What Are the Different Jobs in Nuclear Medicine?

Susan Abe

Jobs in nuclear medicine are predicted to be readily available in the foreseeable future due to the growth and development of the industry and technology. The field of nuclear medicine involves the preparation and administration of radioactive material to patients for the purposes of diagnostic radiography or treatment. Specialized training and education is necessary throughout the process, ranging from nuclear medicine technicians with the minimum of an associate's degree to radiologists who have completed medical school and a radiology residency. Other jobs in nuclear medicine include radiopharmacists, nurses and radiation safety specialists. The amount of education required to enter available jobs in nuclear medicine ranges from two years to become a nuclear medicine technologist to over ten years to become a board-certified radiologist specializing in nuclear imaging.

Radioactive isotopes can be used in medical imaging.
Radioactive isotopes can be used in medical imaging.

Nuclear medicine technologist positions are among the most common jobs in this field. These positions require the least amount of education — an associate's degree — to begin work. Most U.S. states also require the successful completion of a licensure examination and a valid nuclear medicine technologist license to practice this career. Some nuclear medicine technologists are prepared with a bachelor's degree in nuclear technology that requires three to four years to complete. This four-year degree is available from a few universities — usually affiliated with medical schools — and is not routinely offered by liberal arts colleges and universities.

Technicians who operate imaging machines is one possible job in nuclear medicine.
Technicians who operate imaging machines is one possible job in nuclear medicine.

Nursing jobs in nuclear medicine, requiring an associate or bachelor's degree, are usually oncology-related and offer accreditation as a specialized oncology nurse. A master's degree-prepared nurse might choose to practice as a nurse practitioner in an oncology practice and be associated with nuclear medicine by this route. Radiation safety specialists are often nuclear medicine technologists with a bachelor's degree or a nurse with additional training in nuclear medicine. Pharmacists may opt to specialize in radiopharmaceuticals after completion of a bachelor's degree and a college of pharmacology. These jobs in nuclear medicine require the preparation of diagnostic imaging dyes or radioactive drugs or implants to help fight a patient's cancer.

Oncology and radiology physician jobs in nuclear medicine require the greatest amount of education. In addition to completing a four-year bachelor's degree, these individuals must also complete medical school and additional residencies and training to become board-certified in their specialties. Radiologists may sub-specialize in nuclear imaging beyond their radiology specialty. Interventional nuclear oncologists treat cancer with nuclear implants or medications.

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