Nuclear medicine techs love job but see changes coming

November 21, 2006

Nuclear medicine technologists enjoy their jobs and find their salaries near the top of the scale for professions with similar educational requirements. They are concerned, however, about changes being wrought by new imaging technology and practice patterns, according to a survey sponsored by the Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologists Section.

Nuclear medicine technologists enjoy their jobs and find their salaries near the top of the scale for professions with similar educational requirements. They are concerned, however, about changes being wrought by new imaging technology and practice patterns, according to a survey sponsored by the Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologists Section.

Surveys were sent to 4000 nuclear medicine technologists, and 2200 of them responded to questions about all aspects of the profession. The findings note that six out of 10 technologists expect to remain in their current position for the next five years. Slightly more than half of respondents are very satisfied with their jobs, with nearly 19 out of 20 very or somewhat satisfied.

But almost 25% of the responding technologists reported changes that were affecting their work. The most oft-cited shift was the introduction of new imaging equipment that had an impact on their responsibilities. This was followed by workflow changes that brought in different types of personnel and an increase in working with physicians other than nuclear medicine specialists.

A majority of respondents indicated that further training in medical imaging techniques such as CT, PET/CT, SPECT/CT, and MRI would be necessary to stay competitive. The survey revealed that techs who spent more than 75% of their time in PET had the highest mean annual base salary ($68,870), followed by PET/CT ($68,120). Those who spent more than 75% of time in SPECT/CT earned less ($53,450). Average base salary in general nuclear medicine was $59,350.

While more techs may gravitate toward fusion imaging in the future, three-quarters of them currently work in general nuclear medicine practice. Only 5% spend all their time working in other modalities such as PET. Of that small number, only 5% spend all their time in PET/CT and 2% in SPECT/CT.

The average total salary including wages from call is $70,470, with a wide range between the top ($93,000) and bottom ($42,000). Average total salaries are highest in the West ($82,890) and mid-Atlantic region ($71,260), followed by the Midwest ($63,210) and the mountain states ($60,690).

The average age of techs is 43 years. Nearly 65% are female, yet male techs outearn their female counterparts by $10,000. Almost one-third of techs reported that they were 50 and older.

"This has important implications for future retirement patterns, which will place additional pressure on education programs to prepare replacement workers compared to many health professions," the study said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Nuclear medicine enters the 'supertech' realm

Command of a tight ship stays out of reach

It takes a team to keep tight ship on course

Physician extenders bolster productivity of practices

Technologists face strengthened error accountability rule