Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist (CNMT), Chief Nuclear Medicine Technologist   More Names
Isotope Technician, Isotope Technologist, Lead Nuclear Medicine Technologist (Lead Nuc Med Tech), Medical Radiation Dosimetrist, Nuclear Cardiology Technologist, Nuclear Medical Technologist, Nuclear Medicine PET-CT Technologist (Nuclear Medicine Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomography Technologist), Nuclear Medicine Technician, Nuclear Medicine Technologist (Nuclear Med Tech), Nuclear Medicine Technologists, Nuclear Technologist, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Technologist, Radioisotope Technician, Radioisotope Technologist, Registered Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Senior Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Staff Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Supervisor Nuclear Medicine

Administer radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to produce physiological images to diagnose and treat diseases under supervision of a physician. Use nuclear medicine imaging devices to record the distribution of a radiopharmaceutical in a patient's body and to create radiologic images for physician interpretation.

Nuclear medicine technologists work primarily in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and physicians' offices. A smaller number are employed by research institutes. Some of the hospitals and other public health institutions in which they work are run by local, state, or federal government agencies.

Nuclear medicine technologists work closely with physicians, especially radiologists, cardiologists, and oncologists (specialists in the treatment of cancer). They will also work with other members of the medical care team including imaging and radiation professionals in radiography, sonography, and radiation therapy. Nuclear medicine technologists are typically involved in clinical patient care, radiation regulations and policies, and the quality control of the instrumentation.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) describes nuclear medicine imaging as a way to gather medical information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive diagnostic tests. Nuclear medicine also can identify some abnormalities early in the progression of a disease, before the medical problem becomes apparent with other diagnostic tests.

After explaining a nuclear medicine imaging procedure to the patient, the nuclear medicine technologist prepares the radiopharmaceutical and administers it by mouth, intravenous injection, inhalation, or other means. The patient is then positioned in order that a gamma scintillation camera, or "scanner," can create images of the distribution of the radiopharmaceutical as it localizes in and emits radiation photons from the patient's body.

This camera is operated with computer software to convert the gamma photons to images that are representative of the radiation distribution in the patient. These images are presented using computer display software or on film for a physician to interpret.

The nuclear medicine technologist typically produces a series of images from different angles of a particular organ or organ system that is of special interest. These multiple images are used by physicians to evaluate various physiological parts of the body, such as the brain, thyroid, heart, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, gastrointestinal tract, or lymph system. In some cases, a nuclear medicine technologist will work with the physician to administer radiopharmaceuticals in larger radiation doses in order to treat diseases.

Nuclear medicine technologists adhere to strict radiation regulations and safety standards to keep radiation exposure as low as possible to patients, themselves, and others when using radiopharmaceuticals. They document and maintain patient records and lists of the radiopharmaceuticals used. Nuclear medicine technologists work responsibly with radiation in compliance with state and/or federal regulations to minimize hazards. They use shielding devices to reduce radiation exposure including syringe shields and other protective equipment, and wear badges that measure radiation levels to monitor and record any exposures.

Nuclear medicine technologists need to be physically fit because they work on their feet for long periods and lift and move patients. They also need to be able to operate complicated equipment that requires critical thinking as well as mechanical and physical abilities. They also are responsible for performing quality control checks on the scanners they use and for their other equipment. Nuclear medicine technologist can be an entry-level career or a next step for a radiologic technologist or technician who decides to pursue additional education and certification to enter the nuclear medicine field. Some nuclear medicine technologists may choose to specialize in clinical areas such as nuclear cardiology (i.e., imaging of the heart) or positron-emission tomography (PET) scanning. With work experience, nuclear medicine technologists may advance to supervisory positions, equipment sales or training, radiopharmaceutical sales, or regulatory careers.

Credentials Needed: About half of the states require nuclear medical technologists to be licensed. Requirements vary among the states, but typically applicants for licensure must be at least 18 years of age, pass a criminal background check, and meet the educational and testing requirements set by the state in which they intend to practice. Some states also may include passing the certification exams for nuclear medical technologists that are offered by either the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) as a licensing condition.

In states that do not require either NMTCB or ARRT certification as part of the licensure process, attainment of either of these credentials is voluntary, although expected, by employers. In addition, some nuclear medical technologists choose to become certified by both agencies. The NMTCB and ARRT have different eligibility requirements, but both require passing a comprehensive exam in order to earn their certification.

Since state licensure or certification requirements may change over time, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) provides a useful resource for checking the current licensure status for Nuclear Medicine Technologists as well as other imaging occupations. The ASRT website at ASRT - Individual State Licensure provides this information by state while the website at ASRT - States with Licensure or Certification Laws offers summary information by for each imaging career.

The NMTCB provides detailed information about its nuclear medicine technologist certification on its website at NMTCB - Certification Application Instructions. The NMTCB also offers specialty certifications in nuclear cardiology and positive emission tomography (PET).

The ARRT provides summary information about its nuclear medicine certification at ARRT - Certification. The ARRT also gives more detailed information about this certification on at its website at ARRT - Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Handbook and Application Materials.

Some Key Things to Remember: Nuclear medicine technologists use radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat diseases under the supervision of a physician. They administer these radiopharmaceuticals to patients, use imaging devices to record the distribution within a patient's body, and produce a computer-based or film image for interpretation by physicians. A two-year associate's degree in nuclear medical technology from an accredited postsecondary education and training program is the most common form of education required for an entry-level nuclear medical technologist, with a number earning a four-year bachelor's degree. About half of the states require nuclear medical technologists to be licensed.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
2% - Little or no change
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $62,910 - $88,610    Hourly: $30 - $43
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Nuclear medicine technologists need to be physically fit because they work on their feet for long periods and lift and move patients. They also need to be able to operate complicated equipment that requires mechanical ability and physical flexibility.

Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Associate's Degree (High School + 2 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

2% - Little or no change
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $62,910 - $88,610

Hourly: $30 - $43