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Physics Health physics or medical physics

  1. Jun 26, 2010 #1
    I'm looking into a career change to health physics or medical physics from analytical chemistry (in the pharmaceutical industry). For medical physics, I think I'm going to run into CAMPEP drama due to timing, so am leaning more towards health physics.

    For health physics, will I be limited to nuclear plants as employers or will anyplace that needs an RSO want a health physicist?

    I have a master's degree in chemistry (P Chem emphasis) and an undergraduate physics minor with classical and quantum mechanics, but no E&M. I also have 27 graduate hours in mathematics. Is my preparation reasonably adequate to begin studying health physics?

    I have some more questions, but want to do some more research before posting them.

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2010 #2
    Did some more research and found out that in my state (NY), I can become licensed as a Med. Physicist for Nuclear Medicine or Medical Health Physics through board exams of organizations other than ABR, so maybe medical physics is still a possibility.

    Is medical health physics more or less an RSO for a medical organization? If so, would a medical organization want the RSO to wear another hat too?
  4. Jun 27, 2010 #3
    May I ask what exactly "health physics" is? I'm doing my PhD in physics and I want to get a job as a physicist (as opposed to becoming a computer programmer, software engineer, etc.), but I am probably not going to go into academia. So I'd like to know what's available in industry, especially the healthcare field.
  5. Jun 27, 2010 #4


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    Health physics usually refers to the science and practical implementation of radiation protection. On the science side you might want to look at a journal like Radiation Protection Dosimetry. A typical question in this field is something like predicting the incidence of breast cancer induction that results from mammographic examinations in a paopulation so that it might be compared against the probability of early detection. There can be a lot of overlap with medical physics.

    Most of the jobs are centred on radiation safety. (And I should note that in such positions, my experience is that there aren't too many opportunities for pursuing the science side of the field above). There is a lot of legislation around the operation of (ionizing) radiation-producing devices and the use of radioactive materials. Radiation safety officers (RSOs) are the ones who assume the responsibility for the day-to-day management of a radiation safety program. Their duties can include:
    - operating and maintaining a workplace exposure monitoring system
    - oversight of policies and procedures
    - investigating exposure incidents
    - shipping and receiving radioactive materials
    - conducting radiation surveys
    - testing of safety sustems
    - radiation safety training
    - input into facility design

    In smaller hospital settings, a medical physicist can often be tasked with RSO duties. (Although, I might note that legislation in particular regions may require specific certification and therefore even in smaller settings a full time RSO might be required). In larger hospitals and nuclear facilities the RSO will be a full time position or even multiple positions.

    Mek42 - you'll have to contact specific programs you're interested in to see if you qualify.
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