What Is a Nuclear Medicine Technologist? Duties, Pay + More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore what a nuclear medicine technologist does, job opportunities, required education, certification, and licensing needed for an entry-level position.

[Featured image] A nuclear medicine technologist reviews a brain scan with a doctor.

A nuclear medicine technologist (NMT) maintains and operates the imaging equipment required for medical imaging tests. Furthermore, they also prepare and administer the radioactive drugs (radiopharmaceuticals) required to conduct such imaging tests, and also work alongside other medical professionals to diagnose medical conditions by using radioactive drugs.

If you're interested in a patient-facing health care profession that involves working with technical equipment, you might consider a career as a nuclear medicine technologist.

In this article, you'll learn more about what an NMT does, how much they earn, and how to become one.

What is a nuclear medicine technologist?

A nuclear medicine technologist is a specially trained health care professional who works directly with patients needing medical imaging tests. As an NMT, you'll assist nuclear medicine physicians with nuclear medicine technology. 

Nuclear medicine technology is a medical process that uses imaging equipment to diagnose and treat a patient. Examples of imaging procedures are positron emission tomography (PET) and electrocardiogram (ECG).

You might also be referred to as an isotope technologist or radioisotope technologist because you work with radioactive isotopes and radioisotope equipment. You also give radiopharmaceuticals to patients before an imaging procedure, then use a specialized camera to create images where the radiopharmaceuticals show within the tissues and organs of the patient. 

What do nuclear medicine technologists do day-to-day?

A nuclear medical technologist typically works with patients scheduled for imaging procedures or who need radiation treatment for a disease such as cancer. As a nuclear medicine technologist, you’ll prepare the correct radiopharmaceutical dosage and administer it to the patient. Using imaging equipment, you’ll scan the areas of the body that the patient’s health care provider requested.

When a patient arrives for their appointment, you’ll explain the procedure and answer any questions they have. Some patients might be fearful or nervous, and some might be in pain, so you’ll want to be calming and reassuring. The position also requires you to maintain the imaging equipment and ensure it’s operating safely.

Job outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of job openings for nuclear medicine technologists is expected to grow by 2 percent between 2021 and 2031. Retirements and aging populations will result in the need for nuclear medicine technologists [1].

Read more: 9 Health Science Jobs For Health Science Degree Holders


According to the BLS, nuclear medicine technologists earned a median annual salary of $78,760 as of May 2021 [2].

However, pay varies considerably based on where you're employed. For example, the BLS notes that NMTs working in outpatient care centers earned a median annual pay of $125,920, while those working in physicians' offices, hospitals, and diagnostic laboratories earned between $78,140 and $79,970 in the same period.

How to become a nuclear medicine technologist

To pursue a nuclear medicine technologist career, you’ll need a strong interest in physics and chemistry and attend an accredited school for an associate or bachelor’s degree. You may also need to be licensed.

Here's what you can expect to do to become an NMT:

1. Obtain an associate or bachelor's degree.

An associate degree from an accredited school is the minimum requirement to qualify as a nuclear medicine technologist. Coursework typically includes physics, chemistry, anatomy, and the study of radioactive drugs. Clinical experience under the supervision of a nuclear medicine professional may also be required.

Bachelor's degree programs are also available, and job responsibilities can differ from those who hold an associate degree. Professional Certificate eligibility may also vary.

Typically, an associate degree typically takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete.

Read more: What Is an Undergraduate Degree?

Can I study to become a nuclear medicine technician online?

You can study to become a nuclear medicine technologist online, however, the clinical portion of your studies needs to be completed in person. 

Taking some of the required courses from an accredited school provides you with the flexibility to fit the program into your work and personal life.


2. Gain your license and certifications.

More than one-half of states require licensing, and each has its requirements for qualifying. According to the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board, as of 2020, at least 30 states require licensing, and each state has its requirements for obtaining a license [3].

When you’ve completed your degree, you can take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exam or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). The ARRT requires candidates to have a degree as a nuclear medicine technologist and pass an exam. There is an exam fee, and it is administered by Pearson VUE.

The NMTCB offers a certification exam for nuclear medicine technologists, with a $175 fee. An application must be submitted two months prior to the exam, along with the fee. You will then have three months to take the exam.

3. Consider specializing.

When you’ve completed a degree program and obtained any certification and licensing required in your state, you’ll qualify for work in hospitals and imaging clinics or you could choose to work for a physician in private practice.

Government and teaching hospitals offer other opportunities, and medical laboratories also need nuclear medicine technologists.

With additional training after becoming an NMT, you can specialize by completing a certification program beyond your degree. Some specialties include:

  • Nuclear cardiology technologist: The nuclear medicine technologist specializing in nuclear cardiology works solely with imaging the heart and circulatory system.

  • PET Positron emission tomography (PET) technologist: Specialization in PET scans involves using a special machine designed to take three-dimensional images of a specific body part.

  • Computed tomography (CT) technologists: A computed tomography technologist takes two- and three-degree views of specific organs. 

Jobs related to nuclear medical technology are available with the proper education and certification. The positions are in health care settings and require working one-on-one with patients under the supervision of a physician or other diagnostic professional.

Some options to consider are: 

  • Diagnostic medical sonographer: A career as a diagnostic medical sonographer requires either an associate or bachelor’s degree or completion of a certificate program with clinical experience. As a sonographer, you work with patients to take digital images using special equipment.

  • Neurodiagnostic technologist: The neurodiagnostic technologist performs tests on the brain and nervous system. The job doesn’t require a degree; however, certification is available after completing a two-year program.

  • Radiologic technologist: Radiologic technologists take X-rays to be interpreted by physicians. The position requires graduation from an accredited school, and certification is required. Some states also require licensing.

  • Radiation therapist: A radiation therapist works with cancer patients and others who need radiation therapy. You work as a member of an oncology team to administer treatment and monitor patients for side effects.

  • Cardiovascular technologist: The cardiovascular technologist works with EKG equipment to monitor heart and lung function. You may perform other tasks as needed, such as lung capacity testing.

Ready to start an NMT career? 

Nuclear medicine technologists pair their knowledge of radiopharmaceuticals and imaging equipment to help diagnose patients with some of the most life-threatening conditions. If you're considering a career as an NMT, you might consider taking a cost-effective, online course through Coursera.

In the University of Sydney's Life, Health and Radiation, you'll learn more about the benefits as well as risks of radiation. In particular, you'll learn how scientific and medical discoveries like X-ray radiation has improved and prolonged billions of lives.

Article sources

1. US BLS. “Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm#tab-6." Accessed July 13, 2023.

2. US BLS. “Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm#tab-5. Accessed July 13, 2023.

3. Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. "Frequently Asked Questions: State Licensure, https://www.nmtcb.org/faqs/state-licensure." Accessed July 13, 2023.

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