How Can I Become a Nuclear Medicine Practitioner?

Research what it takes to become a nuclear medicine practitioner. Learn about education requirements, certification and licensure options and average wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Nuclear Medicine Practitioner?

Nuclear medicine practitioners (NMPs) are advanced nuclear medicine technologists, according to the Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologist Section Advanced Practice Task Force. The position was created for nuclear medicine technologists who were looking for a pathway into an advanced practice position. They are also known as nuclear medicine advanced associates (NMAA). As mid-level healthcare providers, their duties go beyond those of technologists, who simply prepare radiopharmaceuticals and run the machines used for medical tests. They work closely with physicians to assist with image evaluation, and they may meet with patients after the procedure to discuss results.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what this field entails.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Imaging science, Nuclear medicine advanced associate
Key Responsibilities Use imaging equipment and evaluate images to help diagnose patients, obtain consent forms and take clinical histories from patients, follow safety procedures to protect patients
Licensure/Certification Nationally-recognized certification and state-specific licensing required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all nuclear medicine technologists)*
Median Salary (2015) $73,360 (for all nuclear medicine technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Nuclear Medicine Practitioner?

To become an NMP, you must first obtain a bachelor's degree, typically a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science (BSRS) or Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology (BSNMT), from a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

What Graduate Program Do I Need to Attend?

After you receive your bachelor's degree, you can go on to complete a Nuclear Medicine Advanced Associate master's program. As of 2017, the program is only offered through a consortium of four universities in the U.S. and is a 5-semester distance-learning program. While in the master's program you will complete advanced clinical work under the strict supervision of a licensed physician. Once you graduate, you will receive a Master of Imaging Sciences.

What Certifications Do I Need?

After you get your bachelor's degree, you will need to become certified as a nuclear medicine technologist (NMT) through the exam offered by the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). This exam will test your ability in fields including safety near radiation, clinical procedures, radiopharmacology and use of nuclear medicine instruments. Certification can also be obtained through passing the examination offered by the ARRT.

After completing the NMAA program, you will then have to sit for the NMAA exam, which is also offered through the NMTCB. To sit for this exam, you will need to have an active NMT certification through the NMTCB or ARRT and have fully completed an NMAA program. The NMAA exam will test your skills in patient care, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, radiobiology, clinical procedures and safety. You will have to maintain your certificate through completing 48 hours of continuing education requirements as outlined by the NMTCB. The certificate lasts for seven years, after which you will have to renew your certification.

Get Licensed

You can get your state-issued license as an NMT after completing your undergraduate degree and passing your certification exam. In 2015, about half of all states required NMTs to be licensed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each state has its own requirements for licensing nuclear medicine technologists, so it is important to check with your state to be sure you have completed all requirements to secure your license to practice as a nuclear medicine practitioner.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another mid-level medical occupation that you might want to consider is a job as a physician assistant. These professionals work closely with doctors to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. Depending on the specialization of the doctor with whom you work, your work could involve the use of nuclear medical technology. Physician assistants need to earn a master's degree and pass a licensure exam in order to practice. Alternatively, if you are interested in the nonmedical applications of nuclear technology, you could consider becoming a nuclear engineer, where you would study the industrial and/or power-related applications of nuclear energy and radiation. The minimum educational requirement for nuclear engineers is a bachelor's degree in the field.

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