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What Radiologic and MRI Technologists Do About this section

Radiologic technologists.
Radiologic technologists specialize in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging.

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform x rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Duties

Radiologic and MRI technologists typically do the following:

  • Adjust and maintain imaging equipment
  • Follow precise orders from physicians on what areas of the body to image
  • Prepare patients for procedures, including taking a medical history and 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

Radiologic technologists are trained in the use of different types of medical diagnostic equipment. They may choose to specialize, such as in x-ray, mammography, or computed tomography (CT) imaging. Some radiologic technologists provide a mixture for the patient to drink that allows soft tissue to be viewed on the images that the radiologist reviews.

MRI technologists specialize in magnetic resonance imaging scanners. They inject patients with contrast media, such as a dye, 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.

For information about healthcare workers who specialize in other diagnostic equipment, see the profiles for nuclear medicine technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers, and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists.

Work Environment About this section

Radiologic technologists
Radiologic and MRI technologists work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists held about 38,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of magnetic resonance imaging technologists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 61%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 18
Offices of physicians 14
Outpatient care centers 3

Radiologic technologists and technicians held about 212,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of radiologic technologists and technicians were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 60%
Offices of physicians 20
Outpatient care centers 7
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 7
Federal government, excluding postal service 3

Radiologic and MRI technologists are often on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients, such as to help those who are injured.

Injuries and Illnesses

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 the badges that monitor exposure to radiation.

Work Schedules

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 or MRI Technologist About this section

Radiologic technologists.
Radiologic technologists must follow instructions exactly to get the images needed for diagnoses.

Radiologic technologists and MRI technologists typically need an associate’s degree. MRI technologists may start out as radiologic technologists. Most states require radiologic technologists to be licensed or certified, but few states require licensure for MRI technologists. Regardless of state requirements, employers typically require or prefer to hire technologists who are certified.

Education

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, and physics.

An associate’s degree is the education typically required 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 academic 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 magnetic resonance, and the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) accredits MRI programs. Some states require candidates for licensure to complete an accredited program.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

MRI technologists typically need less than 5 years of experience in a related occupation, most often from working as a radiologic technologist.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require radiologic technologists to be licensed or certified. Few states require licensure for MRI technologists. Requirements vary by state.

To become licensed, technologists usually must graduate from an accredited program and either pass a certification exam from the state or obtain certification from a credentialing organization. Technologists may be certified in multiple specialties. Certifications for radiologic technologists are available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Certification for MRI technologists is 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. Employers also may require or prefer that prospective technologists have certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS).

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Radiologic and MRI technologists must follow instructions exactly to get the images needed for diagnoses.

Interpersonal skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists work closely with patients who may be stressed or in pain. They must put patients at ease to get usable images.

Math skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists may need to calculate the proper amount of radiation or magnetic resonance emitted in imaging procedures.

Physical stamina. Radiologic and MRI technologists often work on their feet for long periods during their shift and must be able to lift and move patients who need help.

Technical skills. Radiologic and MRI technologists must understand how to operate complex machinery.

Pay About this section

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

$74,690

Radiologic and MRI technologists

$63,710

Radiologic technologists and technicians

$61,900

Health technologists and technicians

$45,620

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for magnetic resonance imaging technologists was $74,690 in May 2020. 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 $52,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $104,210.

The median annual wage for radiologic technologists and technicians was $61,900 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,660.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for magnetic resonance imaging technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $87,830
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 75,440
Hospitals; state, local, and private 74,260
Offices of physicians 73,370

In May 2020, the median annual wages for radiologic technologists and technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $69,960
Outpatient care centers 66,780
Hospitals; state, local, and private 62,850
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 61,410
Offices of physicians 56,340

Most radiologic and MRI technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergency situations, some technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight.

Job Outlook About this section

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Health technologists and technicians

8%

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

7%

Radiologic and MRI technologists

7%

Radiologic technologists and technicians

7%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

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 diagnostic tool. Radiologic and MRI technologists will be needed to take the images.

Job Prospects

About 14,200 openings for radiologic and MRI technologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for radiologic and MRI technologists, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Radiologic and MRI technologists

250,700 267,600 7 16,800

Radiologic technologists and technicians

29-2034 212,000 226,100 7 14,100 Get data

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

29-2035 38,700 41,400 7 2,700 Get data

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