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Programs Applying to Medical Physics School

  1. Jul 8, 2016 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I am posting here in this forum in order to get some insight on what my chances are on getting into a Medical Physics program. Here is a small summary of my academic background, I graduate from Arizona State University with a 3.4 GPA and have two Bachelors of Science one in Physics and one in Computational Mathematics. Most of my course work consists of upper division physics and mathematics class such as:

    Electromagnetism I, II, and III, Nuclear Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory, Advance Laboratory I and II, Complex Analysis, Computational Methods, Scientific Computing, Data Structures and Algorithms, P.D.E.s, Chaos Theory, Probability Theory, Stochastic Process, and so on.

    I am also taking a taking a year off to focus on research at Mayo through the Neuro-Oncology department. I am also able to shadow some of medical physicist here at the Mayo Phoenix Campus.

    Any feed back regarding my background and insight would be very helpful.

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2016 #2
    Is your question: How likely am I to get in? How likely am I do get a fellowship or assistantship? Should I do an MS or PhD? What other schools should I consider? Or something else?

    Depending on your GRE scores and letters of recommendation, you have a good chance of admission to some of the lower tier programs. Getting into the higher tier programs will depend more on the GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and PhD/MS desires. I doubt you'll be going to Harvard.
  4. Jul 8, 2016 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Without your GRE scores, it's hard to say for sure. However, if your GRE score is reasonable, I think you would be very competitive for admission to a CAMPEP-accredited program.
  5. Jul 8, 2016 #4


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    Successful applicants at the medical physics programs that I have experience with typically have GPAs of 3.5 or higher from physics programs. We typically weight more heavily on the more recent years. By GPA you would fall on the tail end of successful applicants, but you wouldn't be out of the running. Research experience will definitely help.

    There aren't really "tiers" when it comes to medical physics graduate programs - at least, not that I'm aware of. There are CAMPEP-accredited programs and non-accredited programs, and in terms of obtaining board certification, it's important to get into an accredited one. Otherwise it's more important to look at the details of the particular program to see if it's the one that's going to be the best fit for you.
  6. Jul 8, 2016 #5
    I'll be taking the GRE exam this summer. My main concern is if the school is a CAMPEP-accredited program. I still debating between the M.S. program or the PhD. At this point right now I am lean towards a M.S. program. Getting into a top Tier school is not that much of a concern to me.
  7. Jul 8, 2016 #6
    I dunno. I would not expect nearly the same lifetime earnings potential (or potential to become tenured faculty) from programs at LSU or Cleveland State that I would from Ga Tech or Duke.

    And being married to a graduate of the Harvard MEMP program (not even accredited by CAMPEP) and having seen the careers of her and her colleagues in the past 20 years, I can't really see CAMPEP accreditation as the dividing line between good and not-so-good.

    See: http://hst.mit.edu/academics/memp

    There are definitely schools out there using accreditation as a substitute for quality.
  8. Jul 9, 2016 #7


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    Do you have any evidence that the lifetime earning potential in medical physics is significantly different between these programs or is that just speculation? I'm a senior medical physicist and I have a fair amount of experience on hiring committees in the field. It's rare that much weight is given to the specific program that a candidate graduated from. And if someone were to attempt to negotiate a higher pay based on having gone to a specific school, they would not be successful (and this could very well make a hiring committee consider a different candidate).

    In medical physics one's academic pedigree is only a part of the package. In a primarily clinical arena it doesn't tend to carry near as much weight as it may in more academic circles. That's because by the time you're competing for a medical physics position, you will have completed a residency and so your clinical experience is more directly relevant. Hiring committees will want to know what equipment you've commissioned, what problems you've encountered and how you solved them, what new procedures you've developed, etc. And then on the academic side, the work you've done and published will carry far more weight than where you did it.

    The field was a lot different 20 years ago. Up until the early 2000s it was reasonably common for people to be hired into residencies or junior physics positions with minimal direct medical physics training. Certification wasn't a necessity. Coming through an accredited program wasn't a necessity.

    Today it's still possible to get hired without certification, in some places. And it's not a show-stopper if you haven't come through an accredited program, but it's a buyers market and those without certification tend to go to the bottom of the list. From an employer's point of view, certification demonstrates diligence in vetting an employee. The accreditation process guarantees that you're candidate's program has covered the material that the professionals in the field feel is necessary to cover.

    I won't argue against this. But I would say that obtaining accreditation is not that difficult. So today if a program doesn't have it today, it can bring up questions of why not.
  9. Jul 9, 2016 #8
    I don't really doubt the advantage of the accredited programs for clinical work.

    But I am wondering what percentage of graduates in Medical Physics spend most of their careers in clinical work compared with other career paths.

    My experience (and that of my wife) is that the reputation of the school on the terminal degree has a big impact in hiring and pay decisions not just in academic circles, but in consulting work and R&D type work.

    In a "buyer's market" it may be wiser to consider an educational path that will serve one well throughout one's career and position oneself well for clinical, academic, consulting, or R&D work. Even someone whose main interest is clinical work when they pick a graduate school may have different interests later or may benefit from other options as the market changes or one needs to work with different constraints (geographical, etc.) Being a couple with two PhDs, committed to living together (a geographical constraint), my wife and I have seldom both gotten our first choice of which sector we worked in.
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