An individual who wishes to become a nuclear medical technologist should begin by determining the licensing requirements for his or her region or state. In some states, a two-year degree in nuclear medicine is sufficient, but other states require a four-year degree. Someone who already has a degree in a relevant field, such as a sonographer or nurse, is often able to become a nuclear medical technologist by successfully completing a certificate program that is normally a year long course. In a few US states, this program is sufficient to allow graduates to begin working in the field.
Those who choose to pursue a four-year degree at a university and become a nuclear medical technologist will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology. Precise requirements vary by institution, but the degree typically requires 120 to 125 credit hours to complete. Degree plans include general education courses such as English composition and algebra; biology, anatomy and chemistry are typically required as well. After completing the first two years, students begin to concentrate primarily on nuclear medicine, the healthcare system and pharmacology.
Course requirements for a two-year degree are similar to those for a four-year degree. Fewer general education courses are required, and students do not receive as many classes in nuclear medicine. Graduates receive an Associate degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology. Most programs require approximately 75 credit hours to complete, and most of the two-year degrees awarded are earned at community colleges although some are earned at four-year universities.
The 12-month course does not generate a degree; instead, graduates receive a certificate in Nuclear Medicine Technology. Typical programs require 75 to 80 credit hours to complete. Most institutions omit general education courses and require only those classes specific to the field. Certificate programs are sometimes offered by hospitals, but health care schools, community colleges and traditional universities offer the program in some states.
After completing the educational requirements, it is necessary in most states for anyone wishing to become a nuclear medical technologist to pass a licensing exam. These exams are given independently by the states, and the technologist usually needs to obtain a license in his or her new work location upon moving. Unlike licensing, certification is not mandatory, although many employers prefer to hire only certified technologists. In the US, certification exams are available from both the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board.
A student who wishes to become a nuclear medical technologist should be careful not to confuse a technologist with a technician. Although the jobs overlap somewhat, they are not the same. Technologists typically have achieved a higher level of education in the field than a technician has. The level of responsibility is normally higher for the technologist as well.