How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists can earn specialty certifications that show their proficiency in specific procedures or equipment.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. Formal education programs in nuclear medicine technology or a related healthcare field lead to a certificate, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Most nuclear medicine technologists become certified, and some must be licensed.
High school students interested in nuclear medicine technology should take courses in math and sciences, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physics.
Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology to enter the occupation. Bachelor’s degrees also are common. Some technologists complete an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree program in a related health field, such as radiologic technology or nursing, followed by a 12-month certificate program in nuclear medicine technology.
Nuclear medicine technology programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, chemistry, radioactive drugs, and computer science. In addition, these programs include clinical experience—practice under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist and a physician or surgeon who specializes in nuclear medicine.
Graduating from a nuclear medicine program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology may be required for licensure or by an employer.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most nuclear medicine technologists become certified. Although certification is not required for a license, it fulfills most of the requirements for state licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the state’s health board.
Some employers require certification, regardless of state regulations. Certification usually involves 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 may earn specialty certifications that show their proficiency in procedures or equipment. A technologist must pass an exam offered by the NMTCB to earn certification in positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology (NCT), or computed tomography (CT).
Technologists also may be required to have one or more other certifications, such as in basic life support (BLS), advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS), or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Ability to use technology. Nuclear medicine technologists work with computers and large pieces of electronic equipment and must be comfortable operating them.
Analytical skills. Nuclear medicine technologists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences to assess whether dosage is accurate.
Compassion. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to reassure patients who are stressed or upset.
Detail oriented. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow instructions precisely to ensure correct dosage and prevent overexposure to radiation.
Interpersonal skills. Nuclear medicine technologists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to communicate effectively with their supervising physician.
Physical stamina. Nuclear medicine technologists must stand for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need help.