Nuclear Cardiologist: Job Info & Career Requirements

Learn what a nuclear cardiologist does. Find out what kind of education, training, and licensing are required for employment. Get details about the career outlook and earning potential to decide if this field is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Nuclear Cardiologist

A nuclear cardiologist uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and treat patients' heart problems non-invasively. This includes injecting an imaging agent into a patient's bloodstream and using specialized equipment, such as a gamma camera, to monitor a patient's heart at work and at rest. Alternately, a nuclear cardiologist may oversee this procedure as it is performed by a nuclear cardiology technician. The nuclear cardiologist then studies the resulting images, looking for anomalies in blood vessels or the heart muscle, and develops an appropriate treatment plan.

Education Bachelor's degree and medical school required, residency program will complete training
Licensing and Certification Medical license needed, certification available through the Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology
Job Skills Strong communication, medical skills, equipment calibration, radioactive material administration
Median Salary (2016)* $304,148 for nuclear physicians
Job Growth (2014-2024)** 14% for physicians and surgeons

Source: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Prospective nuclear cardiologists must earn a 4-year bachelor's degree before entering a 4-year medical school program. Nuclear cardiology students may study such topics as nuclear physics, nuclear instrumentation, and radiation biology. Aspiring nuclear cardiologists also complete a post-medical school residency program in the field that's been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Licensing and Certification Information

All physicians, including nuclear cardiologists, must pass an exam to earn their medical license to practice. After completing a minimum of training, nuclear cardiologists may pursue certification from the Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology.

Required Skills

Nuclear cardiologists must have the medical knowledge and skills to recognize the need for cardiac tests, conduct nuclear imaging, and develop treatment plans. They must have strong communication skills to explain tests and their implications to patients and to consult with other doctors. Nuclear cardiologists also must demonstrate the necessary precision to administer radioactive materials and calibrate nuclear imaging equipment.

Career and Economic Outlook

As technology progresses, nuclear medicine procedures are becoming more important in diagnosing and treating cardiac patients. According to the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, there are not enough nuclear cardiologists to satisfy the need for nuclear imaging that's being created by the aging U.S. population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, reports that jobs for physicians and surgeons are expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024, a much faster than average rate of growth. The median annual salary for nuclear physicians in May 2016 was $304,148, according to

Alternate Career Options

Here are some other options in healthcare outside of the surgical field:

Physician Assistant

A physician assistant - or PA - is specially trained through an accredited master's degree program in physician assisting to provide patients with medical care under the supervision of a licensed doctor. PAs can examine patients and order tests; they can also provide treatments and instruct patients in how to perform self-care measures as needed. PAs can specialize in fields like pediatrics or surgery. PAs have to earn a license to practice; licensure requires a passing score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to increase 30% from 2014-2024. The agency also reports that PAs earned a median salary of $98,180 in 2015, with the highest rates of employment that year in doctor's offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) has completed an approved education program - either a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program - and passed an exam to earn a state license to practice. RNs provide patients with basic medical care, such as taking vital signs and observing patients' conditions, assisting doctors with medical procedures, setting up and operating medical equipment, and instructing patients on how to care for themselves at home or after a treatment or procedure. Some nurses work with a specific population of patients, such as oncology nurses, cardiovascular nurses or critical care nurses.

Nurses who complete a bachelor's degree program may have better job prospects. Nurses can also obtain professional certifications. The BLS anticipates that nurses will experience job growth of 16% from 2014-2024. Nurses earned median pay of $67,490 in 2015, per the BLS, and the industries with the highest rates of employment that year were hospitals, doctor's offices, and home health care services.

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