What’s the Difference Between Radiologic & Nuclear Medicine Technologists?
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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.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what the radiologic technologist profession is all about and where it overlaps and differs from nuclear medicine technology:
|Radiologic Technologist||Nuclear Medicine 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 and answer questions.||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.|
|Radiologic technologists typically get their start with an associate’s degree; other options include certificate and bachelor’s degree programs.||Same as for radiologic technologist.|
|Licensing / certification|
|Must be licensed or certified in most states; requirements vary but often include graduating from an accredited program and passing a certification exam.||Same as for radiologic technologist.|
|Median annual salary: $58,960||Median annual salary: $74,350|
|12 percent increase expected through 2026||10 percent increase expected through 2026|
|Radiologic technologists can get specialty certifications in areas such as radiography (x-ray), computed tomography, magnetic resonance, mammography and bone densitometry.||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 significant continued job growth for radiologic technologists and many of their sub-specialties through 2026, as a graying 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 economic downturn, uncertainties about health care reform, and declining exam reimbursement rates from insurance companies.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Radiologic Technologist; Nuclear Medicine Technologist; Radiologic Sciences Workplace Survey 2011; American Society of Radiologic Technologists.
The salary information and job growth data listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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