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Nuclear Medicine Technologist Careers

Career Description

A Nuclear Medicine Technologist prepares,  administers, and measures radioactive isotopes in therapeutic, diagnostic, and tracer studies utilizing a variety of radioisotope equipment.

Common Work Tasks

  • Administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients and then monitor the characteristics and functions of tissues or organs in which the drugs localize
  • Operate cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient’s body to create diagnostic images
  • Explain test procedures to patients and prepare a dosage of the radiopharmaceutical and administer it by mouth, injection,  inhalation, or other means
  • Position patients and start a gamma scintillation camera, or “scanner,” which creates images of the distribution of a radiopharmaceutical as it localizes in, and emits signals from, the patient’s body
  • Adhere to safety standards that keep the radiation exposure as low as possible to workers and patients
  • Keep patient records and document the amount and type of radionuclides that they receive, use, and discard
  • Produce a computer-generated or film image for interpretation by a physician
  • Dispose of radioactive materials and store radiopharmaceuticals, following radiation safety procedures
  • Prepare stock radiopharmaceuticals, adhering to safety standards that minimize radiation exposure to workers and patients
  • Maintain and calibrate radioisotope and laboratory equipment

Other Job Titles

Nuclear Medicine Technologist are also known by other titles, including:

  • Radiation Therapists
  • Physician Assistants
  • Radiologic Technologists
  • Radiologic Technicians

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Completion of a nuclear medicine technology program takes 1 to 4 years and leads to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Generally,  certificate programs are offered in hospitals, associate degree programs in community colleges, and bachelor’s degree programs in 4-year colleges and universities. Courses cover the physical sciences, biological effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection and procedures, the use of radiopharmaceuticals,  imaging techniques, and computer applications.

Certification and Licensure
Educational requirements for nuclear medicine technologists vary from State to State, so it is important that aspiring technologists check the requirements of the State in which they plan to work. More than half of all States require certification or licensing of nuclear medicine technicians. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and from the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). Although not required, some workers receive certification from both agencies. Nuclear medicine technologists must meet the minimum Federal standards on the administration of radioactive drugs and the operation of radiation detection equipment.

  Nuclear medicine technologists should have excellent communication skills, be detail-oriented, and have a desire to continue learning. Technologists must effectively interact with patients and their families and should be sensitive to patients’ physical and psychological needs. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to work independently as they usually have little direct supervision. Technologists also must be detailed-oriented and meticulous when performing procedures to assure that all regulations are being followed.


The median annual salary for a Nuclear Medicine Technologist is $64,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $85,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $47,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of nuclear medicine technologists are:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $64,240
  • Offices of Physicians - $68,350
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories - $63,730
  • Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals - $70,660
  • Outpatient Care Centers  - $62,970

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  15%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 2,900
  • Employment 2006 : 20,000
  • Employment 2016:  23,000
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