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What’s the Difference Between Radiologic & Nuclear Medicine Technologists?

Compare two popular medical imaging roles and learn which is for you.

tech helping patient with mri
Home » Blog » Radiologic vs. Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Written and reported by:
All Allied Health Schools Staff

Contributing writer

Since the 1990s, a steady rise in the use of diagnostic medical imaging has kept radiologic technologists in high demand. It’s a field that includes numerous sub-specialties, including nuclear medicine technology.

The Key Differences

Here’s a quick breakdown of what the radiologic technologist profession is all about and where it overlaps and differs from nuclear medicine technology:

Job Duties

Radiologic Technologist

  • Give patients diagnostic imaging exams such as X-rays
  • Prepare patients for procedures
  • Run computerized equipment to take images
  • Work with radiologists to determine if other images need to be taken
  • Explain imaging procedures to patients
  • Answer questions

Nuclear Technologist

  • Prepare and administer radioactive drugs that make abnormal areas of the body appear different than normal areas
  • Use special cameras to detect gamma rays emitted by the radioactive drugs in a patient’s body
  • Explain imaging procedures to patients and answer questions

Education

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists typically get their start with an associate’s degree; other options include certificate and bachelor’s degree programs.

Nuclear Technologist

Same as for radiologic technologist.

Certification/Licensing

Radiologic Technologist

Must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary but often include graduating from an accredited program and passing a certification exam.

Nuclear Technologist

Same as for radiologic technologist.

Job Growth Through 2029

Radiologic Technologist

7%

Nuclear Technologist

5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2020

Next Step?

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists can get specialty certifications in areas such as radiography (X-ray), computed tomography, magnetic resonance, mammography, and bone densitometry.

Nuclear Technologist

Specialty certifications are available in positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology (NCT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT).

A couple things to keep in mind about career advancement:

  • Specializing is an option early on in your career or after you zero in on which technology interests you most or is in greatest demand.
  • Radiologic technologists often carry multiple sub-specialty certifications. Those who do have the best job prospects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And some notes about the job market: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 7% job growth for radiologic technologists and MRI techs through 2029, as an older population will need more imaging to treat medical conditions like bone fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Workplace surveys by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, however, have shown a tightening of the job market for the past several years. Factors have included the uncertainties about health care reform and declining exam reimbursement rates from insurance companies.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Radiologic Sciences Workplace Survey; American Society of Radiologic Technologists.