If you are interested in exploring how modern science and technology converge in the world of medicine, you might want to consider majoring in nuclear medicine technology. Nuclear medicine technology is a subspecialty of radiology, in which an allied health professional injects drugs into patients that contain a small amount of radioactive materials. These professionals then use specialized equipment to capture images of that drug as it passes through a body system, which can reveal problems and serve as a medical diagnostic tool. Nuclear medicine technology differs from other diagnostic tools like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs in that it reveals images of the body’s physiology rather than anatomy. In other words, nuclear medicine technology shows how the body is functioning rather than just providing images of the body itself.
In a nuclear medicine technology major, students learn their important role in allied health teams, how to explain the exam to patients, and how to administer the agent used in performing the imaging. Students also learn how to create a rapid series of images of the agent passing through the body, how to perform various computer applications associated with the exam, and finally, how to present the results to a radiologist or nuclear medicine physician. The best nuclear medicine technology programs equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to pass national certification exams required to become certified as a nuclear medicine technologist. Aside from didactic courses that familiarize students with body systems, human diseases, and principles of nuclear medicine technology, students also complete hands-on clinical work.
Classes and Assignments For Online Masters Nuclear Medicine Technology Degrees
The types of classes you take in a nuclear medicine technology program will differ slightly depending on the college you attend and the degree level you’re seeking, but there is a great deal of similarity among programs. Students take courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, introduction to radiography, principles of patient care, physics and instrumentation in nuclear medicine, radiation protection, and applications of radionuclides (unstable atoms that spontaneously give off radiation). Interspersed in these courses are required practicums in clinical nuclear medicine, and courses that require the completion of projects in nuclear medicine.
Students in nuclear medicine technology programs complete a wide range of assignments associated with their classroom, laboratory, and clinical course work. Assignments from didactic courses require students to complete readings in science-heavy texts and to commit principles of radiography and human anatomy to memory, demonstrating their knowledge in midterms and final exams. In labs, students must demonstrate proficiency in necessary lab skills and how to properly use instrumentation in nuclear medicine. In clinical rotations, students become proficient in the proper handling, calibration, and administration of radiopharmaceuticals. Even students completing an online nuclear medicine program must report to a campus labs and clinical sites to cultivate these skills; generally, only a student’s didactic courses can be completed fully online.
Degree Levels for a Nuclear Medicine Technology Major
- Associate. Students who wish to become nuclear medicine technologists have traditionally completed online associate nuclear medicine technology degrees. These programs are thorough enough to equip students with the clinical and didactic knowledge needed to take up entry-level NMT positions. Students become well-versed in the physical sciences, the biological effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection, the use of radiopharmaceuticals, and associated imaging techniques.
- Bachelor’s. Online bachelors nuclear medicine technology degrees technology were developed due to the increasing complexity of the technology involved in nuclear medicine and the demand for higher levels of education among NMTs. Students in such programs learn the foundations of working as an NMT, but may also learn additional imaging modalities to expand their career potential, principles of health care administration and quality control, and special topics in nuclear medicine.
- Master’s. Master’s degree programs in nuclear medicine technology are not common, but the few that are available are designed to train advanced imaging practitioners in new and emerging procedures. In most cases, you can get your nuclear medicine degree online at the master’s level by taking required courses via distance learning with the exception of clinical courses. Students may enroll in such programs to learn specialized procedures, gain new skills in patient management, and prepare for emerging allied health roles.
A Future as a Nuclear Medicine Technology Major
The most fitting career for a graduate of a nuclear medicine technology program is that of a nuclear medicine technologist. Even though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for nuclear medicine technologists between 2008 and 2018, graduates can still expect keen competition for most open positions. This is because the number of graduates from NMT programs is projected to exceed the number of job openings in the field, the BLS points out. As a result, a newly certified nuclear medicine technologist may need to be more tenacious with job hunting and networking, and may even need to relocate to land a position.
The median yearly salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $66,660 as of May 2008, the BLS notes, which is significant considering many positions can be acquired with an associate degree. However, salaries vary based on your experience, location, the size of your employer, and your level of responsibility.