How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists can get specialty certifications that show their proficiency in specific procedures or equipment.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Technologists must be licensed in some states; requirements vary by state.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Bachelor’s degrees are also common. Some technologists become qualified by completing an associate’s or a bachelor's degree program in a related health field, such as radiologic technology or nursing, and then completing a 12-month certificate program in nuclear medicine technology. Generally, certificate programs are offered in hospitals, associate's degree programs are in community colleges, and bachelor's degrees are granted by colleges and universities.
Nuclear medicine technology programs include clinical experience—practice under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist and a physician or surgeon who specializes in nuclear medicine. In addition, these programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, chemistry, radioactive drugs, and computer science.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Nuclear medicine technologists must be licensed in some states; requirements vary by state. For specifics, contact your state’s health board.
Some nuclear medicine technologists become certified. Although certification is not required for a license, it fulfills most of the requirements for state licensure on its own.
Some employers require certification, regardless of state regulations. Certification usually involves completing required coursework and having the necessary hours of clinical experience, as well as graduating from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
In addition to receiving general certification, technologists can earn specialty certifications that show their proficiency in specific procedures or on certain equipment. A technologist can earn certification in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology (NCT).
Both fields require the technologist to have a high level of knowledge about the specific procedures and technologies involved. The NMTCB offers NCT and PET certification exams.
Ability to use technology. Nuclear medicine technologists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment and must be comfortable operating them.
Analytical skills. Nuclear medicine technologists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate accurate dosages.
Compassion. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to reassure and calm patients who are under physical and emotional stress.
Detail oriented. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow exact instructions to make sure that the correct dosage is given and that the patient is not overexposed to radiation.
Interpersonal skills. Nuclear medicine technologists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.
Physical stamina. Nuclear medicine technologists must stand for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need help.