Exploring Benefits of Biomedical Engineering PhD vs. Medical Physics PhD

In summary, the conversation discusses a person's interest in pursuing a PhD in medical physics and weighing the options of a position in a good lab with a good supervisor, but in a different field than their previous training. The person is also considering the job market for PET and nuclear medicine and their plans to work in the public healthcare system. They also mention that their current program is CAMPEP accredited, but they are not interested in pursuing a clinical physics residency. Overall, the conversation concludes that the PhD project seems like a good fit for their interests and goals.
  • #1
snatchingthepi
148
38
Hey all

I'm finishing up my master's degree in medical physics this year, specifically working in PET-MR data analysis. I have a definite professional interest in medical imaging, and am planning on pursuing this. I have an interesting choice where I've been offered a position as a PhD student in a good lab with a good staff with good publications, and even more important the supervisor seems good too. The work is closely related to what I've already trained in, but is more slanted towards stand-alone PET rather than simultaneous PET-MR, and it is clinical translational research rather than the basic preclinical science I've been involved with.

I'm interested in the work, and I don't see any red flags, except one. This supervisor would not be able to supervise me as a (medical) physics PhD student, rather as a biomedical engineering student. Apart from the fact that this would end any real hope of completing CAMPEP certificate requirements, I don't really see a downside to this, but am asking for opinions and perspectives more informed than mine.

Is there any I should be considering other than what I've listed? Is there a definitely upside or downside to having a doctorate in one or the other?
 
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  • #2
Is your medical physics MSc degree program CAMPEP-accredited? Because if so, I'm not sure you really need to also do a PhD in an accredited medical physics program. I'm not sure exactly what the ABR rules are (assuming you're American) these days, but I think they were just looking for you to have graduated with a degree from an accredited program. I don't think there are time limitations either - although there is probably something to be say for knowledge retention over time.

I can't speak to the PET job market these days. I know it's not as big as the Radiation Oncology Physics market, but it also doesn't have as many students in the pipeline. The last time I spoke to anyone about it directly, (and this was several years ago), I got the impression that it was more closely related to the academic job market where you had to do multiple post-docs and then maybe compete for a rare academic/research position and your odds of making it are low, than to the clinical market, where you have to compete for a residency after the PhD, but generally speaking the odds of turning it into a career are much better (above 9 in 10). What I recommend is that you start digging and figure out what the PET or nuclear medicine market really looks like now and for the foreseeable future.
 
  • #3
A lot of engineering departments would require that you take many general engineering classes before you proceed to graduate work. If your school would be like that, you will spend a lot of time on subjects that you might not be interested in.
 
  • #4
Choppy said:
Is your medical physics MSc degree program CAMPEP-accredited? Because if so, I'm not sure you really need to also do a PhD in an accredited medical physics program. I'm not sure exactly what the ABR rules are (assuming you're American) these days, but I think they were just looking for you to have graduated with a degree from an accredited program. I don't think there are time limitations either - although there is probably something to be say for knowledge retention over time.

I can't speak to the PET job market these days. I know it's not as big as the Radiation Oncology Physics market, but it also doesn't have as many students in the pipeline. The last time I spoke to anyone about it directly, (and this was several years ago), I got the impression that it was more closely related to the academic job market where you had to do multiple post-docs and then maybe compete for a rare academic/research position and your odds of making it are low, than to the clinical market, where you have to compete for a residency after the PhD, but generally speaking the odds of turning it into a career are much better (above 9 in 10). What I recommend is that you start digging and figure out what the PET or nuclear medicine market really looks like now and for the foreseeable future.

My school is in Canada and it is CAMPEP accredited. I should mention that I am actually not interested in pursuing a clinical physics residency, but am attempting an MD-PhD program, and I intend to work in the public healthcare system.

I am aware that the nucmed scene is small, but that there are also fewer trainees involved. My interest is specifically multimodal PET-MR, I'd that helps the picture I'm training to paint.
 
  • #5
FactChecker said:
A lot of engineering departments would require that you take many general engineering classes before you proceed to graduate work. If your school would be like that, you will spend a lot of time on subjects that you might not be interested in.
My school does not require any such thing. The course requirements are actually quite small, and there is a much larger emphasis on publication and attracting funding.
 
  • #6
snatchingthepi said:
My school is in Canada and it is CAMPEP accredited. I should mention that I am actually not interested in pursuing a clinical physics residency, but am attempting an MD-PhD program, and I intend to work in the public healthcare system.

I am aware that the nucmed scene is small, but that there are also fewer trainees involved. My interest is specifically multimodal PET-MR, I'd that helps the picture I'm training to paint.
In that case I don't really see much of a down side. The MD part of the MD-PhD is quite employable. You've found a PhD project that you're excited about with a supervisor and environment that seems like you'll work well with and has a history of being productive. Sounds like a good fit to me.
 
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  • #7
Thank you for the input.
 

Related to Exploring Benefits of Biomedical Engineering PhD vs. Medical Physics PhD

1. What is the difference between a Biomedical Engineering PhD and a Medical Physics PhD?

A Biomedical Engineering PhD focuses on the application of engineering principles and techniques to solve problems in biology and medicine, while a Medical Physics PhD focuses on the use of physics in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Both fields involve the use of advanced technology and research to improve healthcare, but they have different areas of focus.

2. Which field has better career prospects?

Both Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics are rapidly growing fields with high demand for skilled professionals. However, the career prospects may vary depending on the specific industry and location. It is important to research the job market and opportunities in your area of interest before deciding on a PhD program.

3. Can I switch between a Biomedical Engineering PhD and a Medical Physics PhD?

It is possible to switch between these two fields, but it may require additional coursework and research to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. It is important to consult with your advisor and program director before making a switch to ensure a smooth transition.

4. Which field has a higher salary potential?

The salary potential for both Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics PhD holders is generally high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for biomedical engineers in 2020 was $92,620, while the median annual wage for medical physicists was $133,490. However, salary can vary depending on factors such as job location, industry, and experience.

5. What are the research opportunities like in each field?

Both Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics offer a wide range of research opportunities, from developing new medical devices and technologies to improving diagnostic and treatment methods. It is important to research the specific research areas and projects of potential PhD programs to find the best fit for your interests and goals.

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