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Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Summary

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Quick Facts: Nuclear Medicine Technologists
2020 Median Pay $79,590 per year
$38.27 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 18,300
Job Outlook, 2020-30 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 1,400

What Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs for imaging or treatment.

Work Environment

Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals. Some work in physicians’ offices, diagnostic laboratories, or imaging clinics. Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time.

How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for nuclear medicine technologists was $79,590 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,500 openings for nuclear medicine technologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for nuclear medicine technologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of nuclear medicine technologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about nuclear medicine technologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do About this section

Nuclear medicine technologists
Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals.

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or treatment. They provide technical support to physicians or others who diagnose, care for, and treat patients and to researchers who investigate uses of radioactive drugs. They also may act as emergency responders in the event of a nuclear disaster.

Duties

Nuclear medicine technologists typically do the following:

  • Explain medical procedures to the patient and answer questions
  • Follow safety procedures to protect themselves and the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient
  • Maintain and operate imaging equipment
  • Keep detailed records of procedures
  • Follow procedures for radiation disposal

Nuclear medicine technologists work with radioactive drugs, known as radiopharmaceuticals, to help physicians and surgeons diagnose a patient’s condition. For example, they may inject radiopharmaceuticals into the bloodstream of a patient with foot pain and then use special scanning equipment that captures images of the bones; a radiologist interprets the scan results, based on the concentration of radioactivity appearing in the image, to identify the source of the patient’s pain.

Nuclear medicine technologists also deliver radiopharmaceuticals in prescribed doses to specific areas, such as tumors, to treat medical conditions. Internal radiation treatment may be used in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, surgery.

In the event of a radioactive incident or nuclear disaster, some nuclear medicine technologists may be involved in emergency response efforts. These workers’ experience with radiation detection and monitoring equipment may be useful during a response to events that involve radiological materials.

The following are types of nuclear medicine technologists:

Nuclear cardiology technologists use radioactive drugs to obtain images of the heart. Patients may exercise during the imaging process while the technologist creates images of the heart and blood flow.

Nuclear medicine computed tomography (CT) technologists use radioactive isotopes in combination with x-ray imaging to create two-dimensional or three-dimensional pictures of the inside of the body.

Positron emission tomography (PET) technologists use a machine that creates a three-dimensional image of a part of the body, such as the brain. They also use radiopharmaceuticals to measure body functions, such as metabolism.

Some nuclear medicine technologists support researchers in developing nuclear medicine applications for imagery or treatment.

Work Environment About this section

Nuclear medicine technologists
Some radiopharmaceuticals are given intravenously to treat cancers, blood diseases, or other illnesses.

Nuclear medicine technologists held about 18,300 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of nuclear medicine technologists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 70%
Offices of physicians 14
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 7
Outpatient care centers 3

Technologists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are ill or injured.

Injuries and Illnesses

Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of gloves and other shielding devices. Nuclear medicine technologists wear badges that measure radiation levels in the radiation area. Instruments monitor their radiation exposure and detailed records are kept on how much radiation they get over their lifetime. When preparing radioactive drugs, technologists use safety procedures to minimize radiation exposure to patients, other healthcare workers, and themselves.

Like other healthcare workers, nuclear medicine technologists may be exposed to infectious diseases.

Work Schedules

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Some nuclear medicine technologists work irregular hours, such as evenings or weekends. They also may be on call, especially if they work in hospitals.

How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist About this section

Nuclear medicine technologists
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.

Education

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).

Important Qualities

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.

Pay About this section

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Nuclear medicine technologists

$79,590

Health technologists and technicians

$45,620

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for nuclear medicine technologists was $79,590 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $109,070.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for nuclear medicine technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $116,800
Hospitals; state, local, and private 79,750
Offices of physicians 79,210
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 75,790

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Some nuclear medicine technologists work irregular hours, such as evenings or weekends. They also may be on call, especially if they work in hospitals.

Job Outlook About this section

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Health technologists and technicians

9%

Nuclear medicine technologists

8%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,500 openings for nuclear medicine technologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

An aging population may lead to the need for nuclear medicine technologists who can provide imaging to patients with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, or treatments for cancers and other diseases. In addition, technological advancements may increase the types of imaging and treatments that nuclear medicine technologists provide, leading to increased demand for their services.

Employment projections data for nuclear medicine technologists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Nuclear medicine technologists

29-2033 18,300 19,700 8 1,400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nuclear medicine technologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2020 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Biological technicians Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Bachelor's degree $46,340
Diagnostic medical sonographers Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests.

Associate's degree $70,380
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Bachelor's degree $54,180
Nuclear technicians Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production.

Associate's degree $84,190
Radiation therapists Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Associate's degree $86,850
Radiologic technologists Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Associate's degree $63,710

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about nuclear and radiologic medicine, visit

American Board of Nuclear Medicine

American Board of Radiology

American College of Nuclear Medicine

Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

For a list of accredited programs in nuclear medicine technology, visit

Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology

For more information about certification for nuclear medicine technologists, visit

Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

CareerOneStop

For a career video on nuclear medicine technologists, visit

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

O*NET

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nuclear Medicine Technologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm (visited October 10, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2020

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2020, which is the base year of the 2020-30 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2020-30

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8 percent.

Employment Change, 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.