How to Get Nuclear Medicine Physician Jobs

Nuclear medicine physician jobs are part of highly specialized area of medicine. This article will take a look at what a nuclear medicine physician does and how you can become a part of this challenging health care field.

Definition and Duties

A nuclear medicine physician uses radioactive drugs called radiopharmaceuticals to diagnosis and treat patients. The radiopharmaceuticals are either swallowed or injected, and the nuclear medicine physician uses specialized equipment to observe the effects the drugs have on the patient's body. A course of treatment, often using other radiopharmaceuticals, is then prescribed. The nuclear medicine physician will often consult with the patient's primary care physician regarding the treatment.

Education and Training

The education and training for a nuclear medicine physician is quite extensive and time-consuming. You will first need to do well at a regular 4-year college before you attend medical school. Courses in physics, biology, chemistry and math are considered good preparation for a nuclear medicine physician. A good score on the MCAT will be necessary for you to get into medical school.

Graduation from medical school and 4 years of residency with a background in nuclear medicine will lead to a doctorate in the specialty of nuclear medicine. The residency would include 3 years of intensive training in nuclear medicine and 1 year of direct patient care under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine physician.

Certification and Licensing

After completion of your residency requirements, you will need to take an exam before you become a certified nuclear medicine physician. The exam is administered by the American Board of Nuclear Medicine, which is the main body overseeing the practice of nuclear medicine in the United States. After passing the exam, you will be fully certified as a practicing nuclear medicine physician. Since the technology in this field is always changing, the test is updated and given every 10 years. You will need to pass each test to maintain your certification.

The state where you practice will also require that you be licensed to work there. The licensing requirements for each state vary, so check the website of that particular state for details. Licensing is usually no difficulty if you've passed all your certification exams.

Getting the Job

Nuclear medicine is often considered a more specialized version of diagnostic radiology. Openings strictly for nuclear medicine physicians are scarce, so it is a good idea to have skills in diagnostic radiology as well. That discipline involves the use of external nuclear equipment to diagnose and treat patients, while nuclear medicine deals with internal radiation. Being certified in both branches of medicine would definitely increase your chances of employment.

The American Board of Nuclear Medicine is a good source of leads for nuclear medicine jobs. Also, the medical school and in some cases even the 4-year college you graduated from can help you find openings. Keeping a strong network of contacts throughout your career is a must for finding employment opportunities.

The path to a career in nuclear medicine can be long and expensive, but the salary is also high. The average salary for a nuclear medicine physician ranges from $250,000 to $295,000 a year. And you may also find great satisfaction in using your knowledge to help others.