Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Bachelor’s degrees are also common. Some technologists become qualified by completing an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree program in a related health field, such as radiologic technology or nursing, and then completing a 12-month certificate program in nuclear medicine technology.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 10% (Faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
Most nuclear medicine technologists become certified. Although certification is not required for a license, it fulfills most of the requirements for state licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the state’s health board.
Median pay: How much do Nuclear Medicine Technologists make?
$74,350 Annual Salary
$35.75 per hour

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes. They provide technical support to physicians or other professional nuclear medicine personnel in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of patients and for research and investigation into the uses of radioactive drugs. They also may act as emergency responders in the event of a nuclear disaster.

What do Nuclear Medicine Technologists do?

Nuclear medicine technologists typically do the following:

  • Explain medical procedures to the patient and answer questions
  • Follow safety procedures to protect themselves and the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the drugs
  • Operate imaging equipment
  • Keep detailed records of procedures
  • Follow radiation disposal and safety procedures

Radioactive drugs, known as radiopharmaceuticals, give off radiation, allowing special scanners to monitor tissue and organ functions. Abnormal areas show higher-than-expected or lower-than-expected concentrations of radioactivity. Physicians and surgeons then interpret the images to help diagnose the patient’s condition. For example, tumors can be seen in organs during a scan because of their concentration of the radioactive drugs.

Radiopharmaceuticals can also be used to deliver concentrated doses of radiation to specific areas, such as tumors, for treatment of conditions that may not allow other forms of treatment. Various forms of internal radiation treatments also may be good alternatives to invasive surgical procedures.

In the event of a radioactive incident or nuclear disaster, some nuclear medicine technologists may be involved in emergency response efforts. These workers’ experience with radiation detection and monitoring equipment could be useful during the response to events that involve radiological materials.

After graduation from an accredited program, a technologist can choose to earn a certification in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology. PET uses a machine that creates a three-dimensional image of a part of the body, such as the brain. Nuclear cardiology uses radioactive drugs to obtain images of the heart. Patients may exercise during the imaging process while the technologist creates images of the heart and blood flow.

Some nuclear medicine technologists work in support of researchers in the development of new nuclear medicine applications in imagery or therapy.

Careers for Nuclear Medicine Technologists

  • Certified nuclear medicine technologists
  • Isotope technologists
  • Nuclear cardiology technologists
  • Nuclear medical technologists
  • PET technologists
  • Positron emission tomography technologists
  • Radioisotope technologists
  • Registered nuclear medicine technologists

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