Nuclear Medicine Technologists - Career Opportunities
Nuclear Medicine Technologists handle medical equipment, administer
radiopharmaceuticals to patients, and observe the characteristics and functions of the
relevant tissues or organs.
They create diagnostic images using cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in
a patient's body, and they explain test procedures to patients. The images are interpreted
by a physician.
Technologists keep patient records and operate diagnostic imaging equipment. They also
assess the behavior of the radioactive substance inside the body.
In the U.S. there are about 20,000 people working as nuclear medicine technologists.
Some 70 percent of the jobs are in hospitals. Other technologists work in offices of
physicians or in medical and diagnostic laboratories, including diagnostic imaging centers.
Nuclear medicine technology programs are from 1 to 4 years, leading to a certificate,
an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. Certificate programs are offered in
hospitals, associate degree programs in community colleges, and bachelor's degree programs
in 4-year colleges and universities. Courses include physical sciences, biological effects
of radiation exposure, radiation protection and procedures, the use of
radiopharmaceuticals, imaging techniques and computer applications.
One-year certificate programs are for health professionals who already have an
associate degree and wish to specialize in nuclear medicine.
Certification or licensure is required by many employers and an increasing number of
states. Certification comes from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the
Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. Nuclear medicine technologists are
required to meet the minimum Federal standards on the administration of radioactive drugs
and the operation of radiation detection equipment.
The Joint Review Committee on Education Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology
accredits most formal training programs in nuclear medicine technology.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists must be able to:
• have much physical stamina as they are on their feet much of the day
and may lift or turn disabled patients.
• be sensitive to patients' physical and psychological needs.
• pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as part of a team.
• operate complicated equipment that requires mechanical ability and manual dexterity.
Job growth for nuclear medicine technologists is much faster than for all occupations,
although the number of openings yearly will be relatively low because the occupation is
small. Technologists with training in other diagnostic methods will have the best prospects.