Innovators Guide

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Training

Nuclear medicine technology programs range in length from 1 to 4 years and lead to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. Many employers and an increasing number of States require certification or licensure. Aspiring nuclear medicine technologists should check the requirements of the State in which they plan to work.

Education and training. Generally, certificate programs are offered in hospitals, associate degree programs in community colleges, and bachelor's degree programs in 4-year colleges and universities. Courses cover the physical sciences, biological effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection and procedures, the use of radiopharmaceuticals, imaging techniques, and computer applications.

One-year certificate programs are typically for health professionals who already possess an associate or bachelor's degree—especially radiologic technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers—but who wish to specialize in nuclear medicine. The programs also attract medical technologists, registered nurses, and others who wish to change fields or specialize.

The Joint Review Committee on Education Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits associate and bachelor's degree training programs in nuclear medicine technology. In 2008, there were more than 100 accredited programs available.

Licensure. Requirements for licensure of nuclear medicine technologists vary from State to State, so it is important that aspiring technologists check the requirements of the State in which they plan to work. In 2008, 25 States licensed nuclear medicine technologists. In addition, many third-party payers require nuclear medicine technologists to be certified in order for the healthcare facility to receive reimbursement for imaging procedures.

Certification and other qualifications. Certification is voluntary but it has become the generally accepted standard for nuclear medicine technologists and those who employ them. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and from the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). Some technologists receive certification from both agencies. ARRT and NMTCB have different eligibility requirements, but both require that workers pass a comprehensive exam to become certified.

In addition to the general certification requirements, certified technologists also must complete a certain number of continuing education hours to retain certification. Continuing education is required primarily because of the frequent technological and innovative changes in the field of nuclear medicine.

Technologists must have good communication skills to effectively interact with patients and their families and should be sensitive to patients' physical and psychological needs. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to work independently as they may have little direct supervision. Technologists also need to be detailed-oriented and meticulous when performing procedures to assure that all regulations are being followed.

Advancement. Technologists may advance to supervisory positions or to chief technologist with significant work experience. With advanced education, it is possible for some technologists to become department administrators or directors.

Some technologists specialize in clinical areas, such as nuclear cardiology or PET scanning. Some become instructors in, or directors of, nuclear medicine technology programs, a step that usually requires a bachelor's or master's degree in the subject. Others may leave the occupation to work as sales or training representatives for medical equipment or radiopharmaceutical manufacturing firms; some become radiation safety officers in regulatory agencies or hospitals.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Employment
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Training
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Outlook
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