Nuclear Medicine: Educational Requirements & Career Info

Sep 13, 2019

It is recommended that nuclear technologists have some some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certifications to see if this is the right career for you.

Nuclear medicine technicians work in hospitals and other medical facilities. They work with patients undergoing nuclear medical treatment before, during and after the procedure. Nuclear medical technicians or technologists usually require an associate degree, although one-year certificates are available.

Essential Information

Nuclear medicine technologists educate patients about their nuclear medicine imaging and treatment procedures and instruct them in the processes. Although they can gain employment with degrees or certificates, workers may not be able to obtain credentials in nuclear medicine without particular associate's degrees. Generally, medical technologists should be detail- and record-oriented and have excellent bedside manner.

Recommended Education Certification with American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 7%* for nuclear medicine technologists
Median Annual Salary (2018) $76,820* for nuclear medicine technologists

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree and Certificate Programs

Most workers in this field earn an undergraduate degree in nuclear medicine technology. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that certificate programs in nuclear medicine are also available, especially for licensed medical practitioners who are looking to specialize in nuclear medicine (www.bls.gov). Although workers can gain employment with either degrees or certificates, workers may not be able to obtain credentials in nuclear medicine without the minimum of associate's degrees in related medical fields.

Undergraduate degree programs in nuclear medicine include coursework such as radiopharmaceutical chemistry, human anatomy imaging, nuclear medicine procedures and nuclear medicine technologies. Certificate programs include similar coursework, but usually certificate programs do not require students to complete additional courses in chemistry, physics or mathematics. During degree and certificate programs, students also participate in clinical rotations where they practice using nuclear medicine imaging equipment. Most programs have a minimum set of clinical hours students must complete to graduate, and oftentimes the minimum clinical hours requirements correspond with state licensing requirements.

Certification Programs

Currently, certification is not required by all employers, but the BLS pointed out that employers are starting to expect workers to be credentialed. Most nuclear medicine technologists obtain certification through either the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). To be eligible for certification exams, applicants must complete recognized nuclear medicine technology programs. In order to take certification exams, both ARRT and NMTCB require applicants to have clean criminal records.

After passing the certification exams, workers must keep their credentials active by participating in continued education programs. ARRT and NMTCB generally require credentialed workers to earn 24 continuing education credits every two years. Continuing education programs can include additional postsecondary nuclear medicine coursework, cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification courses or other activities approved by credential granting boards.

Nuclear Medicine Career Information

Job Duties

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare patients for nuclear medicine imaging and treatment procedures. They instruct patients on what to expect from injected or inhaled nuclear materials. Technologists also explain the basics of how each imaging examination works so patients understand what the imaging software can detect.

Technologists position patients into nuclear medicine imaging chambers and provide patients with instructions on what to do during the imaging test, such as holding one's breath or remaining still. They verify that each procedure produces a clear image for doctors to interpret. After technologists have completed imaging procedures or nuclear medicine treatments, they instruct patients on post-procedure care, if necessary, and submit test results and notes to physicians.

Employment Outlook

During the decade between 2018 and 2028, the BLS predicted that open positions for nuclear medicine technologists would increase by 7%, faster than average for all occupations. The BLS reports that nuclear medicine technologists earned a median annual salary of $76,820 in 2018.

Nuclear medicine technologists must complete accredited training as part of a certificate program or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Certification is available by meeting the requirements and passing an exam.

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