Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 nuclear medicine technologist Jobs

See all nuclear medicine technologist jobs

What Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.

Duties of Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists typically do the following:

  • Explain imaging procedures to the patient and answer questions
  • Follow safety procedures to protect themselves and the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Examine machines to ensure that they are working properly
  • Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the drugs
  • Operate equipment that creates images of areas in the body, such as images of organs
  • 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.

After graduation from an accredited program, a technologist can choose to specialize 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.

Work Environment for Nuclear Medicine Technologists[About this section] [To Top]

Nuclear medicine technologists held about 20,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most nuclear medicine technologists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 69%
Offices of physicians 20
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 6

Technologists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are disabled.

Medicine Technologist Work Schedules

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Some nuclear medicine technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight because imaging is sometimes needed in emergencies.

Injuries and Illnesses

Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of gloves and other shielding devices. Nuclear medicine technologists wear badges that measure radiation levels in the radiation area. Instruments monitor their radiation exposure and detailed records are kept on how much radiation they get over their lifetime. When preparing radioactive drugs, technologists use safety procedures to minimize radiation exposure to patients, other healthcare workers, and themselves.

Like other healthcare workers, nuclear medicine technologists may be exposed to infectious diseases.

How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Nuclear Medicine Technologists near you!

Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Technologists must be licensed in about one half of the states; requirements vary by state.

Medicine Technologist Education

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.

Nuclear medicine technology programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, chemistry, radioactive drugs, and computer science. In addition, these programs include clinical experience—practice under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist and a physician or surgeon who specializes in nuclear medicine.

The Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits nuclear medicine programs. Graduating from an accredited program may be required for licensure or by an employer.

High school students who are interested in nuclear medicine technology should take courses in math and science, such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

As of 2015, about half of all states required nuclear medicine technologists to be licensed. Requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the state’s health board.

Most nuclear medicine technologists become certified. Although certification is not required for a license, it fulfills most of the requirements for state licensure.

Some employers require certification, regardless of state regulations. Certification usually involves graduating from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

In addition to receiving general certification, technologists can earn specialty certifications that show their proficiency in specific procedures or on certain equipment. A technologist can earn certification in positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology (NCT), or computed tomography (CT). The NMTCB offers NCT, PET, and CT certification exams.

Important Qualities for Medicine Technologists

Ability to use technology. Nuclear medicine technologists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment and must be comfortable operating them.

Analytical skills. Nuclear medicine technologists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate accurate dosages.

Compassion. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to reassure and calm patients who are under physical and emotional stress.

Detail oriented. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow exact instructions to make sure that the correct dosage is given and that the patient is not overexposed to radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Nuclear medicine technologists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.

Physical stamina. Nuclear medicine technologists must stand for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need help.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for nuclear medicine technologists was $73,360 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,080.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for nuclear medicine technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $75,100
Hospitals; state, local, and private 73,050
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 70,110

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Some nuclear medicine technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight because imaging is sometimes needed in emergencies.

Job Outlook for Nuclear Medicine Technologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

An aging population may lead to the need for nuclear medicine technologists who can provide imaging to patients with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease. Moreover, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. This reform may increase the demand for medical imaging services, including those provided by nuclear medicine technologists.

However, employment growth may be tempered as many medical facilities and third-party payers encourage the use of less costly, noninvasive imaging technologies, such as ultrasound.

Medicine Technologists Job Prospects

Nuclear medicine technologists can improve their job prospects by completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program or earning a specialty certification, such as in positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology (NCT), or computed tomography (CT). Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

Employment projections data for Nuclear Medicine Technologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Nuclear medicine technologists 20,700 21,000 2 300


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: