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Medical Physics: Postdoc or MS first?

  1. Feb 20, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post!
    When done with my PhD in experimental physics, I would like to make a move to medical physics. Is it wise to jump into a postdoc in medical physics (if lucky enough to get one) or get an MS medical physics first and then do a postdoc/residency?

    My worry is this: suppose I get a postdoc and take it. The problem is I know very little about the field and will hate to be a drag force on my adviser/group members. In other words, when one takes a postdoc, how much are they expected to know about the field?

    Thanks in advance

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2013 #2


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    This depends a lot on the specific project that the post doctoral fellow would be hired onto. In some cases you can walk into a project without any experience in the field because they really just need a programmer or some other kind of specialized skill. In others, you need the medical physics background to understand the clinical dimension of the project.

    Career-wise if you intend on pursuing medical physics it's a better idea to get the academic work out of the way first, because you'll have to do it at some point if you want to attain board certification. Starting with a post-doc that leads into a residency used to be a viable option for people entering medical physics from other branches, but unfortunately this avenue for entry into the field is drying up because you need a CAMPEP-accredited graduate degree to qualify for certification.

    Another option available though is the post-PhD program avenue that essentially allows you to complete the necessary course work without having to spend an extra year or two finishing a master's thesis. After about 8 months of course work you're qualified to start a residency.
  4. Feb 20, 2013 #3
    Thank you Choppy. In the postdoc I am looking at I will be doing all the functions that a residency requires, but from a non-CAMPEP place. If offered the position would you recommend I take it given my almost zero knowledge in medical physics?

    I take your advice very seriously because you seem to know more than anyone here about the field.
  5. Feb 20, 2013 #4


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    Here's how I would see it...

    First, if you take this position, you're going to have to climb a learning curve. That will be harder for you than someone with a graduate degreee in medical physics, but jumping right into a residency was rather common about ten or fifteen years ago and people managed to do it then.

    Second, it's worth understanding if this is a post-doctoral research position, an un-accredited residency, or some hybrid of the two. It's not uncommon for a two year residency to be stretched into a three year position that includes a research project. I would be a little leary of "all the functions a residency requires" as, if it will actually cover everything, it begs the question as to why they haven't applied for CAMPEP status. That doesn't mean it's bad of course, ... just something to look into. Further along these lines, is the project (if it has one) interesting to you?

    Third, look into the future. When this position is complete, you'll have a couple of years experience in the field under your belt, but they won't count towards certification. If this position leads to further work at the institution that's great. If it doesn't, you'll basically be in the same boat you are now in 2-3 years in terms of a medical physics career path. Then, even if you do get hired, you'll be in the position of knowing that you won't be as competative for other positions until you get your certification.

    I can't tell you what to do. Sometimes the opportunity can be right for a whole number of reasons.
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