Nuclear medicine technology has become a popular and widely recognized field, with many wondering if they can become nuclear medicine technologists with an associate’s degree. The good news is that an associate’s degree is the most common path towards this career. Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs for patients needing imaging or therapeutic therapy. Here is an overview of nuclear medicine technologists, including how to become one, what they do and what they can expect in terms of career goals.
How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
A candidate can become a nuclear medicine technologist by completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in nuclear medicine technology from an accredited college. Students who have a bachelor’s degree in a different healthcare field can become a nuclear medicine technologist by completing a one-year certificate program in nuclear medicine technology. The nuclear medicine technology program includes coursework, lab studies and clinical education.
The clinical education usually comes in the form of an internship where the intern works under the supervision of a doctor who specializes in this field or a certified nuclear medicine technologist. Accreditation is important when choosing a nuclear medicine program, and students are advised to choose programs that are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology.
What Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do
Nuclear medicine technologists assist and provide technical support to doctors and nuclear medicine professionals. They help diagnose and treat patients in the use of radioactive medications. They prepare and administer radioactive drugs for therapeutic and imaging purposes. Nuclear medicine technologists may also act as emergency responders if a nuclear disaster occurs. They also have the following tasks.
- Explaining medical procedures to patients and their family
- Preparing radioactive drugs and administering them to patients
- Following radiation safety and disposal procedures
- Monitor the patient for reactions to the medication
- Operating imagine equipment
- Documenting the procedures
Licensing requirements, which vary from state to state, can be found through the technologist’s state’s health board. Although most nuclear medicine technologists are certified, it’s not a requirement for licensure. Some employers may require certification as a condition of employment.
Nuclear medicine technologists can obtain certification through agencies like the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Additionally, the technologist can obtain certification in specific areas such as:
- Computed Tomography
- Nuclear Cardiology
- Positron Emission Tomography
Career Outlook & Wage Potential
Nuclear medicine technologists are predicted to see job growth of 7% during the decade of 2018-2028. The number is expected to result in the addition of 1,300 new nuclear medicine technologist jobs by 2028 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nuclear medicine technologists earned an average annual wage of $78,870 as of May 2018. Wages, which can fluctuate from place to place, ranged from $55,330 to $104,730. The highest wages were paid to nuclear medicine technologists working in the states of South Dakota, Louisiana, West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama.
Individuals who want careers in medicine without have to spend many years in college often find nuclear medicine technologists to be an ideal choice. This career offers good wages, good employment opportunities and the ability to work in various healthcare facilities. One exciting detail about this career is that it can take place in as little as two years!