Nuclear Medicine Physicians


Employment Prospects


Approximately 390,680 physicians and surgeons (all others not listed separately by the Department of Labor) are employed in the United States. Nuclear medicine physicians work in hospitals, clinics, health care centers, and research laboratories. Some are self-employed in their own or group practices. Jobs for nuclear medicine physicians are available around the world, although licensing requirements may vary. There is great demand for medical professionals of all types in developing countries. Conditions, supplies, and equipment may be poor and pay is minimal, but there are great rewards in terms of experience. Many doctors fulfill part or all of their residency requirements by practicing in other countries.

Physicians interested in teaching may find employment at medical schools or university hospitals. Government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration, also employ nuclear medicine physicians. Pharmaceutical companies and chemical companies hire physicians to research and develop new drugs, instruments, and procedures.

Starting Out

All nuclear medicine physicians have an M.D. or D.O. degree, have passed a licensing examination, completed a one- or two-year internship, and a period of residency that may extend as long as five years (and seven or eight years if they are pursuing board certification in a specialty). This may take up to 15 years. Nuclear medicine physicians are then ready to enter practice. Many take a salaried job with a hospital or managed-care facility. Others may enter a group practice or a partnership practice. Salaried positions are also available with federal and state agencies, the military, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, and private companies. Teaching and research jobs are usually obtained after other experience is acquired.

Advancement Prospects

Nuclear medicine physicians who work in a hospital managed-care setting or for a large group or corporation and who have years of experience may start their own private practice. Progress in this career comes from advancing in knowledge and skill, as well as by increasing the number of patients, which leads to an increase in income. Nuclear medicine physicians may be made a fellow in a professional specialty or elected to an important office in the American Medical Association or American Osteopathic Association. They also elevate their status through research and teaching positions. 

Some nuclear medicine physicians may become directors of a laboratory, managed-care facility, hospital department, or medical school program. Some may move into hospital administration positions. Nuclear medicine physicians also achieve recognition by conducting research in new medicines, treatments, and cures, and publishing their findings in medical journals. Participation in professional organizations can also bring prestige. Another way physicians advance is by pursuing further education in a subspecialty or a second field.

Tips for Entry

Keep up with news in the nuclear medicine and molecular imaging field by reading articles on the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging's Web site,

Get a part-time job or volunteer in a health clinic to see whether working in health care is a good fit for you. Ask your school's career services office for help with finding job and volunteer openings.

Learn more about the different types of medical schools by visiting the Association of American Medical Colleges' Web site at

Find out what is required for the Medical College Admission Test, which students must take to get into medical school. Learn more about the test by going to