What is a MRI Technologist

MRI technologists, or magnetic resonance imaging technologists, are medical personnel who operate magnetic resonance imaging scanners for the purposes of creating diagnostic images. These images are then communicated to the doctor in need for diagnostic purposes.

Work Environment

MRI technologists work in health care facilities such as clinics, hospitals, and physicians’ practices. More than half of the 32,000 MRI technologists are employed by hospitals. The environment is quite clean and comfortable, though there can be a great deal of noise; magnetic resonance imagers are very loud.

There is one distinct particularity to the work environment for MRI technologists; they cannot wear metal. Due to the presence of a high powered magnet, any metal that reacts to magnets must be kept out of the imaging room, and care must be taken to ensure that patients do not have pins or other metal inserted in their bodies.

Work Schedule

MRI technologists work a standard forty-hour work week, with occasional needs for overtime or hours outside of the regular schedule. While the scheduled staff can usually handle emergency MRIs, rare cases may require extra employees. 

MRI Technologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for MRI technologists is very promising. There is an anticipated 21 percent growth between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations, and faster than the average for medical careers. This is due primarily to the overall growth in jobs caused by an increase in population, as well as an aging population; as people grow older, the incidence of medical conditions requiring MRIs, such as breaks and fractures, will rise.

What Affects The Salary of a MRI Technologist

An MRI technologist’s salary is affected by many of the same factors as other medical careers, ie experience, the geographic location, and the industry in which they work. Education can offer some minor pay increases, though isn’t a significant factor; specialization is also a minor factor, with some avenues of pursuit, however it is a relatively new field with more research needed to extend these specializations. The current mean annual wage is $65,960.

Education and Specialization 

Most MRI technologists start as radiologic technologists, before specializing in MRI technologies later in their career. An associate’s degree is required at minimum to become a radiologic technologist, and a bachelor’s degree can bring with it some minor salary improvements.

Specialization in magnetic resonance imaging, as mentioned, is still nascent, however there are particular areas of the body or different MRI systems that one can focus on; cardiovascular MRI, neuroimaging, and musculoskeletal imaging are all specializations that can be pursued while training. Functional magnetic resonance imaging can be used to understand how the brain responds to various stimuli, and is used in cognitive or behavioral research.

Experience and Position 

Experience is an important consideration. Starting salaries for MRI technologists run, on average, in the $45,820 range. Those with ten years’ experience are closer to the average, at $66,050, and with twenty or more years an MRI technologist can earn upwards of $90,160 or more.

Position is a minor consideration; the department will require a manager, so being appointed to a higher level will bring a greater salary, however it will not be on par with doctors.


Industry can have a great impact on the salary of an MRI technologist. A technologist working in a general medical or surgical hospital will earn an average of $65,300, or very close to the average overall. Those working at colleges, universities, or professional schools, however, can see salaries of $71,430. Company managers have even better wages, at $82,180, however the best pay is through scientific research and development services, averaging $82,400.


The geographic location worked is one of the most dominant factors in MRI technologist salary, and it follows lines of cost of living; the higher the cost of living in the area, the higher the wage. As such, Nevada has the highest wages, at $88,140, followed by California at $84,030. Hawaii comes in third at $80,500. New Jersey and Massachusetts round out the top five, at $77,500 and $76,360, respectively.

On the metropolitan level, the majority of the highest paying areas are in California. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara has the highest MRI technologist salaries, averaging $97,090, followed by Oakland-Fremont-Hayward at $92,800. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV comes in third, at $88,750.