If you’re looking for a job that combines healthcare and computer technology that allows you to help people, nuclear medicine might be the right career path for you. Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) are highly specialized allied healthcare professionals with excellent pathways for career advancement and lucrative salary potential. Whether you’re considering studying to become an NMT or looking to expand your allied health career, this guide helps you learn how to elevate your nuclear medicine technologist salary by finding top-paying NMT jobs.
What Are Nuclear Medicine Technologists?
A nuclear medicine technologist uses molecular imaging to help doctors diagnose and treat disease. NMTs administer small amounts of radioactive compounds to patients and use special cameras to identify abnormalities at the cellular level. Their skills allow them to provide information about the structure and function of nearly every major organ system in the body, making them unique to other allied health professionals performing diagnostic imaging procedures. Nuclear medicine procedures are safe and cause little to no patient discomfort, offering a rewarding career as you help humankind.
Working as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
An NMT obtains images of organs, tissues and bones to help doctors diagnose illness and disease, develop care plans and monitor treatment effectiveness. Nuclear medicine provides insight into the body’s chemical and biological processes to provide information unavailable through traditional imaging such as X-rays.
The role of a nuclear medicine technologist includes:
- Obtaining a patient’s medical history
- Explaining imaging procedures and answering questions
- Preparing radiopharmaceuticals, administering compounds and monitoring patients during imaging procedures
- Minimizing radiation exposure to yourself, patients and other healthcare providers
- Using specialized scanners that detect gamma rays to capture images
- Processing and enhancing images using computers
- Delivering patient information and images to the radiologist for interpretation
- Ensuring radioactive materials are used and disposed of safely
- Administering radiopharmaceuticals as prescribed by doctors for treatment or during surgery
- Working with researchers to develop nuclear medicine applications
To become a nuclear medicine technologist, you must complete an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. You must also pass a certification exam that demonstrates your knowledge. Although certification isn’t typically required to obtain a state license, certification often fulfills most of the requirements for licensure. A growing number of states require NMTs to be licensed. Some employers require professional certification, even when state regulations don’t require it.
There are two primary NMT certification boards:
- The Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) requires candidates to complete an education program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology and pass an exam. Candidates earn the NMTCB Certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist (CNMT) credential.
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) requires graduates to complete an ARRT-approved program in nuclear medicine and pass a certification exam. Candidates earn the Nuclear Medicine Technology RT (R.T.(N)(ARRT)) credential.
In February 2021, the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) listed 31 states and 1 U.S. territory requiring NMTs to be licensed to practice. Some states accept national certification in place of a state examination. Check with your state’s health board for current requirements.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 18,900 nuclear medicine technologist jobs existed in the United States in May 2021. The distribution of NMT jobs was as follows:
- Hospitals: 68%
- Physician offices: 13%
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories: 6%
- Outpatient care centers: 3%
Based on May 2021 data, the BLS estimates a 2% job growth in this field from 2021 to 2031. NMTs are needed to help diagnose diseases such as cancer in an expanding older demographic. The BLS also expects some job creation as the development of new radiopharmaceuticals for treatment therapies occurs. Overall, it projects 1,000 job openings annually for NMTs during this decade as positions become available due to retirement and professionals switching occupations.
Demand for NMTs is particularly high in Florida, California and Texas, which are home to the largest populations of senior citizens in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. California has 5.4 million residents over age 65, followed by Florida with 4.2 million seniors and Texas with 3.5 million seniors. The states with the most NMT jobs in May 2021, based on BLS data, were:
- Florida: 1,610
- California: 1,420
- Texas: 1,040
- Ohio: 920
- New York: 880
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Salary Overview
The average nuclear medicine technologist salary was $30.34 per hour nationwide in early January 2023, according to Vivian’s salary data. However, some permanent positions paid as high as $100 per hour, based on location, the NMT’s experience and the facility’s needs.
Travel NMTs typically earn more than double the permanent staff rate. The average NMT travel salary was $2,647 per week, or $66.18 per hour based on a standard 40-hour workweek, during this same period.
Highest-Paying Locations for Staff Nuclear Medicine Technologist Jobs
Below, we explore where to find some of the highest-paying staff nuclear medicine technologist jobs. The following table provides a sampling of NMT salaries across the United States, including the eight highest-paying states. Information comes from Vivian’s salary data on January 6, 2023.
|State||Average Perm Hourly Rate||Max Perm Hourly Rate|
|District of Columbia||$37||$100|
States that pay an above-average nuclear medicine technologist salary, such as California, Alaska and New York, are also among the most expensive in the nation based on the cost of living. In more affordable states such as Texas and Florida, which employ large numbers of NMTs, you can still earn higher-than-average wages in some positions.
For example, the highest average NMT salary in Texas was in Odessa in early January 2023 at $36 per hour but ranged as high as $100 per hour. Average NMT salaries in Florida during this period showed Crystal River and Inverness had the highest rates at $32 per hour and reached as high as $96 per hour.
If you’re interested in working in a specific state, it’s worth comparing jobs in different cities to learn which one has the higher pay. NMT salaries in Oklahoma, one of the most affordable states in the nation based on the cost of living, reach as high as $74 per hour in Oklahoma City, Purcell, Guthrie and Edmond.
Earn More as a Travel Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Of the nuclear medicine technologist jobs posted on the Vivian marketplace in early January 2023, more than 80% were travel positions. Healthcare facilities rely on travel allied health professionals to help manage staffing shortfalls, offering attractive compensation to those willing to work on temporary contracts.
The table below gives you an idea of average salaries for travel nuclear medicine technology jobs in different states, according to Vivian’s data on January 6, 2023.
|State||Average Weekly Travel Salary||Max Weekly Travel Salary|
Most travel healthcare recruiting agencies provide tax-free housing stipends to travelers who qualify, which can make it more cost-effective to work in a state with a high cost of living. Recruiters may also offer health insurance, life insurance and retirement plans, so you can enjoy benefits often associated with full-time employment at a single healthcare facility even though you’re working for multiple facilities.
A travel career can be especially appealing for those seeking flexibility in their work arrangements. You can choose where in the country you want to work, spending a few months in regions you’ve always wanted to visit while earning a paycheck and adding valuable experience to your resume. You can also choose when you want to work, taking time off between contracts to recharge before the next engagement.
Some states require NMTs to be licensed, so check with the state health board where you want to practice. If you have a license from another state, you may be able to apply for licensure by endorsement to speed up the licensing process.
Opening New Doors With a Specialty Certification
One of the best ways to access higher pay as a nuclear medicine technologist is to continue developing your clinical knowledge and expertise. Doing so can qualify you to take on more responsibilities, often leading to better-paying jobs.
The NMTCB and ARRT offer certification exams to demonstrate additional competencies in nuclear medicine. You may be eligible to take these exams if you have a CNMT or an R.T.(N)(ARRT) credential and the required education, clinical hours and experience:
- Computed Tomography (CT): The CT (NMTCB) certification or R.T.(CT)(ARRT) is a post-primary certification demonstrating you have the knowledge to work as a computed tomography technologist.
- Radiation Safety (RS): The RS (NMTCB) is a post-primary certification verifying your expertise in safety issues related to RAM and CT radiation, fluoroscopy, X-ray and MRI.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET): The PET (NMTCB) specialty credential demonstrates your competencies in using instrumentation, radiopharmaceuticals and adjunct medications related to positron emission tomography.
- Nuclear Cardiology Technician (NCT): The NCT (NMTCB) specialty credential shows you have the expertise to use instrumentation, radiopharmaceuticals and adjunct medications to diagnose cardiovascular disease.
- Nuclear Medicine Advanced Associate (NMAA): An NMAA is a supervised physician extender who provides additional levels of patient care in diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy. To qualify for this exam, you must complete an advanced NMAA academic program and a clinical preceptorship to transition to practice.
Additional Tips for Building Your Nuclear Medicine Technology Career
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but here are a few final tips to help you find a top-paying NMT job:
- Know the market value for your skills. Use Vivian’s Salary Tool to research pay ranges for NMTs in the market where you want to work. Information comes from actual job postings to help you determine if a facility is paying a competitive wage compared to other employers. You can use this information as a starting point for negotiating salary. Look for NMT salary information under the allied health category in the tool.
- Join a professional association. Stay on top of developments in the field and network with colleagues. For example, the SNMMI has regional chapters and a career assistance center for members. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists has a chapter for nuclear medicine where members can connect and ask questions.
- Research potential employers to find a good fit. Create a Vivian Universal Profile and view job listings for permanent and travel NMT jobs in all parts of the country. Read reviews of healthcare facilities and look for employers with professional development programs to support your long-term career growth.
The field of nuclear medicine offers many pathways for a rewarding career. Use the information above to plan your next steps, whether you’re looking for your first nuclear medicine technologist job or ready to take your career to the next level.