Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Average Salary $65,000
Years Higher Education 2-4
Job Outlook Excellent

The nuclear medicine technologist is a highly specialized health care professional who looks at how the body functions in order to help in diagnosis and treatment of a range of conditions and diseases. Nuclear medicine combines imaging, patient care, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology, and medicine. Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer small amounts of radioactive substances called radiopharmaceuticals, as well as other medications, to patients for diagnosis and treatments.

Radiopharmaceuticals are made up of radionuclides—unstable atoms that emit radiation spontaneously. Nuclear medicine technologists use specialized camera systems to detect the radiopharmaceuticals, which then creates a precise picture of the part of the body being imaged. The nuclear medicine technologist monitors the characteristics and functions of tissues or organs in which the radiopharmaceuticals localize. Abnormal areas show higher or lower concentrations of radioactivity than normal. Physicians use these images to diagnose molecular, metabolic, physiologic, anatomic and pathologic conditions.

Nuclear medicine technologists may also operate computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners that are used in conjunction with nuclear medicine procedures.

The technologist’s responsibilities include:

  • Putting the patient at ease, obtaining pertinent history, describing the procedure and answering the patient’s questions
  • Administering radiopharmaceuticals and medications for patient imaging and therapeutic procedures
  • Monitoring the patient’s physical condition during the course of the procedure
  • Processing data and enhancing digital images using advanced computer technology
  • Providing images, data analysis and patient information for diagnostic interpretation or therapeutic procedures
  • Evaluating images to determine the technical quality and calibration of instrumentation
  • Evaluating new protocols



Working Conditions

Nuclear medicine technologists generally work a 40-hour week. This may include evening or weekend hours in departments that operate on an extended schedule. Technologists who work in hospitals may need to be on call. Opportunities for part-time and shift work are also available.

Academic Requirements

If you are interested in a career as a nuclear medicine technologist, you can begin preparing in high school by taking as many science and mathematics classes as you can.

Nuclear medicine technology programs include:

  • Post-baccalaureate one-year certificate programs
  • Two-year associate degree
  • Four-year bachelor’s degree

As of 2015, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists only recognizes programs at an associate level or higher.

After successfully completing a nuclear medicine program, graduates need to pass a certification exam to be recognized as nuclear medicine technologists. As of 2017, the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board will require graduation from regionally accredited college and university programs that have structured clinical training sufficient to provide clinical competency in radiation safety, instrumentation, clinical procedures and radiopharmacy.

Learn More About a Career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Resources

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging reviewed this career profile.