A nuclear medicine technologist is a health care worker who has completed specialized training and education in nuclear imaging. He or she is responsible for calculating appropriate dosages, administering radioactive materials to patients by the prescribed routes — orally, intravenously or by inhalation — positioning the patients in the required postures and operating the scanner, technically known as a gamma scintillation camera. This profession requires careful attention to detail, meticulous documentation and handling potentially hazardous materials. As a general rule, the salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is approximately what a registered nurse (RN) would earn in the same geographic area. A nuclear medicine technologist's salary also depends upon education, experience, specializations, geographic location and other factors.
One factor influencing the salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is his or her educational background for the position. Educational preparation varies widely due to the relative novelty of the profession — the skills that the earliest technologists learned on-the-job have gradually required greater amounts of education to attain. Thus, practicing nuclear medicine technologists may have earned a certificate from a hospital program, an associate's degree from a community college, or a bachelor's degree from a college or university. The one-year certification is basically reserved for health care workers already in possession of an associate's or bachelor's degree in another health-related area.
Experience is another factor that helps determine the salary of a nuclear medicine technologist, as it is with most professions. The length of one's career in this area, however, is slowly being offset by the growing number of nuclear medicine technologists with a bachelor's degree in the field. Some US states license nuclear medicine technologists and this credentialing appears to have a positive effect on wages. The salary of a nuclear medicine technologist also increases with the career's specialization. Special training or education in nascent nuclear cardiology or positron emission tomography (PET) scans increases both salaries and job opportunities.
The type of facility in which a nuclear medicine technologist practices also influences wages. Although hospitals employ the greatest numbers of nuclear medicine technologists by far, their wages are in the middle of the salary scale for this profession. Universities pay the highest wages followed by physicians' offices. Outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic laboratories pay the lowest wages on the scale.
The salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is also influenced by the geographic area in which he or she works. Jobs in urban areas pay more than those in rural areas. In the US, the state of California pays far more than the median national salary. Another westernmost state, Washington State, pays among the top five. The remaining top states for nuclear medicine salaries are located in the northeast US.