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Medical Physics Residency backup plans

  1. Mar 27, 2015 #1
    So... I didn't get matched in the MedPhys residency match, and have no idea what to do with my life now. :oldconfused: Currently I'm busy freaking out and being fed up with school and medical physics in general. I graduate in May with my M.S. in medical physics, and have no real plans. eek.

    I know at least some of you (172 un-match-ers) are reading this, so what are your back up plans?

    They say to stay involved in the field, but at this point I'm not even sure I want to be in it. I am all over the place... thinking about trying to volunteer at a clinic, or going to school to become a rad therapist or apply to med school or other crazy ideas. I definitely do NOT want to do a PhD though.. way too much more time to get basically to the same place I'm in now.

    Sidenote, 61% of applicants left un-matched is awful. 4.0 with some research experience and decent interview skills but still no match. I really wish I knew just how competitive this was going to be before I signed up, but hey, universities are money weasels i guess.

    sorry for crying all over the internet. :oldcry:
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 27, 2015 #2
    Could you work as a radiation dosimetrist for a while and reapply to residencies later? Unfortunately, I think people with Med Physics PhDs are more competitive for residencies.

    The shortage of residency positions is a problem currently being addressed and later on you might have more luck at getting accepted.
  4. Mar 28, 2015 #3


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    I think there are a more than few unhappy people with this whole process,* and you have my sympathies.

    Potential options to pursue:
    1. There are some accredited residencies that did not participate in the matching process and that are currently recruiting. (The two I know of are Canadian.)
    2. Junior physicist positions or unaccredited residencies. These are not ideal in terms of a leading to certification, but sometimes they can lead to long-term careers.
    3. You might want to consider looking outside of North America. Brazil purchased ~ 80 linacs a couple years ago, for example, and is going to need people to run them.
    4. Positions with vendor companies doing research and development, technical sales, training/teaching, etc.
    5. I know you don't want to hear it right now, but the PhD is an available path for a lot of MSc graduates. It gives you additional experience in the field, time for this disconnect between number of graduates and number of residencies to iron itself out, time to increase your network, and can increase your relevant skill set. When you graduate a PhD also makes post-doctoral positions and academia an option (not that academia is any less competitive, but it is another option).
    6. Consider fields that are tangential to medical physics like health physics/radiation safety.
    7. Leave the field altogether. While medical physics programs are highly specialized, most should give you at least some skills or experience that can transfer into other fields (programming, biostatistics, process engineering, electronics, etc.)
    8. Any chance you can commercialize something out of your MSc thesis?

    Also, talk to the administrators of your program and see if they have anything specific they can help you with. While a program has no obligation to see you into a residency, they should feel the heat if their students aren't getting positions.

    *Background for anyone reading this who is interested:
    In medial physics a residency is a requirement for certification, which in turn is practically-speaking a necessity for employment as a medical physicist these days. Medical physics graduate programs are currently producing enough graduates to meet the demand for medical physicists based on projections of increases in cancer rates, but there aren't enough residencies to meet this. On of the recent initiatives of the AAPM (partially to address this issue, but more to alleviate the stress of competing for residencies) was to institute a residency matching program that centralized the application process. Candidates got to rank their choice of places to go. Schools got to rank their candidates. The closest matches were assigned. But the process didn't increase the number of available residencies.
  5. Mar 30, 2015 #4
    Is that true? 172 graduate who cannot enter the field because of a lack of "pathways" to a career.? That is outrageous. The AAPM can easily determine the number of graduate students in the pipe line. They set the number of accredited residencies.. They should publish these numbers and this information should be given to prospective graduate students so they might rationally plan their futures.
  6. Mar 30, 2015 #5


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    Unfortunately that's about right.

    If you look at the numbers from CAMPEP (I have some links on my blog) you'll see that medical physics programs are just shy of 300 graduates. The medical physics profession needs to be training approximately this number long term, to keep up with the projected demand for qualified medical physicists while accounting for things like failures, graduates who leave the profession, graduates who go into non-clinical positions, graduates who leave the country, etc.).

    The problem is that there are only about 120 accredited residencies across North America. So 172 graduates who are not matched seems about right. There's a big problem in that the number of residencies needs to be doubled in order to both (i) to keep up with projected demands on the profession, and (ii) to ensure that the students who choose the field have the opportunity to enter it.

    The AAPM has introduced a number of initiatives to address this shortfall. The matching program was one of these, although it was setup to address the issues of fairness in the process and giving candidates more of a choice in where they end up (without it, one was more-or-less forced to accept the first offer made rather than the best fit). It doesn't do much to address the shortfall in positions. There have been initiatives to promote "spoke and hub" model residencies that will allow smaller centres to train residents while larger/academic centres will handle the administration and teaching load. CAMPEP has also been doing a lot of work to get programs accredited.

    I suspect in several years things will be a lot better. But that doesn't do much for those 172 soon-to-be graduates left wondering what to do.
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