Nuclear medicine technologists possess a variety of important qualities. They are analytical, detail-oriented, and adept at working as part of a team. But, as their job title suggests, it's their comfort with technology that sets them apart. NMTs are always working with computers and large pieces of technological equipment.
One common piece of equipment used is a scanner, which creates images of various parts of the human body in order to monitor tissue and organ functions.
The NMT prepares and administers radioactive drugs — also known as radiopharmaceuticals — which gives off radiation during these scans. The result: abnormal parts of the body will appear differently than the normal areas. For instance, an abnormal area, such as a tumor, will show a higher level of radioactivity in the scan. Normal areas, on the other hand, will show lower levels of radioactivity. Physicians read these images to assist in diagnosing a patient's condition.
In a typical day's work, a nuclear medicine technologist will also:
Discuss and describe the scanning and imaging procedures to the patient and answer any questions they may have about the process
Follow safety precautions to protect themselves and their patients from unnecessary radiation exposure
Examine all equipment on a regular basis to ensure everything is working properly
Monitor the patient during the procedure to check for adverse side effects to the drugs
Keep detailed records during this entire process
Not to be overlooked, an NMT will also need a sense of compassion in dealing with patients who are likely under physical and emotional stress.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Education Requirements
Nuclear medicine technologists can obtain an associate degree in nuclear medicine technology or a bachelor's degree in a related health field for radiologic technologist jobs or nursing positions. Additionally, a certificate program, which takes roughly one year to complete, is also offered in hospitals. Certification is not required for a license, but some employers demand it. Also, specialty certifications, like positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology (NCT), demonstrates proficiency in specific procedures or on certain equipment.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Market
Nuclear medicine technologists filled about 21,000 jobs in 2012. Employment of all NMTs is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Because it is a small occupation, however, the growth will result in only about 4,200 new jobs during this 10-year period.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Salary Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for nuclear medicine technologists was $70,180 in May 2012 — with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $50,560 and the top 10 percent earning more than $93,320.