Nuclear medicine technologists use a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing the scans. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.                             


Nuclear medicine technologists typically do the following:

  • Explain imaging procedures to the patient and answer questions
  • Follow safety procedures to protect themselves and the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Examine machines to ensure that they are working properly
  • Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the drugs
  • Operate equipment that creates images of areas in the body, such as images of organs
  • Keep detailed records of procedures

Radioactive drugs, known as radiopharmaceuticals, give off radiation, allowing special scanners to monitor tissue and organ functions. Abnormal areas show higher-than-expected or lower-than-expected concentrations of radioactivity. Physicians and surgeons then interpret the images to help diagnose the patient’s condition. For example, tumors can be seen in organs during a scan because of their concentration of the radioactive drugs.

After additional experience or training, a technologist can choose to specialize in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology (NCT). PET uses a machine that creates a three-dimensional image of a part of the body, such as the brain. NCT uses radioactive drugs to obtain images of the heart. Patients exercise during the imaging process while the technologist creates images of the heart and blood flow.

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Work Environment


Nuclear medicine technologists held about 20,900 jobs in 2012. Technologists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are disabled.

The industries that employed the most nuclear medicine technologists in 2012 were as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private 65%
Offices of physicians 21
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 6
Outpatient care centers 2

Work Schedules

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergencies, some nuclear medicine technologists work evenings, weekends, or on call.

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.

Education and Training


Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Technologists must be licensed in some states; requirements vary by state.


Nuclear medicine technologists typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Bachelor’s degrees are also common. Some technologists become qualified by completing an associate’s or a bachelor's degree program in a related health field, such as radiologic technology or nursing, and then completing a 12-month certificate program in nuclear medicine technology. Generally, certificate programs are offered in hospitals, associate's degree programs are in community colleges, and bachelor's degrees are granted by colleges and universities.

Nuclear medicine technology programs include clinical experience—practice under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist and a physician or surgeon who specializes in nuclear medicine. In addition, these programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, chemistry, radioactive drugs, and computer science.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nuclear medicine technologists must be licensed in some states; requirements vary by state. For specifics, contact your state’s health board.

Some nuclear medicine technologists become certified. Although certification is not required for a license, it fulfills most of the requirements for state licensure on its own.

Some employers require certification, regardless of state regulations. Certification usually involves completing required coursework and having the necessary hours of clinical experience, as well as 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 can earn specialty certifications that show their proficiency in specific procedures or on certain equipment. A technologist can earn certification in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology (NCT).

Both fields require the technologist to have a high level of knowledge about the specific procedures and technologies involved. The NMTCB offers NCT and PET certification exams.

Personality and Interests

Nuclear medicine technologists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a nuclear medicine technologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Nuclear medicine technologists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Ability to use technology. Nuclear medicine technologists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment and must be comfortable operating them.

Analytical skills. Nuclear medicine technologists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate accurate dosages.

Compassion. Nuclear medicine technologists must be able to reassure and calm patients who are under physical and emotional stress.

Detail oriented. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow exact instructions to make sure that the correct dosage is given and that the patient is not overexposed to radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Nuclear medicine technologists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.

Physical stamina. Nuclear medicine technologists must stand for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need help.



The median annual wage for nuclear medicine technologists was $70,180 in May 2012. 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 $50,560, and the top 10 percent earned more than $93,320.

Most nuclear medicine technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergencies, some nuclear medicine technologists work evenings, weekends, or on call.

Job Outlook


Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the growth will result in only about 4,200 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Nuclear medicine technologists work mostly with adult patients, although procedures may be performed on children. A larger aging population should lead to the need to diagnose and treat medical conditions that require imaging, such as heart disease. Nuclear medicine technologists will be needed to administer radioactive drugs and maintain the imaging equipment required for diagnosis.

Federal health legislation will increase the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. This will increase the demand for medical imaging services, including those provided by nuclear medicine technologists.                       

Job Prospects

Nuclear medicine technologists can improve their job prospects by earning a specialty certification, such as in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology (NCT). The Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) offers NCT and PET certification exams.

For More Information


For more information about nuclear medicine technologists, visit

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


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).

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