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
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
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
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
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