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Programs Medical Physics Ms/PhD/DMP

  1. Jul 7, 2016 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm finishing up my M.S. degree in physics with a 3.8 or 3.9 this upcoming spring. I have been taking undergraduate courses in Medical Physics and currently submitting a paper in the medical physics imaging field. Also attempting to do my thesis project with a local medical physicist. With that being said, I am wanting to pursue a career in medical physics. I haven't ruled out work in academia or Industry, but I'm primarily interested in clinical work. Being that I wish to work in California for most of my life, I need to go to schools that are CAMPEP accredited so I can get a Campep residency.

    I am having trouble figuring out what would be the difference in picking MS, PhD, or a DMP program.
    For MS degree i was thinking of somewhere like SDSU, for PhD i was considering somewhere like UCLA and for a DMP I was considering U of Cincinnati. My thoughts are:

    1) MS programs seem to pay less in stipends/fee waivers and the residency program SDSU goes through seems to charge you 18,000 a year (from my research anyways). But it seems to save you more than 3 years compared to the PhD programs, and break even in time for the DMP programs.

    2)PhD programs pay more to my knowledge, and cover tuition. They also seem to have residencies close by that actually pay you. They open more doors I imagine, but I am already 25 (26 when i graduate) and don't know if i want to be 31 by the time i reach residency. Being called Dr. might be nice though =]

    3) DMP seem to be just as quick as MS/residency programs but same money issue. I have read that Professional programs don't typically offer any financial assistance and typically cost a boat load. Also, I would be an out of state resident and subjected to more fees! But it takes the fear out of getting into a residency program and i get the title Dr as well (i don't know why that has such an appeal to me =/ ).

    My point being, it seems as though I will need to either accrue much more debt in MS/DMP programs or give up more time in school to have more financial security and a good shot at a CAMPEP residency.

    Can anyone offer any sort of opinion or advice regarding the smart choice, or things i seem to be overlooking regarding a school choice? Would an MS offer same ability to get a job in a hospital?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2016 #2


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    What kind of clinical work are you interested in?
  4. Jul 7, 2016 #3
    I was thinking Radiation therapy aspect. Though diagnostic imaging is very cool area too
  5. Jul 7, 2016 #4


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    There's certainly no "one size fits all" solution to this question.

    I think you've outlined a number of important points. Here are just a few random comments.

    Program Cost
    It can be important to look into this in detail at the centres you're considering. As you've identified some programs can charge a substantial amount. But you also have to look at other factors too. For example, in many programs students are hired to perform basic quality assurance measurements, and that not only gives them a source of income to offset the cost, but it also gives them some highly relevant experience in the field. Such positions are rarely "guaranteed" but you can often contact administrators in each program to get an idea of the probability of obtaining them.

    MSc Programs
    As you mentioned the advantage here is that these are the shortest. You do your coursework, complete a project, and generally finish within 2-3 years (most are fairly rigid ending after 2 years). Another advantage is that post-residency, MSc candidates are often desired in the smaller clinics in the US for a couple reasons: they tend not to cost as much, and they tend to be more engaged in a fully clinical environment (PhDs come with a "risk" of wanting to do more research or academic work - not always the case, but that's a general perception). The disadvantages include that fact that you're not as competitive for the more academic positions where research is a component of the job. It's similar for residencies. Historically a lot of these were essentially post-doctoral positions, less so now with CAMPEP-accreditation, but many residencies will come with the expectation that you also provide some work on a research project. I think if you look at the CAMPEP stats though, MSc grads get about the same number of residencies at PhD grads. (The differences are often in which ones.)

    PhD Programs
    Also as you mentioned - a longer commitment. Some (not all) will provide financial support. Major advantages include: a few more years of experience in the field, and if you're really interested in doing anything academic (i.e. research or teaching) this is the way to go. Their salaries also tend to be higher on average although it's left as an exercise for you to determine if the added salary offsets the opportunity cost of spending another 2-3 years as a student.

    DMP Programs
    The major issue I have with these is that they essentially charge the student to do clinical work for the department that everyone else get's paid for. Median salaries for residents are in the 50k ballpark last I checked. The advantage is that there's no risk of completing the degree and the not getting a residency. if you look at the matching stats, the odds of a successful match are about 50%. So for some people, that's worth the extra cost. If you compare to a PhD program, you end up working in a full time medical physics position three years earlier, so even with the extra cost, you come out ahead financially.

    As for the title of "Dr." it's over-rated. In a healthcare environment, the medical doctors are the ones who get called "doctor." In some cases they have a legal entitlement to it. Ultimately it's not your title that commands respect anyway, but your actions, day-to-day performance and how you treat other people.
  6. Jul 7, 2016 #5
    Thank you Choppy! Thats very insightful.

    Though I mentioned I am not interested in academia work, I am not against research. It just is not my primary goal. My primary goal is to have more direct impact on people's lives through the field of physics. Secondary is a strong job that can provide good money for my family and the ability to pay off my 35k in student debt i have accrued thus far (more than likely to increase a bunch after my next program).

    The matching stats you provided look interesting and I will need to give those a thorough look.
    I am thinking that Ms and DMP is my strongest option unless the finances work out worse than i expect.
    Did you mean that those in MS/DMP programs are not paid to be residents on average?
    I suppose the pay after getting a job will really make up for the financial hit I may suffer as a result of living, tuition, etc.
  7. Jul 7, 2016 #6


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    The DMP program is basically a 4 year program where two years are roughly equivalent to an MSc in medical physics and two more are the equivalent of a residency. My understanding is that they don't pay you to for those two years of clinical work.

    MSc and PhD grads have to compete for residencies that are independent of the degrees, but for which the residents are paid for their services.
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