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Medical Physics Job Market and Future Outlook

  1. Jul 7, 2015 #1
    Hello Everyone,

    I hope that you all are well, I'm a new user here at Physics Forums and one who plans on studying medical physics in graduate school, and hopes to pursue a residency.

    My question is regarding the job market for those medical physicists who have been able to complete a medical physics residency, specifically in radiation oncology physics. I have heard many things, ranging from extremely competitive, to excellent demand for such physicists. My worry is that I will complete a residency, and then not be able to find a good academic position in a big city that I am interested in (Atlanta, Dallas, Houston). I understand that getting a residency is extremely tough, but my question is that if one is able to get a residency, what are the job prospects afterwards? Is the field becoming over saturated? How are the salaries looking? And finally, how many applicants apply to the average academic job posting (if you happen to be in such a position where you know this information). I really like Medical Physics, but am very career oriented. I am willing to not study medical physics if the job market is bad and switch to another field. I was of the impression that if one gets a residency, they are easily able to find a desired position in their desired city. Is this true? Please advise and please keep this discussion on topic. This is specifically related to the USA job market, and has to do with post-residency prospects.

    Thank you all for your help, and I look forward to your responses,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    The point is not whether the job market is good or bad - the point is that it is small. The probability that exactly the job you want to do opens in exactly the city you want to live in at exactly the time you are ready to take it is small.
  4. Jul 7, 2015 #3
    Thanks Vanadium 50,

    That definitely makes sense for sure, but in radiation oncology for example, physicians can find jobs in usually the cities of their choice(s) with ease for the most part (like academic positions). This is obviously due to how RadOnc residencies are competitive, as are MedPhys residencies. My point is not to compare, but your comment makes sense indeed. But what if you do find out that the exact job you want opens up, is it still extremely competitive? This can be a subjective or hard to measure question, but I'm hoping that you or someone with such experience can answer. Are medical physicists in demand or is it becoming overly saturated?

    Thanks for your input!
  5. Jul 7, 2015 #4


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    Hi Haraq,

    It sounds like you're already aware that the bottleneck in medical physics at this point really seems to be the residency.

    For rough numbers, there are about 120 residency positions thorugh the AAPM's matching system and a handful of others that are fully accredited. There are just shy of 300 graduates qualified for these residency positions each year. And there are efforts to increase the number of residencies, we we're likely to see these grow in the coming years - ideally into an equilibrium state with the number of graduating students.

    The estimates that I've seen for demand for qualified medical physicists in the US fall between 125 and 200 new medical physicists per year. Growth is likely to follow expected cancer incidence at roughly 2% per year over the next decade.

    In principle that means that if you complete a medical physics residency and board certification, it's reasonable to expect a job in the field. This is consistent with my experience, observing that resident graduates from the program that I instruct in and the one that I graduated from are getting jobs in the field.

    As Vanadium 50 pointed out, if you are hoping to get work at a particular centre, or in a particular city, the probability goes down because of the small numbers issue. In a larger cancer centre with ~10 medical physicists you can expect a hiring rate at one every 3-4 years. As a newly graduated resident, you probably don't want to wait that long for a spot in your ideal centre or city to open up. Across a larger area, that rate will increase, but you'll still have to compete for the job. From what I've seen there is more competition for positions in centres in larger cities. On the surface you'll hear numbers of 50 - 100 applicants for a position. But of those only about 10 or so will actually be qualified. At the smaller centres there is not as much competition.

    Also because of the small numbers the field is quite sensitive to economic fluctuations.
  6. Jul 7, 2015 #5

    Hello Choppy,

    This is some really solid information based on your knowledge and experience and something I really needed to make a more informed career decision. One of the things that's holding my back from Medical Physics is that although I don't feel as deterred in terms of finishing a PhD in Medical Physics and then hopefully attaining a residency, I am a bit deterred in terms of entering the field due to the likelihood of getting a job in my home city. This is mostly due to a variety of reasons, such as a personal attachment to my hometown (like anyone) and other obligations. I would hope to work at a large center, and there is actually only one in my city. Nevertheless, Medical Physics is really interesting to me, it combines the technical, computational, as well as the medical patient interaction aspect into one, and seems really interesting, respectable, and of course, high paying. Of course, I have learned from reading many forums and such that it is best to make an informed career decision sooner rather than later. I don't want to be stuck in an over saturated market, unable to find a suitable position where I'm from, and essentially be forced to move out without any choice. Additionally, I would always like to be working in a field where demand outweighs supply.

    Thank you so much for your really informative response, It's nice to hear from someone who is actually in the capacity where they are observing residents, the job market, etc., directly and so has first-hand evidence and experience. I really appreciate it!
  7. Oct 19, 2015 #6
    My experience is that if you can get in a CAMPEP program and complete a CAMPEP residency the field is wide open. After residency I had 3 offers on regions I was very interested in (I didn't apply to areas I didn't care about). After the first year of work I've had 3 other potential offers - people reaching out (who I had networked with) to see if I was still interested. I am still at my first job, working normal hours (~40/wk) and gaining experience for when/if I am ready to move. All of my cohorts from residency have found jobs. Out of residency it seems the staying salary is $120-130k/yr with a guaranteed increase after passing part 3 of boards. We all have varying work schedules (up to 60hrs/wk). It's a great field, worth the sacrifice to fight for a grad school spot and then fight for a residency even if you have to work as a clinical intern for a year while waiting to get a residency. Best of luck!
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