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Physics Medical Physics, Path to Take?

  1. May 22, 2012 #1
    In that point in life where I have to make the hard decisions for my future and was just wondering what kind of university path you have to take to get into medical physics.

    Do you need an MD, PHD? Should your undergrad be in engineering? When do you specifically specialize into medical physics?

    If there are any current connoisseurs in this field that can elaborate on this, I will greatly appreciate your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    theres a bio mech eng major at many colleges tha might fit the bill. However, it may be better to try to do dual majors in biology and engineering and then some medical instrumentation as employers are still sceptical on whether its better to hire a BME who has half the engineering background of an engineer and half the background of a biologist.

    Check out wikipedia for more info:

  4. May 23, 2012 #3
    Go to www.aapm.org and look at CAMPEP schools. Medical Physics requires at least an MS, although a PhD is better for some things. If you are still looking for college level information, I'd consider getting a BS in Medical Dosimetry from a JRCERT college, which would get you a substantial jump on any graduate school medical physics program. www.medicaldosimetry.org There are currently three JRCERT schools, Thomas Jefferson Univ. (Philly), Univ. of AR (CARTI), and MD Anderson (TX). If you decided to stop after the BS in medical dosimetry, you'd have a very well paying career without the stress of being "the" physicist. The latest AAPM survey shows 80% of us are solo, e.g. stress and working some nights and weekends becomes almost normal. Being "the" physicist pays well, but the idea of being a CMD working normal hours is very appealling.
  5. May 23, 2012 #4
    Depending upon wheer you live, there are also programs in health physics (Oregon State, Purdue, Texas A&M to name a few) that would be good preparation for medical physics graduate positions.
  6. May 23, 2012 #5


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    The medical physics educational path, in general is:

    1. Undergraduate degree in physics or equivalent.
    The "or equivalent" is defined by the graduate program, but generally means programs like engineering physics, physical chemistry, BME, or dual majors that include physics. The program will need to have included courses like mathematical methods, senior level E&M, electronics, some basic programming and/or numerical methods, and a senior lab course. In some programs you are expected to write the same comprehensive exam the other physics students write so you will need to have covered enough material that you have a reasonable chance as passing that.

    2. Graduate degree in physics including your CAMPEP diadactic coursework. The specifics here diverge somewhat. The most popular way of doing this is to get into a CAMPEP-accrediated MSc or PhD program. But there are also DMP (doctor of medical physics) programs and post-PhD programs that allow you to complete the necessary coursework if you did your PhD in another sub-field.

    3. Clinical training (residency). Residency programs are ~2-3 year programs that allow you to complete the practical/clinical aspects of the training necessary to write your board exams. Sometimes they also double as post-doctoral research positions. Note that you are working and being paid at this point in your career.

    4. Board exams. The ABR and CCPM both have staged examination processes including written and oral exams.
  7. Jul 18, 2012 #6

    Choppy, how difficult is it to get clinical experience/training/residency if your Masters or PhD is in general physics? Is there a formal way to "transition" to medical physics from ordinary physics?
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  8. Jul 18, 2012 #7


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    Hi Geezer,

    It seems to be steadily growing more difficult to get into medical physics if you aren't going through the stream outlined above, but there are ways.

    There are a couple of schools that have post-PhD programs that cover the CAMPEP course work in about a year. These are recognized as alternatives to completing a full CAMPEP graduate program and meet the future educational requirements for taking board exams.

    Sometimes you can also look for post-doc/residency type positions where if you do research for a couple years, they will take you on as a resident. Without the educational requirements you may run into difficulty qualifying for board exams later though.

    There are also some positions that don't require certification, but (a) those may not be the most desirable jobs and (b) the applicant pool is a lot larger.
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