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Geophysics vs. Medical Physics

  1. Sep 29, 2012 #1
    I am having a difficult time choosing which path to follow in school. Does anyone have, or know anyone with experience in either of the titular fields?
    Also, can one, with an undergraduate BSc in Physics, pursue either of the fields in graduate school?
    Since my interest lies in physics, and I don't want to enter academia as a vocation, I want to enter a field that uses the applications of physics and is lucrative enough to foster a comfortable living. As for engineering, that's on the backburner for now. These 2 fields intrigue me the most at the moment.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2012 #2


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    Yes. In fact, as least if your goal is medical physics, I would tend to be careful of any undergraduate program that specializes too much. I've seen a few programs that try to specialize the undergraduate experience so much they end up watering down the physics component, which doesn't do the student any favours later on, in my experience. That's not to say a little bit of specialization is bad. I think it's important to explore the fields you're interested in as much as you can as an undergrad.
  4. Sep 30, 2012 #3
    I can't say much for either of these as I'm still in undergrad myself... I can say that after reading various things about medical physics programs such as this: http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2466
    I've decided that it probably isn't quite what I'm looking for. I'm actually more interested in biophysics I've found. I'm also considering geophysics and have only heard great things about the field.
  5. Sep 30, 2012 #4
    Ya, I browsed some threads on both geophysics and medical physics. The former seems like a field I'd enjoy, as well, since I like the physicality involved in the field work and travelling to various locations...always moving..Anyways, are you currently majoring in physics?
  6. Sep 30, 2012 #5
    Yes, I'm majoring in physics but I'm only in my second year so don't take anything I say too seriously :tongue:
    I'm also drawn to the field component of geophysics. My interest in science was sparked due to a field biology research experience in high school where I was able to be outdoors and interact with birds. Since then my interests have shifted dramatically towards math/physics but I would love to find an interesting field that would combine the quantitative aspects with field work and travel. Honestly, the only thing that really caught my attention for medical physics was the salary.. But I'm in no way interested in clinical work so I've quickly discovered that MP may not be the best route for me, personally.
  7. Oct 4, 2012 #6
    In Geophysics it's all about the data -- noise filtering, time series analysis, stuff like that. You do a lot of field work (from day trips to a whole month), but spent the majority of your remaining time processing this data. So expect a lot of data analysis, lots of programming and of course the field work. Travel seems like a nice perk, but don't forget that you usually focus on one subject (= country/zone) at a time, so you only travel within that region. You don't get a free pass to travel around the world, so keep that in mind.

    In medical physics it depends more on your research topic. If you happen to get into a lab with some state of the art machine, then, well, you do a lot of lab work and data processing as well. In the end you won't process as much data as with geophysics though. There's more models and simulations going on as well, mostly to understand your data.

    Future prospects are fantastic for both specializations. Basically any large oil company is always looking for geophysicists. Putting potential ethical issues aside, you should again keep in mind that you don't choose where you travel when working for a large company like this. You might be send off to a not-so-nice location for 9 months. The money is great, but you should be OK with these travel arrangements. Medical physics speaks for itself -- hospitals and so on.
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