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Nuclear Medicine Technologist

What they do:

According to ExploreHEALTHCareers.org:

In nuclear medicine, radionuclides—unstable atoms that emit radiation spontaneously—are used to diagnose and treat disease. Radionuclides are purified and compounded like other drugs to form radiopharmaceuticals.

The nuclear medicine technologist is a highly specialized health care professional who prepares and administers these radiopharmaceuticals as well as other medications to patients. Using specialized equipment, 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. 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:

  • Administering radiopharmaceuticals and medications for patient imaging and therapeutic procedures

  • 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

Qualifications:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Formal education programs in nuclear medicine technology or a related healthcare field lead to a certificate, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Technologists must be licensed in some states; requirements vary by state.

What they make:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for nuclear medicine technologists was $73,360 in May 2015.

Where they work:

Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals. Some work in physicians’ offices or imaging clinics.

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time (a 40-hour week). This may include evening or weekend hours in departments that operate on an extended schedule. Opportunities for part-time and shift work are also available. In addition, hospital technologists may need to be on call periodically.

Outlook:

Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 2% 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. 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. 

 

Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm

Updated February 2017