Therapy Technician, Radiologic Technician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
- Society for MR Radiographers and Technologists, A Section of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
- American Heart Association
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
- The International Society for Clinical Densitometry
Magazines and Publications
Looking inside the human body without resorting to highly invasive surgery is the work of Radiologic Technologists and Technicians. They perform X-rays, CAT scans and other imaging examinations, to help doctors develop accurate diagnoses. The technician positions the patient to get the clearest possible image results, before activating their equipment. Helping patients feel calm and explaining the procedure is part of the job. For certain procedures, they administer non-radioactive materials into a patient’s bloodstream. Technicians also monitor the video display of the area being scanned, adjusting controls to improve picture quality. Technologists may also perform imaging examinations, but in addition, they have the skills to evaluate the quality of the image. They are responsible for handling infectious and radioactive materials, and ensuring that safety measures meet government regulations. They may oversee radiologic staff, assigning duties and supervising the work, and help the facility’s administration develop operating budgets and make new equipment purchases. Radiologic technologists and technicians work in hospitals, doctor’s offices or clinics and laboratories. Typically, an associate degree in the field is required, and in most states, they must also earn a license or professional certification to practice. A certification can strengthen employment prospects significantly, even if the state does not require it.
Using a combination of technical skills, people skills, and physical stamina keeps the job of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists – or MRI - interesting and challenging. MRI technologists put patients at ease and provide essential medical information in a career focused on operating MRI scanners to create diagnostic images. MRI technologists prepare patients for procedures, taking their medical history and answering questions. They inject patients with contrast dyes that interact with magnetic fields to produce images that physicians use to diagnose medical problems. During the MRI procedure, technologists correctly position the patient, shield exposed areas, and operate the equipment to take the images. They must follow physicians’ orders precisely to capture the correct images, and keep detailed patient records. MRI technologists put patients at ease, helping them cope with pain or mental stress. They use technical skills to understand and operate complex equipment. They also work on their feet much of the day, lifting and moving patients when needed. MRI technologists work in healthcare facilities; more than half work in hospitals. Most work full time, and may work evenings, weekends, or are on call where emergency imaging is needed. An associate degree combining classroom and clinical training is the most common educational path. Coursework should include anatomy, patient care, radiation physics, and image evaluation. Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists who develop specialization in MRIs. Licenses or certification to practice is required in some states.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org