Allied Health Profession

Magnetic Resonance Technology

Breast patient

What is Magnetic Resonance?

Magnetic resonance technology (commonly known as MRI or MR) uses the resonant frequency properties of atoms within a magnetic field to evaluate anatomic and/or physiologic conditions of the body, perform spectral analysis, perform functional analysis, and provide a basis for interventional or therapeutic procedures that utilize magnetic resonance technology. In short, MR can see detailed anatomy in a person, help look at some of the functions our bodies are performing, and can help guide beneficial procedures all through the use of a powerful magnet and sound.

A Magnetic Resonance Technologist is a person who performs magnetic resonance procedures using magnetic fields and radiofrequency signals.

How to Become an MR Technologist

The most common method for becoming an MR Technologist in the United States is to first be working as a Radiographer in an institution that has an MR system, express an interest, and learn how to operate the scanner from another Magnetic Resonance Technologist (on the job training). Additional class work and clinical experience is required to become certified as an MR Technologist. Most MR scanners today use windows based computer technology.

Most accredited hospitals and health care imaging providers in the United States prefer that employees be registered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The MR technologist must have a solid education in anatomy, pathology and MR physics in addition to the other supportive educational topics.

The most common way to become registered as an MR technologist is to take the licensure examination in magnetic resonance technology (a post-primary certification). Candidates need to already have a license in radiography, nuclear medicine technology (by ARRT or NMTCB (Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board)), or radiation therapy, and must document suitable clinical experience in magnetic resonance, or have successfully completed an accredited educational program in magnetic resonance.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) certifies schools in the United States that prepares students for various radiologic technology professions. Magnetic Resonance Technology programs are now being accredited by the JRCERT to prepare students for the advanced certification in MR.

Look carefully to ensure that the program you select will in fact provide you with the necessary education and clinical experience to meet the requirements for the MR job you are seeking. Regulations vary from institution to institution, state to state, and country to country. Your review of specific regulations for your locality should begin at the institution with which you are seeking employment. You must also check at the state level for licensure and any other requirements necessary if you wish to work in the United States. For countries outside of the United States check with the governing body that regulates health care facility employees.

Career Outlook?

A career in magnetic resonance technology offers a promising future and good salaries. MR technologists work with some of the most sophisticated medical equipment in the world. Continued advances in technology assure that MR technology will continue to be a challenging and ever changing career choice. Additionally, with the aging of the US population, the demand for MR techs is increasing each year.

Wages of MR technologists are competitive with other health professionals who have similar educational backgrounds. The average MR technologist makes more than $22.00 per hour or $54,000 per year according to the 2001 salary survey conducted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. More experienced, supervisory technologists can make $25 - $35 per hour or more, depending on the responsibilities and the area of the country. Many MR technologists can work flexible schedules including part-time, evenings and weekends.

Continuing education

MR technologists are required to stay current with their professional field. After initial certification, continuing education credits need to be obtained by registered technologists in the US in order to maintain their credentials. Many other countries also require similar continuing education credits and certifications. Membership in professional societies is recommended for all persons working in health care related fields as way to be active in professional development and to help with professional needs.

MR Techs At A Glance

Benefits:

  • $20 - $35 / hr
  • Flexible hours
  • Advanced career choice
  • Professional respect
  • Job security

Work with:

  • People
  • High tech computers
  • Medical equipment
  • Images

Career environment:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Universities
  • Research centers

Special education:

  • Sectional Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • MR physics
  • MR safety and bioeffects

Resources:

Sagittal image of an ankle
MRI can view the human body in a variety of angles and techniques. This is a sagittal image of an ankle with the fat suppressed to help better visualize potential areas of abnormality.

Scanner
MR techs have the opportunity to work with both people and high-end medical technology.

MRI of cervical spine
Typical MRI of the cervical spine.

Image post-processing
Image post-processing is another common task that MR techs perform. Technologists need to be comfortable learning a wide variety of computer applications.

Child looking at MR images
MRI is a fascinating area of medicine. Even children find the clarity of the MR images to be fun and interesting to look at.

Brain image
Coronal MRI slice through the brain and internal auditory canals.

Exercise stress imaging with bicycle
As MR advances, new techniques are being developed. Here an exercise device, similar to a bicycle, is attached to the MR scanner for exercise stress imaging.

 

For more information about this Allied Health field, contact:
Section for Magnetic Resonance Technologists
of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
2118 Milvia Street, Suite 201, Berkeley, California 94704 USA
Tel: +1(510) 841-1899 Fax: +1(510) 841-2340 E-mail: smrt@ismrm.org
Web site: http://www.ismrm.org/smrt

 

© Copyright, 2004. SMRT. Used with permission.

Last updated: April 2004