If you want to impress your next date, tell him or her that you are studying to be a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. It sounds really important, doesn’t it? Like you’re setting off little nuclear reactions all day? That’s actually not a bad description, though as always, the reality is slightly less glamorous than the expectation. Nuclear medicine technologists administer radiopharmaceuticals, little radioactive pills that travel through the body creating diagnostic images that alert doctors to abnormal tissues or organs. While related to a career as a pharmacy technician, nuclear technologists prepare the pills, injections, or even inhalations that hold the radiopharmaceuticals, then position patients, and run the gamma scintillation camera that shows where the radioactive meds are in the body.
Nuclear medicine is relatively new, and as scientists discover more ways to use it, the job of handling radiopharmaceuticals will be increasingly in demand. However, the number of job openings is predicted to be low since there is already an adequate supply of trained nuclear medicine technologists. However, those who have training in multiple diagnostic methods, like ultrasound technicians, radiologic technologists, and X-ray technicians, will have an advantage in the job market. The median annual income of nuclear medicine technologists in 2008 was $66.660, and even the lowest wages were above $57,000.
Considering the competition for this career, more education is better to ensure you find a position. Certificate programs are often offered in hospitals and community colleges, but there are also bachelor’s degree programs that take 4 years to complete. Courses are in physical sciences, the effects of radiation on live tissue, radiation protection, imaging techniques, computer applications, and of course, how to use radiopharaceuticals. For those who already have an AA or BA and work in healthcare, like nurse practitioners, there are one-year certificate programs that allow them to specialize in nuclear medicine. Aspiring technologists should check their state’s requirements.