Medical Physics: Masters or Ph.D?

In summary, the issue with medical physics residencies favoring Ph. D candidates over MSc candidates is that a PhD opens up more residencies for clinical medical physics. The advantage to having a PhD is that they have more general experience, more publications, and often more of a desire to be involved with the...
  • #1
Hello everyone,

I am a current undergrad physics major looking to pursue a career in clinical medical physics. I currently have an internship in radiation therapy physics and absolutely love it. I have recently become aware of the issue there is with medical physics residencies favoring Ph. D candidates over MSc candidates. With this being said, I would really like to work as a clinical medical physicist some day, but am struggling with which degree path I should choose. Does anyone have any suggestions?
 
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  • #2
You're not alone. I think a lot of people considering medical physics struggle with this.

One option you might want to consider is looking for a graduate program that has both. In Canadian programs, the model tends to be one of initial enrollment in an MSc program. Then you can either complete the MSc and go out into the world (i.e. see if you can get into a residency), complete the MSc and re-enroll in a PhD, or in some cases, transition directly into a PhD after about a year or so. I believe some US programs follow a similar model.
 
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  • #3
bretterickson25 said:
Hello everyone,

I am a current undergrad physics major looking to pursue a career in clinical medical physics. I currently have an internship in radiation therapy physics and absolutely love it. I have recently become aware of the issue there is with medical physics residencies favoring Ph. D candidates over MSc candidates. With this being said, I would really like to work as a clinical medical physicist some day, but am struggling with which degree path I should choose. Does anyone have any suggestions?

As an undergrad major, don't you have an advisor or a faculty member that you can ask about this? Do you have a medical physics program, or a medical physics dept. at your school? If you do, can't you find someone from that program to ask such a question.

And if you're doing an internship already, can't you consult those that you are working for for similar advice? I would think that someone who is already a "clinical medical physicist" might be able to give you the best advice on what to do here.

Zz.
 
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  • #4
ZapperZ said:
As an undergrad major, don't you have an advisor or a faculty member that you can ask about this? Do you have a medical physics program, or a medical physics dept. at your school? If you do, can't you find someone from that program to ask such a question.

And if you're doing an internship already, can't you consult those that you are working for for similar advice? I would think that someone who is already a "clinical medical physicist" might be able to give you the best advice on what to do here.

Zz.
I go to a small liberal arts college, and none of my physics faculty are very familiar with the field of medical physics. There is no medical physics program at my school. I have consulted the physicists I currently work with, and they all got into the field before there was the requirement of having completed a residency before qualifying to take boards. I am getting the feeling that a PhD would open up more resident opportunities and still allow me to obtain a clinical job in the future, however a masters would not take as long.
 
  • #5
bretterickson25 said:
I go to a small liberal arts college, and none of my physics faculty are very familiar with the field of medical physics. There is no medical physics program at my school. I have consulted the physicists I currently work with, and they all got into the field before there was the requirement of having completed a residency before qualifying to take boards. I am getting the feeling that a PhD would open up more resident opportunities and still allow me to obtain a clinical job in the future, however a masters would not take as long.

Do you care more about your job opportunity and growth, or do you care more about the length of completion?

Zz.
 
  • #6
ZapperZ said:
Do you care more about your job opportunity and growth, or do you care more about the length of completion?

Zz.
Honestly, I do not really care how long it takes me because I thoroughly enjoy school. The more I talk about it the more I think a PhD would be better suited to me.
 
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  • #7
One of the reasons why the PhD tends to be helpful with residencies is that it tends to open up the residencies that are hybrid residency-post-doc programs. One of the advantages to having residents around is that they can often push forward a research project or help develop some new technology in the clinic. The PhDs tend to be more desirable for this. They have more general experience, more publications, and often more of a desire to be involved with the academics.

The PhD also tends to open more doors if you want to teach at some point in your career. That's not to say that MScs can't teach, but there tends to be more red tape in getting them academic appointments.

The MSc advantage, beyond the shorter time, is that they do tend to be favoured for the purely clinical positions in smaller centres. As a PhD you tend to get pigeon-holed into a spot where people believe you really just want to do research. For a centre that earns money by the patient, they generally don't want someone who will spend every spare minute doing some research project that doesn't help patient throughput and so MSc grads are scene as more desirable.

You may also want to check out the DMP programs as well (basically an MSc combined with a residency). I've never been a big fan of that model, but I can understand why students would consider them.
 
  • #8
Choppy said:
The MSc advantage, beyond the shorter time, is that they do tend to be favoured for the purely clinical positions in smaller centres. As a PhD you tend to get pigeon-holed into a spot where people believe you really just want to do research. For a centre that earns money by the patient, they generally don't want someone who will spend every spare minute doing some research project that doesn't help patient throughput and so MSc grads are scene as more desirable.
Is it naïve to think that it is rare for a PhD physicist to obtain a clinical position? I understand that a smaller centers it's more likely for MSc physicists to get hired, but what about at larger centers?
 
  • #9
bretterickson25 said:
Is it naïve to think that it is rare for a PhD physicist to obtain a clinical position? I understand that a smaller centers it's more likely for MSc physicists to get hired, but what about at larger centers?

Lots of PhD physicists end up in fully clinical positions, do a great job and are quite happy there. When I say some clinical positions will favour MSc candidates, that's a generalization. By no means does it exclude PhDs from consideration. It just means there's a bit of a hurdle in convincing some potential employers that you're the right fit for their position. Often this is solved with a sentence like:
"During my residency I commissioned a [machine that the potential employer is about to install]."

Similarly, MSc grads can end up in larger academic centres. Sometimes the centres are quite happy to have someone around who is happier to lead the clinical end of things because it frees up more time for the others to work on academics.
 

1. What is the difference between a Masters and Ph.D in Medical Physics?

A Masters in Medical Physics is typically a two-year program that focuses on the fundamentals of medical physics, including radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging, and radiation safety. A Ph.D in Medical Physics is a more advanced degree that requires 4-6 years of study and research and prepares students for careers in academia and research.

2. What are the career opportunities for a Masters vs Ph.D in Medical Physics?

A Masters in Medical Physics can lead to careers in clinical settings, such as hospitals and cancer treatment centers, as well as in industry and government agencies. A Ph.D in Medical Physics opens up opportunities for research and teaching positions in universities, as well as leadership roles in healthcare organizations.

3. Is a Ph.D in Medical Physics necessary for a successful career in the field?

While a Ph.D can open up more advanced career opportunities, it is not always necessary for a successful career in the field of Medical Physics. Many professionals with a Masters degree have successful careers in clinical settings and industry.

4. What are the admission requirements for a Masters vs Ph.D in Medical Physics?

Admission requirements for a Masters in Medical Physics typically include a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as physics or engineering, letters of recommendation, and a competitive GPA. For a Ph.D in Medical Physics, in addition to these requirements, most programs also require a strong research background and GRE scores.

5. Can I apply for a Ph.D program in Medical Physics with a non-medical background?

While a background in a related field, such as physics or engineering, is preferred for admission into a Ph.D program in Medical Physics, some programs may consider applicants with a non-medical background. However, these applicants may be required to take additional prerequisite courses before beginning the program.

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