Schools taking advantage of students

I don’t want you to work in my career field. And you don’t either.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. If you’re actually interested in nuclear medicine for its own sake, go ahead. But if you’re thinking about getting in my career field for big paychecks and easy jobs, think again.

I’m a nuclear medicine technologist. When I finished training in 1999, it was a growth industry. There weren’t enough trained technologists to fill the available jobs. When I left the military and took a full-time civilian job in 2002, I got a signing bonus and travel expenses. Because the demand for technologists was higher than the supply, I got a pretty good wage, too.

Things have changed since 1999. Now, newly trained technologists are having problems finding any nuclear medicine jobs. Several graduates that did the practical portion of their training at my hospital are still looking for work, or took an “as-needed” position [1], or even had to move to different states to find employment. That’s not because of the recession; it’s because of the schools.

There are six nuclear medicine programs in Ohio. That’s a lot – considering that just one of them, Findlay , graduates about 80 students a year. There are simply too many students who look at outdated job forecasts like this one. Yes, at the top it says that the profession will grow. You have to scroll down several screens to find out that nuclear medicine is a small field. For us adding only a few actual jobs creates a large percentage growth. [2] In fact, according to the state of Ohio [PDF link], there were 1,040 jobs for nuclear medicine technologists in 2008. The forecast for 2010 is only 1,060 total jobs, with about 22 job openings annually. Across the entire state. Findlay – just one of six programs – graduates almost four times as many technologists than Ohio needs.

A regional nuclear medicine society has started a petition to reduce the number of graduating nuclear medicine students. That’s nice – but I don’t think it will change anything. The employers like having more workers than jobs – they can keep wages artificially low. And those six programs are doing just fine. By the time the students learn the real state of the regional job market, they’re so far along that it’s not worth changing programs. The schools already have their money – and the students are left with few job prospects and a whole lot of debt.

That’s why I’m posting this. I’m talking about the current job market in nuclear medicine; it’s employment forecast, and the outlook for technologists in the field of nuclear medicine [3]. There are too many graduates for too few jobs. It’s not only bad for those already in the field, but means that hundreds (if not thousands) of students are being misled into spending years of their lives and thousands of dollars for a field that doesn’t need them. Those programs are profiting because they’re not telling their students the truth.

So here’s what you can do to fix that:

If you’re a career counselor, pass this along to your students. If you’re a parent, send this to your kid’s career counselors at school. If you’re a technologist (or other interested party), link to this page so more potential students can see it. Go ahead and sign OVSNM’s petition. Below, there’s a ready-made letter to the editor for you to cut-and-paste and send.

Spread the word.

[1] Rather like being a substitute teacher.
[2] If there’s 10 jobs, adding only one job means 10% growth. But it’s still only one job.
[3] And yes, those are keywords there, folks.

Dear Editor:

A degree never guarantees a job after graduation. But at the same time, schools have a responsibility to their students.

Across Ohio, the field of nuclear medicine has only grown by twenty jobs since 2008. Even when you include employee turnover, there has only been 22 nuclear medicine job openings each year in the entire state.

According to the Ohio Valley Society of Nuclear Medicine, there are currently six nuclear medicine programs in the state of Ohio. Just one of these – the University of Findlay – has been graduating thirty to forty students each semester. Because of all six programs, there are far more technologists than our region needs. This leaves students – both young people and older students retraining into a new profession – with large debts and few opportunities for employment. The online literature for these programs contains no mention of the real job prospects for graduates.

Since the programs will not voluntarily inform their students, I ask that you share this letter so that these schools can no longer exploit their student’s ignorance.

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