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Employment in Medical Physics?

  1. Jul 2, 2015 #1
    I was not sure whether to put this here or not.

    I am a BS physics student, originally I planed to pursue Ph.D but due to financial problems first I need to get a job and then maybe a Ph.D?

    However, I was wondering how is medical physics for getting a job? and I have some questions

    1) How competitive is it to get a well paying job?

    2) As want to live in scandinavia (Norway to be precise), are there jobs for medical physicists there?

    3) How can I get into R&D of machines used for medical treatents?

    Edit: Also can I later do Ph.D in a field related to Physics and Astronomy after getting a master's in medical physics?
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2015 #2
    In the US you will need a minimum of an MS in Medical Physics to get a job as a medical physicist but you may be able to get job as a medical physics assistant or as a dosimetrist with additional training. Regarding R&D of treatment machines probably it would be best to contact manufacturers of treatment machines like Varian, Eleckta, or Mitsubishi among others. Pay in medical physics ranges from good to excellent depending on experience. @Choppy may have more to add.
  4. Jul 2, 2015 #3


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    1. Medical physics as a field is fairly competitive - less so than academia, but it's still competitive. In North America right now the bottleneck is the residency - the two years of clinical training that's needed after one does an MSc or PhD in order to qualify for board exams. And even certification is not necessarily a meal ticket. One big factor to consider is that Medical Physics is a small profession. What that means is that even when there are job openings, they may not necessarily be in the location you want, or with the groups that you want to work with.

    2. You might want to try the Norwegian Medical Physics Association if you haven't already.

    3. Well medical physics is one route for sure. The majority of medical physicists tend to hold clinical positions, and so it's less common for us to be involved directly with machine development, but it does happen. Another avenue to investigate is biomedical engineering. On top of that, I know of some physicists who realized that their work could be applied to medicine and so another direction is simply to look at the projects available to you when you're considering graduate school. Gleem had a great suggestion of contacting a few of the big name companies to see what they look for in members of their R&D departments. In my experience they usually look for people who are already working on their own ideas and then swoop in once an idea starts to show promise.

    4. I would be a little careful about this as a lot can depend on the specific programs. In general, if your undergraduate degree qualifies you for a PhD in another branch of physics, taking a detour to do a medical physics MSc won't prevent you from being admitted to a PhD in another discipline. On the other hand, some programs will allow students into medical physics MSc programs that don't qualify for other physics specialties. And if this is the case, you could have a hard time trying to convince a department that an MSc qualifies you for entry.
  5. Jul 5, 2015 #4
    Regarding (4), you should be aware that the coursework component of a medical physics M.S. program and a traditional physics Ph.D. program will have essentially zero overlap. You may find admission to a traditional Ph.D. program but don't expect your M.S. in medical physics to help expedite completion of that degree at all.
  6. Jul 8, 2015 #5
    Although I'm not in MedPhys graduate school yet, I've done and have been doing some research on the job market in Medical Physics with the help of some on this forum before I make a career decision. Nevertheless, It won't be easy to get a residency in medical physics with only an M.S. degree (speaking for the U.S.), and from what I understand, a PhD is essentially necessary. The smart thing to do here is to get your desired PhD in Astrophysics, and then complete a medical physics certificate program. From the CAMPEP website, this is defined as:

    "A certificate program is a program of didactic coursework offered by a CAMPEP-accredited graduate or residency program, intended to enable individuals with a doctoral degree in physics or a related discipline to meet the didactic requirements needed to enter a CAMPEP-accredited residency program."

    So, if you end up doing this, you will be competitive for residencies, and some can be completed within one year from my knowledge. Since you are in Norway, it may be pleasing for you to know that some programs within the U.S. can be completed online (but I'm not sure if U.S. credentials are accepted in Norway), albeit in perhaps conflicting times.

    Additionally, being from the U.S., all the information that I presented is based on this knowledge, I'm really not sure how the system works in Norway including licensure, etc., so that would be up to you to research.
  7. Jul 8, 2015 #6
    According to the May/June 2015 AAPM Newsletter the residency match statistics do not show significant favoritism toward certificate or Ph.D. holders compared to M.S. holders. The match rate is in the ballpark of 55 - 60% for both M.S.and Ph.D. applicants, and a little above 60% for certificate-holding applicants. Also worth noting is that there were only about 25% and 30% as many certificate-holding applicants as there were M.S. applicants and Ph.D. applicants, respectively.

    While doing a Ph.D. in astrophysics followed by a certificate program and then clinical residency is one way of entering the field, I'm not sure I would consider it any "smarter" than the direct route. You spend several years on developing knowledge and skill sets in a research area that you intend to abandon once you begin the certificate program, and you lengthen your timeline to certification by at least one year. You're essentially replacing years and years of medical physics education opportunities with 5 - 6 certificate courses. If you know you want to do medical physics, then enter a medical physics graduate program and spend those training years becoming educated in the field that you intend to practice in.
  8. Jul 8, 2015 #7
    Hmmm…Interesting. Thanks for updating me on the current market situation. I was of the impression that it would be significantly easier for PhD holders to match just because they can help out on faculty research, etc., and also just because the market has become so over saturated, that the PhD would give the leg up in competition with solely M.S. students when trying to get a residency position. The information you provided was quite interesting nevertheless. Thanks for your input.
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