Nuclear Medicine Technologist Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of being a nuclear medicine technologist (the level of career for which there is certification available)? Get real job descriptions, outlook and salary info to see if becoming a nuclear medicine technologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

As a worker in this field of imaging, you'd give radioactive prescriptions, or tracers, to patients for diagnosing and treating their ailments. Continue reading to examine pros and cons of a career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.

PROS of a Career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Various education paths: 1-4 years of training*
Certification is voluntary*
Advancement possibilities*
20% employment growth expected from 2012-2022*

CONS of a Career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
On your feet most of the time*
Have to turn and lift patients*
Must take safety precautions because of the possibility of radiation exposure*
Number of trained techs might be higher than the number of jobs*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Job Duties

After first explaining the test to the patient, you'd prepare the radioactive medicine and administer it by injection, mouth or inhalation. Then you'd position the patient and start the special camera, or scanner, called a gamma scintillation camera. The radiopharmaceuticals give off signals, and this scanner makes images on film or a computer screen of how they are being distributed in the body. You'd follow strict safety procedures to prevent workers or patients from radiation exposure. Keeping accurate records of all testing would also be a part of your job.

You'd probably work a 40-hour week and maybe have weekend, evening and on-call hours. If you wanted, you might also be able to find part-time positions. Some workers in this field find employment with mobile services and would then travel between locations.

Specializations

As a nuclear medicine technologist, you'll have two specialty areas from which to choose: positron emission tomography (PET) and nuclear cardiology. If you specialize in PET, you'd use a device that makes 3-dimensional images. When working in nuclear cardiology, you'd perform myocardial perfusion imaging, where the patients do some sort of exercise after the radiopharmaceuticals have been given. These patients' blood flow and hearts are then imaged.

Salary

In May 2014, the BLS listed the annual mean wage for nuclear medicine technologists as about $73,230. The hourly mean wage was approximately $35.21.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Skills

Available programs include certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs. They last from 1-4 years; the 1-year programs are usually for degreed individuals already working in health careers who want to add a specialty area of nuclear medicine or to change fields. The Joint Review Committee on Education Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology is the authority on accredited programs in this field. Strong communication skills and the ability to complete your work both independently and meticulously are important attributes for this career.

Licensure and Certifications

States have varying licensure rules, so you'll have to check on what your state requires. Certification isn't required, but it's something that most employers seek. Certification is available through exams from the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). You'll also have to keep up on your continuing education coursework to keep your certification current.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Experience in imaging topped the list of what the employers sought; they also paid close attention to certifications and areas of specialization. Read the following excerpts taken from real job postings in March 2012 to find out what the employers required.

  • An imaging company in Arizona advertised for a full-time nuclear medicine technician with a PET/CT (computed tomography) specialty, a bachelor's degree and 2-5 years of experience. You'd communicate with patients and families, administer radiopharmaceuticals, monitor patients, maintain equipment and participate in education opportunities.
  • An imaging center at a college in North Carolina was looking for a full-time nuclear medicine technologist to both perform and teach diagnostic procedures. This employer preferred applicants with certification through either the ARRT or NMTCB and added certification in CT. Some clerical duties and participation in continuing education were required.
  • A nuclear cardiology practice in Maryland advertised for a part-time nuclear medicine technologist with a current Maryland license and a minimum of two years of experience. This employer was seeking an independent worker and would pay a salary based on experience.
  • An imaging company in California was looking for a full-time nuclear medicine technologist for a mobile imaging unit. You'd drive to customer locations, communicate with patients, administer radiopharmaceuticals, monitor patients during procedures, maintain equipment and participate in educational opportunities.

How to Beat the Competition

The competition for jobs in this field will generally be intense, since the number of properly trained technologists was expected to be greater than the number of job openings, according to the BLS, for 2010-2020. So, how can you make sure that your resume is at the top of the pile? If you're applying for a job in a new state, you could make sure that you're licensed. In addition, you might seek voluntary certifications in various specialties and from multiple agencies. Always keep up on your continuing education, read professional publications and take part in professional organizations.

Other Careers to Consider

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

If you're interested in helping make health care diagnoses, but you'd prefer not to work with radiation, consider a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer. You'd use imaging equipment that directs sound waves into bodies to assess medical conditions. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required, although a health care professional such as a nurse might complete a 1-year certificate program to enter this field. The mean annual wage in May 2011 was about $66,000, according to the BLS.

Radiation Therapist

If you'd like to focus on treating patients rather than helping to diagnose their conditions, you might want to consider the career of radiation therapist. You'd treat cancer and various other ailments by giving radiation treatments to patients. An associate's degree is required, and the BLS reported an annual mean wage of approximately $79,000 in May 2011.

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The George Washington University

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Lincoln Tech

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Regent University

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Grand Canyon University

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Penn Foster High School

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College of Health Care Professions

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Colorado State University Global

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