Fully online associate's and bachelor's degree programs in nuclear medicine are unavailable due to the nature of the field of the study; however, there are hybrid programs available that allow coursework to be completed online. For in-person requirements, associate's degree programs require a clinical internship and bachelor's programs require a practicum. Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs qualify individuals for work as nuclear medicine technologists, but requirements vary by state. Check for state-specific requirements before choosing an educational program.
Associate's Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology
An online associate's degree in nuclear medicine technology trains students in the use of radiation, radiopharmaceuticals, and radiation detection equipment to produce images inside the human body for diagnostic purposes. Its academic content draws concepts from physiology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum educational requirement to enroll in an associate's degree program. Schools are likely to give preference to applicants whose high school studies included composition, math, and science courses.
Program Information and Requirements
Because they include an on-site clinical internship, online associate's degree programs in nuclear medicine technology are hybrids of online and traditional instruction. Schools may have partnerships with local medical facilities to help students arrange an internship. For the online portion of a program, all lectures, readings, assignments, and other materials are accessible through a school's website. Interactions with instructors and other students are conducted via online forums, chat, and e-mail. Associate's degrees are typically earned in two years.
Schools may use a learning platform such as WebCT, Blackboard, or VISTA. Personal computers with broadband Internet connection are the minimum technical requirements to participate in this program. Students may have to purchase software programs and textbooks for specific courses in a nuclear technology program.
List of Common Nuclear Medicine Associate's Degree Courses
Associate's degree programs include a liberal arts component involving English, math, and communications. Courses may include composition and units in the social sciences or humanities.
Anatomy and Physiology
Students in this course learn basic facts about human anatomy and physiology, with an emphasis on their relevance to nuclear medicine imaging. The cardiac, circulatory, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and skeletal system are among the organ systems covered. Instructors use online photos and videos to educate students on the different parts of the body and how it works.
Nuclear Medicine Introductory
This course presents fundamental concepts in physics that underlay the use of radioisotopes in medical care. Relevant topics covered include radiation, radioactive decay, detection instruments, safety procedures, and the imaging process.
Students learn basic electronics and the operating characteristics of nuclear medicine imaging equipment in this course. Gamma cameras, digital cameras, image correction systems, and positron emission tomography are among the systems reviewed.
Bachelor's Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology
Online bachelor's degree programs in nuclear medicine technology may either be full 4-year programs or 2-year completion programs. Admission to a 4-year program requires a high school diploma or GED while enrolling in a 2-year program requires an associate's degree and good academic standing. The content of a program explores intermediate and more advanced material related to radio imaging. Students also complete more clinical practice sessions.
Program Information and Requirements
The academic component of an online bachelor's degree program in nuclear medicine technology may be completed entirely online. A practicum has to be completed on-site at a participating medical facility. Course content is accessible day-round at the convenience of students, particularly working students. Technical requirements for participation include a personal computer with Internet connection, preferably broadband.
List of Common Nuclear Medicine Bachelor's Degree Courses
The first two years of a bachelor's degree program in nuclear medicine may include general education courses in English, philosophy, psychology, literature, and history. The latter two years are more intensively oriented toward the subject major.
Radiation and Biology
Students in this course examine the effects of radiation on human tissue and its potential for harm. Topics cover the chemical interactions between living cells and radiation, the cumulative effects of long-term exposure and the effects of high-level exposure. Students can submit assignments through e-mail or a school's web operating system.
Nuclear Medicine and Computers
The primary focus of this course is the role computers play in nuclear medicine. Students learn about image processing and information management tools. Course content gives emphasis to the analysis of dynamic, static, and tomographic images.
Students in this course learn the range of radioactively emissive pharmaceuticals most commonly used in nuclear imaging. The dosage, preparation, and contraindications of radiopharmaceuticals are among the topics covered. Instructors may use streaming audio and video to educate students on course topics.
PET Scan Technology
This course covers the implementation and use of positron emission tomography (PET) machines for medical imaging. Topics covered include the biochemistry of fluorodeoxyglucose, new radiopharmaceuticals in development and fusions of PET and CT imaging.
Career Information for Nuclear Medicine Graduates
Graduates of an online associate's degree program in nuclear medicine technology are qualified for entry-level positions as nuclear medicine technologists. Technologists primarily work in hospitals, but also in smaller medical clinics and private physician's offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $73,360 as of May 2015.
Students who graduate from a bachelor's degree program in nuclear medicine technology are also fully qualified to work as nuclear medicine technologists. Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 2%, or slower than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). The development of new nuclear medicine treatment methods and increased demand for medical services from an aging population will drive growth.
Continuing Education Information
Associate's degree holders can improve their employment prospects if they transfer into an upper division program and earn a bachelor's degree. Online bachelor's degree programs in nuclear medicine are available but are relatively rare.
Although certification of nuclear medicine technologists is voluntary, most employers have accepted it as a standard. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board both offer certification exams. The exams are not presently administered online.
Associate's and bachelor's degrees in nuclear medicine are available mostly online, combining hands-on clinical and practicum experience with online coursework to teach students about the medical uses of different kinds of radiation treatments. While not required, most employers will prefer to hire students who earn professional certification.