Nuclear Medicine Technologist: Job Information and Requirements

Learn about the work responsibilities of a nuclear medicine technologist. Explore academic and certification requirements as well as employment outlook and salary in order to make the right career decision. View article »

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Video Transcript

Career Definition

Nuclear medicine technologists perform tests that help diagnose patients' ailments. They give patients small doses of radioactive materials and then use specialized equipment to record images of specific organs or other body parts where these materials localize. Physicians interpret the images that result. Nuclear medicine technologists also must inspect equipment, explain procedures to patients, and document their work. Because they use radioactive materials, nuclear medicine technologists must follow safety procedures for themselves and their patients.

Education Certificate, associate, and bachelor's degrees available
Job Skills Teamwork, communication, detail-oriented, medical knowledge
Median Salary (2015)* $73,360 for nuclear medicine technologists
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for nuclear medicine technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Nuclear medicine technologists need a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology. These programs can take one to four years to complete. Nuclear medicine technology students might take courses in anatomy, nuclear physics, lab procedures, and radiochemistry. Most states also require nuclear medicine technologists to pass a certification exam from the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists before they work in the field. Nuclear medicine technologists must take continuing education units to maintain certification.

Required Skills

Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to work as members of a team since they often collaborate with radiation therapists, medical dosimetrists, and radiologists. They also require strong communication skills in order to explain procedures to patients. Nuclear medicine technologists must be observant and detail-oriented as they calculate doses of radioactive materials and record patients' reactions to injections. They also need enough technical know-how to operate the complicated equipment and the medical knowledge to help make decisions about patients' treatments.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nuclear medicine technologists should see minimal growth of 2% from 2014-2024. Nuclear medicine technology is expected to remain a relatively small and competitive field, and the majority of jobs will be available to those with advanced training. The median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $73,360 as of 2015, per the BLS.

Alternative Careers

Several other careers in medical imaging are similar to nuclear medicine technologists:

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

For example, diagnostic medical sonographers utilize sonographic technology to help doctors diagnose illnesses. Medical sonographers set up the equipment for the exam, log in patient history and other info, capture pictures and video with a wand called a transducer, write up reports about abnormal images, and answer questions from doctors and patients. An associate degree in sonography is how most gain employment in the field, but current healthcare workers may only have to complete a 12-month certificate program. Professional certification can provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment.

In May of 2015, the BLS determined that diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median wage of $68,970. They also predicted these workers would experience a 26% increase in available jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists also execute some of the same imaging duties of nuclear medicine technologists. A radiologic technologist focuses their work on the operation of CT and x-ray equipment. They prepare patients for procedures, record info for medical files, protect the patient from overexposure to x-rays, take pictures, and process the images for review by radiologists and doctors. Radiologic technologists generally earn an associate degree in radiography before they work in this field. Some states also require certification or licensing of these technologists, qualifications vary, but usually include some type of education and an exam. According to the BLS, radiologic technologists should see job growth of 9% from 2014-2024. As of 2015, these professionals earned a median yearly salary of $56,670 per the BLS.

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