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 TechnologistNuclear Medicine Technologist
Job duties
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: $58,960Median annual salary: $74,350
Job growth
12 percent increase expected through 202610 percent increase expected through 2026
Next step?
Radiologic technologists can get specialty certifications in areas such as radiography (x-ray)computed tomographymagnetic resonancemammography 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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