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Medical Physicist vs Medical image processing?

  1. May 3, 2012 #1
    Hey guys,

    Im 2nd year undergrad majoring in Medical Physics and Imaging Tech.

    This week we got a presentation from the graduates of my course and was told that the chance of getting into the field is very very small, specifically the hospital physicst and actually advised us to think of other options after we graduate.

    Im residing in NZ so it might be different where you are based but I heard the competitions is getting fierce. Most of the graduates went to do their masters without clinical placement and only a few (four i think?) actually got into the training programme. Many others changed their path and went on to do other things such as Physiology and Optometry. To be honest our degree is pretty useless unless we get the clinical placement or get into research groups. We have to compete with other biomed, medicinal chemistry, pharmocology people if we want to get into health sector.

    The accredition body is actually for Australia and NZ combined so I could look for a job in Australia but with far many more medical physics undergrads/post grads available in Australia I think it will be pretty tough. As for other countries like USA, I guess the accredition thing would put me off since I wont have any experience or their accredited degree.

    My ultimate goal would be getting into the hospital training but as a back up Ive been looking at medical image processing/analysing. It seems though it is more engineering side than medical physics according to my research. So Im thinking of taking masters in medical imaging processing if possible, probably in Australia.

    So my questions is (sorry about the long intro :P ) what is the outlook like in medical image processing area, like internationally? If I end up in that part, I want to work in medical devices companies like siemens but their vacancies are mainly looking at PhDs with lots of experience....

    Im really confused as looking at some of the posts, people are encouraging not to enter Medical Physics area.

    I don't really have a clue what I want to do because so far we have been only doing basic medicine, physics and engineering and medical physics are coming next year onwards.

    Any suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated.

    If you know any other pathways I might be able to take, please recommend.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2012 #2
    The field is fine in the US. The last projections from AAPM are for need to outpace supply. The following is from an AAPM workforce study:

    “The annual number of new board-eligible MPs required to meet demand for medical physics services was projected to increase from 158 to more than 190 for radiation oncology physicists and remain at 30 for diagnostic imaging physicists through 2030. The current annual number of medical physics residents is 43 in radiation oncology and seven in diagnostic imaging.”

    If you aren't an AAPM member, become one (at least a student member) and you'll have access to the full study, salary surveys, job listings, Task Group reports, etc. Obviously, if you want to stay home, this may not help you much.
  4. May 3, 2012 #3


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    I'm not too familiar with how things work in New Zealand or Australia, but based on your post it sounds like you're expecting a job as a medical physicist with just a bachelor's degree. In North America you need at minimum a master's degree to be eligible for a residency, which is the current gateway into the profession. The majority of residencies tend to go to PhD-holding candidates these days. I imagine it's quite similar over there.

    In general I would still say that there are some good opportunities in medical physics, but there are also a lot of hoops to jump through. The new ABR requirements to write the certification exam have created a bottleneck as there are not enough accredited residencies to meet demand. There is also a fair amount of angst created by a sluggish economy.

    As to your question, in general I think the medical imaging industry is going to see reasonably steady growth in the coming years - largely driven by an aging population. In order to get a job doing R&D, again, you will in gneral need at minimum a master's degree and often a PhD. However, such companies also have positions in customer support and technical sales that you may be eligible for with just a bachelor's degree.
  5. May 4, 2012 #4
    NZ/Aus too requires masters degree and it is included in the clinical placement programme. I can still apply after postgraduate studies if I dont get it in the first round, but with lack of openings for the unexperienced, I thought masters in medical physics would not be worth it and was considering biomedical engineering instead if I was to do masters.

    Thank you for your responses.
  6. May 4, 2012 #5
    There is an Imaging Physics Mailing List that will provide more help than you will get here. Employment conditions, required degrees and certifications, etc vary from country to country due to variations in medical law. See
  7. May 5, 2012 #6
    Thank you :)
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