Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) specialize in the use of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals in order to create images of internal organs in a body scanner. Nuclear medicine technologists play a vital role in the medical field for being able to study bodily functions, examine biological specimen, and diagnose or treat certain medical conditions. Nuclear medicine technologists are well-trained to be able to achieve accurate diagnostic imaging procedures through the safe use of these potentially dangerous radiopharmaceuticals. Read on to discover more information about this integral and rewarding career in the fast-growing medical industry.
How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists must possess at least an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology or a related health care field, although a bachelor’s degree is preferred. Some technologists first become qualified by completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then complete the one-year certificate program in nuclear medicine technology. Programs are offered at teaching hospitals, community colleges, and four-year colleges or universities nationwide. Training includes clinical experience under supervision, as well as coursework in human anatomy, physiology, nuclear chemistry, physics, and computer science.
Not all states require nuclear medicine technologists to become certified, but it is always a wise idea to expand job opportunities and marketability to employers. Certification entails successfully completing required program courses, necessary clinical experience hours, and graduation from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Technologists that are interested in specializing in specific procedures, such as PETs, MRIs, or CTs, are required to have a high level of knowledge and pass the offered specialty certification examinations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists is $68,560. While the lowest ten percent in the field earned less than $49,130, the top ten percent earned more than $91,970. Those employed by colleges or universities earn significantly more than the average at $79,260 a year. Nuclear medicine technologists employed at medical diagnostic laboratories earn slightly less than average at an annual salary of $67,270.
Even though the occupation is considered small within the healthcare industry, the employment for nuclear medicine technologists is predicted to grow by 19 percent between 2010 and 2020. The rate is about as fast as the average for all occupations, and it will result in an additional 4,100 new jobs throughout the decade. The career growth is expected due to the larger aging population that will require more diagnostic procedures performed by trained nuclear medicine technologists.
Nuclear medicine technologists utilize medical technology scanners to form visual images of various parts of patients’ bodies to monitor functioning of tissues and organs. Technologists prepare radioactive drugs called radio-pharmaceuticals that give off radiation and allow all abnormal areas to be easily detected. The nuclear medicine technologists need to have a thorough knowledge of safety procedures to protect both the patient and themselves from dangerous levels of radiation exposure. After creating accurate images and keeping detailed records of the procedure, the images help physicians to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer, disease, or tumors.