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Positron Emission Tomography

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Field description

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a critical imaging component used for diagnosis, as well as monitoring therapy effectiveness for oncology, neurology and cardiology patients. PET uses radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals, which are synthesized by combining common elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, with radioactive isotopes to image the physiologic function of cells (normal and abnormal) within the body.

The images allow medical professionals to study the structure and measure the function of the organ, as well as identify tumors, areas of infection or other disorders. PET professionals require a comprehensive skill set and must be able to:

  • Understand human anatomy and physiology at the advanced level
  • Understand and utilize the theories of nuclear physics on a daily basis
  • Understand how to properly optimize diagnostic instrumentation
  • Recognize differences in the preparation and administration of radiopharmaceuticals
  • Ensure appropriate patient preparation and patient care for each study
  • Position patients for imaging
  • Possess the training to acquire and analyze diagnostic images for quality and accuracy

Nuclear medicine technologists play an integral role in the health care team, working with patients, physicists, nuclear pharmacists, computer specialists, nurses, secretaries and other health care professionals.

Career opportunities

The field of nuclear medicine technology has grown significantly over the past few years due to substantial demand for positron emission tomography. Career opportunities for nuclear medicine technologists are good, but the need for PET specialty-certified technologists is high.

With the growth of the middle-aged and older adult populations, demand will increase for diagnostic procedures, including PET imaging. In addition, advances in medical technology will likely increase the diagnostic use of PET.

Nuclear medicine technologists and PET technologists are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics, mobile units and research centers across the United States and abroad. After further study in nuclear medicine, you may advance to positions, such as chief technologist, research technologist or educator. In addition, PET technologists have been employed as sales and marketing representatives of radiopharmaceuticals and equipment.

The Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology actively recruits nuclear medicine technologists as needed to serve patient needs. Search Mayo Clinic jobs.

Earnings potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certified nuclear medicine technologists (C.N.M.T.s) have a starting salary of approximately $50,560 and a median salary of $70,180 a year. The upper range maximums for C.N.M.T.s are between $82,690 and $93,320 a year.

Professional organizations

  • April 11, 2014
  • ART446980