Nuclear Medicine Technologist Schools
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For people with a unique combination of sociability and a love of technology, a career as a nuclear medicine technologist (NMT) may be a wise choice. This job leverages both a savviness with cutting edge medical equipment and a desire to interact with patients, counseling them through the procedures. NMTs use equipment such as computed tomography (CT) machines, radiation-sensitive cameras, and dosage meters, helping both young and old patients get the care they need for potentially life-threatening illnesses.
While an associate of applied science degree (AAS) can get a person started in the field, most nuclear medicine technologists continue on to get a bachelor of science (BS) degree. High-profile nuclear medicine technologist schools such as Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University offer students fantastic on-campus options, and there are several 100 percent online BS and certification options available for those with related medical technology experience or credentials.
Successful NMTs tend to be good with people and have a drive to continually learn about the workings of the human body. In addition to critical thinking skills and grace under pressure, a nuclear medicine technologist must be able to memorize key facts, diagnoses, and data, and then synthesize that and apply it in order to correctly administer radiologic tests and analyze results. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) reports that these medical professionals make an average annual salary of $77,660, much higher than the average for all American occupations.
If all of this sounds enticing, read on.
|Nuclear Medicine Technologist fast facts|
|Projected Jobs Created||2,000|
|Projected Job Growth||10%|
|Average Salary (Median)||$77,660|
|Entry-Level EDU||Associate's Degree|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Degree & Certification Programs
In order to begin a career as a nuclear medicine technologist, students must earn, at a minimum, an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. That said, NMTs may also go on to earn bachelor’s degrees in order to further their career prospects.
Following is a sampling of reputable universities that offer nuclear medicine technology programs:
Johns Hopkins University – As the number two ranked school for biomedical fields by U.S. News and World Report (2018), Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland is one of the finest institutions for studying nuclear medicine technology. The 18-month program leads to certification as an NMT and computed tomography (CT) specialist. Students of this program also have some of the most prestigious clinical experiences at hospitals like the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Oregon Institute of Technology – At the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon, students can pursue a bachelor of science (BS) degree in nuclear medicine technology. The OIT BS is one of the best values in the nation, with in-state tuition coming in at just $9,541 per year, including fees. In addition, graduates from this program have a 100 percent pass rate for both the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) and Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) board exams.
University of Iowa – Located in Iowa City, Iowa, the University of Iowa has a stellar reputation for offering students the best technology and training in the medical field. This four-year NMT program is helpful for students, as it requires them to complete the majority of another degree before being accepted. This means that, upon graduation, graduates are potentially eligible for two fields of employment instead of one.
Vanderbilt University – Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt is continually ranked as one of the best in the U.S. and the world. In fact, US News and World Report (2018) ranks Vanderbilt as the 14th best university in the country. This 12-month program is highly intensive and prepares students to be nationally certified. For this school, the exam pass rates for AART and NMTCB certification are 80 percent and 88 percent respectively, the graduation rate is 95 percent, and 57 percent of graduates between 2012 and 2016 found jobs within six months of graduation.
List of Nuclear Medicine Technologist Schools
|Houston Community College||Houston||Texas||www.hccs.edu||26|
|Hillsborough Community College||Tampa||Florida||www.hccfl.edu||25|
|Robert Morris University||Moon Township||Pennsylvania||www.rmu.edu||19|
|Community College of Allegheny County||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania||www.ccac.edu||18|
|Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus||Indiana||Pennsylvania||www.iup.edu||17|
|GateWay Community College||Phoenix||Arizona||www.gatewaycc.edu||15|
|Molloy College||Rockville Centre||New York||www.molloy.edu||15|
|Triton College||River Grove||Illinois||www.triton.edu||15|
|University of Wisconsin-La Crosse||La Crosse||Wisconsin||www.uwlax.edu||15|
|The University of Findlay||Findlay||Ohio||www.findlay.edu||14|
|Oregon Institute of Technology||Klamath Falls||Oregon||www.oit.edu||13|
|University of Nevada-Las Vegas||Las Vegas||Nevada||www.unlv.edu||13|
|Cuyahoga Community College District||Cleveland||Ohio||www.tri-c.edu||12|
|Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences||Lancaster||Pennsylvania||www.pacollege.edu||12|
|Pitt Community College||Winterville||North Carolina||www.pittcc.edu||12|
|University of Cincinnati-Main Campus||Cincinnati||Ohio||www.uc.edu||12|
|Old Dominion University||Norfolk||Virginia||www.odu.edu||10|
|Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale||Fort Lauderdale||Florida||www.keiseruniversity.edu||9|
|University at Buffalo||Buffalo||New York||www.buffalo.edu||9|
|University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences||Little Rock||Arkansas||www.uams.edu||9|
|Weber State University||Ogden||Utah||www.weber.edu||9|
|Broward College||Fort Lauderdale||Florida||www.broward.edu||8|
|College of DuPage||Glen Ellyn||Illinois||www.cod.edu||8|
|Frederick Community College||Frederick||Maryland||www.frederick.edu||8|
|Midlands Technical College||West Columbia||South Carolina||www.midlandstech.edu||8|
|Saint Louis University||Saint Louis||Missouri||www.slu.edu||8|
|Miami Dade College||Miami||Florida||www.mdc.edu||7|
|Delgado Community College||New Orleans||Louisiana||www.dcc.edu||7|
|Gateway Community College||New Haven||Connecticut||www.gatewayct.edu||7|
|Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis||Indianapolis||Indiana||www.iupui.edu||7|
|Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science||Rochester||Minnesota||college.mayo.edu||7|
|University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences||San Juan||Puerto Rico||www.rcm.upr.edu||7|
|Baptist Health College Little Rock||Little Rock||Arkansas||www.bhclr.edu||6|
|Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute||Hudson||North Carolina||www.cccti.edu||6|
|Manhattan College||Riverdale||New York||www.manhattan.edu||6|
|University of Iowa||Iowa City||Iowa||www.uiowa.edu||6|
|University of Mississippi||University||Mississippi||www.olemiss.edu||6|
|University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma||ouhsc.edu||6|
|University of the Incarnate Word||San Antonio||Texas||www.uiw.edu||6|
|Universidad Central Del Caribe||Bayamon||Puerto Rico||www.uccaribe.edu||5|
|Forsyth Technical Community College||Winston-Salem||North Carolina||www.forsythtech.edu||5|
|Prince George's Community College||Largo||Maryland||www.pgcc.edu||5|
|Rowan College at Gloucester County||Sewell||New Jersey||www.rcgc.edu||5|
|University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College||Blue Ash||Ohio||www.ucblueash.edu||5|
|Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences||Memphis||Tennessee||www.bchs.edu||4|
|Oakland University||Rochester Hills||Michigan||www.oakland.edu||4|
|Rhode Island College||Providence||Rhode Island||www.ric.edu||4|
|Southeast Technical Institute||Sioux Falls||South Dakota||www.southeasttech.edu||4|
|University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham||Alabama||www.uab.edu||4|
|University of Kansas||Lawrence||Kansas||ku.edu||4|
|York College of Pennsylvania||York||Pennsylvania||www.ycp.edu||4|
|Cedar Crest College||Allentown||Pennsylvania||www.cedarcrest.edu||3|
|Columbia State Community College||Columbia||Tennessee||www.columbiastate.edu||3|
|Delaware Technical Community College-Terry||Dover||Delaware||www.dtcc.edu||3|
|Edinboro University of Pennsylvania||Edinboro||Pennsylvania||www.edinboro.edu||3|
|Rutgers University-New Brunswick||New Brunswick||New Jersey||newbrunswick.rutgers.edu||3|
|Saint Cloud State University||Saint Cloud||Minnesota||www.stcloudstate.edu||3|
|Loma Linda University||Loma Linda||California||home.llu.edu||2|
|Oakland Community College||Bloomfield Hills||Michigan||www.oaklandcc.edu||2|
|University of Central Arkansas||Conway||Arkansas||www.uca.edu||2|
|West Virginia University Hospital Departments of Rad Tech and Nutrition||Morgantown||West Virginia||www.wvuhradtech.com||2|
|Gulf Coast State College||Panama City||Florida||www.gulfcoast.edu||1|
|Del Mar College||Corpus Christi||Texas||www.delmar.edu||1|
|Harrisburg Area Community College||Harrisburg||Pennsylvania||www.hacc.edu||1|
|Henderson State University||Arkadelphia||Arkansas||www.hsu.edu||1|
|Maine College of Health Professions||Lewiston||Maine||www.mchp.edu||1|
|Mount Aloysius College||Cresson||Pennsylvania||www.mtaloy.edu||1|
|Saint Mary's University of Minnesota||Winona||Minnesota||www.smumn.edu||1|
|Salem State University||Salem||Massachusetts||www.salemstate.edu||1|
Hybrid & Online programs
The George Washington University
HealthInformatics@GW - The George Washington University
Johns Hopkins University
While there are no entry-level nuclear technologist programs that can be completed entirely online due to the essentially clinical nature of the discipline, there are some options available for students seeking the flexibility and convenience of an online program. Following is a selection of these online programs:
Loma Linda University – Located in Loma Linda, California, Loma Linda University offers a hybrid bachelor of science in nuclear medicine technology. The program is expected to take students between 24 and 27 months to complete. Of the 126 credits required to complete the program, 26 credits are offered in the form of online classes while the rest require on-campus attendance. The LLU program has been accredited by the JRCNMT and has also been approved by the California Department of Public Health, Radiologic Health Branch.
Lakeshore Technical College – Located in Cleveland, Wisconsin, Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) offers an associate’s degree in nuclear technology for which courses can be completed online. It is important to note that this program is not specific to nuclear medicine and rather provides an overview for working with nuclear materials in many settings. This online program could be used as a stepping stone to a nuclear medicine program for those that want to pursue that career. This program will not make graduates eligible for certification.
Because there is so much material including heavy clinical training involved in nuclear medicine technology training, it is impossible to offer a program entirely online. However, more programs than those listed above may have some flexibility in terms of classroom work that can be completed via distance learning.
Be sure to check program websites and course catalogues to see which schools qualify.
|Ferris State University||Big Rapids||Michigan||www.ferris.edu||14|
|Pitt Community College||Winterville||North Carolina||www.pittcc.edu||12|
|Santa Fe College||Gainesville||Florida||www.sfcollege.edu||6|
|University of Mississippi||University||Mississippi||www.olemiss.edu||6|
|Chattanooga State Community College||Chattanooga||Tennessee||www.chattanoogastate.edu||5|
Core & Elective Courses
While course requirements may vary from school to school, most nuclear medicine technology (NMT) degree programs have the same basic structure. Some programs, such as the one at the Mayo Clinic, require students to have completed a bachelor of science degree prior to enrolling, which will mean completing basic courses such as chemistry as a prerequisite. For others, core courses such as biology, chemistry, and a math component will be included in the program. In a BS program, students may also be able to choose elective courses in a broad range of subjects in addition the the nuclear medicine requirements.
Here is an overview of the typical course structure of an accredited NMT program:
- Positron Emission Tomography – This course covers all elements of PET, including tomography composition, scintillation crystallization, and time-of-flight imaging. Students are also taught how to use PET imaging agents and data analytics.
- Nuclear chemistry and physics – Students learn why certain nuclides are radioactive, and discuss radiation interactions and decay models. They also discover the crucial differences between nuclear and physiological imaging.
- Radiopharmacy – In this course, students identify the most common nuclear medicine pharmaceuticals and how they interact with patients, in addition to how to prepare and dose these medicines.
- Radiation biology – Students explore how to identify safe and unsafe levels of radiation, as well as symptoms of radiation exposure. Courses may also discuss how cells respond to radiation and how to protect patients from overexposure.
- Clinical procedures – In this class, students get a strong background in the various purposes and processes of radiation imaging. Clinical procedures covered generally include hematology, immunology, blood volume determination, bone densitometry, and nuclear neurology.
- Clinical Internship/Practicum – Students work under a board-certified radiologist to complete the clinical requirement: 1,300 supervised hours. Twenty competencies are required, including cystogram, ductogram, tube injections, and barium enema. It is during this portion of the degree program that students can choose elective courses to specialize in health information management or pre-medical studies.
All nuclear medicine degree programs are generally approved through the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT). The JRCNMT is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the only organization qualified to evaluate nuclear medicine programs.
The JRCNMT provides a thorough evaluation of each college that it endorses, including several onsite visits, a curriculum review, and educator interviews. Representatives from the major radiologic fields—American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the Association of Educators in Imaging and Radiologic Sciences (AEIRS), Association of Medical Imaging Management (AHRA), and the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists (AAMD)—also may independently evaluate the college’s program to ensure it meets national standards.
Although this is a high-paying job in a growing field, the number of positions that will be created between 2016 and 2026 is only around 2,000, according to the BLS (2017). Still, that same organization projects that growth in this field will continue to increase by 10 percent, which is somewhat faster than the national average. As the baby boomer population ages over the next decade, this will lead to an increasing need in these types of diagnostic services. However, the demand for CT, PET, or NCT imaging tests is still not high enough to propel the type of job creation as in other fields of medicine.
While job creation will be limited, pay for these jobs can be very competitive, with the lowest earners making over $54,000 per year and the highest earners making over $100,000 (BLS 2017). There are currently nearly 19,000 people employed as nuclear medicine technologists, with the majority of them employed in general medical and surgical hospitals as well as physician offices. States with the highest numbers of nuclear medicine technologists include Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Ohio.
As with other medical professions, education plays a major role in how easy it is to land one of these hard-to-find nuclear medicine technology jobs. Students who only have an associate degree may find it difficult to compete with those who have gone on to gain additional certification. Specialty certifications like positron emission technology (PET) and nuclear cardiology (NCT) can increase the likelihood of employment and higher salary (BLS 2017).
|Career Facts||Nuclear Medicine Technologist|
|Related Careers||Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, MRI Technologist, Neurodiagnostic Technologist, Radiation Therapist, Radiologic Technologist, Surgical Technologist|
|Common Job Titles||Nuclear Medicine Technologist (NMT)|
|Technology & Equipment||Radiation Detectors, Liquid Scintillation Counters, CT or CAT Callibration Devices, Medical Radiation Dosimeters|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Licensing & Certification
Only those certified by the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) can become professional nuclear medicine technologists. Many state-level licensure bodies, such as the California Department of Public Health Radiologic Health Branch, require a passing score as a key element of the certification process. In addition, some states require an additional state-level exam to meet certification standards.
In addition to the NMTCB exam, graduates must have completed a nuclear medicine degree or appropriate coursework at a school endorsed by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT). Job applicants may be required to show their education level in core subjects such as clinical procedures, nuclear instrumentation, and radiation biology.
Finally, it is impossible to be fully licensed as an NMT without significant experience hours. Many colleges provide the required 1,300 hours of clinical experience that will qualify graduates to be certified. Graduates will also be required to produce a letter from their university program director (or supervising radiologist) verifying their experiences with core competencies such as in vitro tests, imaging studies, radioactive administration, and blood withdrawal.