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Physics Medical Physics saturated?

  1. Jan 26, 2012 #1
    I am considering a career in Medical Physics. I have a PhD in physics and am planning on entering either the CAMPEP accredited certificate program at University of Chicago or one in Canada. What worries me is that I have heard many conflicting viewpoints on the current state of Medical Physics. I have heard that it is extremely competitive to get into a CAMPEP accredited residency and even more competitive to find a job after completing the residency.

    I am currently employed a a national lab, so making the career change would also require me to say goodbye to a salary and just hope that I will be able to land a residency in 2013. I recognize that jobs are hard to come by in nearly all fields right now, but I was just wondering about the state of Medical Physics. It seems like more and more people are going into that career field, so I don't want to be one of the people who were too late and be in a field that suffers from a lack of demand due to an oversupply of Physicists.

    Any insight will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 26, 2012 #2


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    Medical physics is not immune to the economic slowdown. However, in the long term, it is expected to grow following the expected increase in cancer cases. For a ballpark figure I've heard a 40% increase over the coming decade. Some concerns have arisen as to whether or not there are enough accredited residency programs to cover the expected increase, but over the last couple of years, the number of accredited residency programs has increased considerably. In Canada anyway (where I am) there is considerable evidence of growth. In my province one new centre recently came on line with two more being built over the next few years. Existing centres are expanding as well.

    From personal experience I have not known any PhDs who have completed medical physics programs who have had much trouble getting into residencies - even in today's climate. (That's not so say there aren't any. I just haven't actually met any and I've been a medical physicist for several years now.) Students who stopped after an MSc, however, seem to have had a more difficult time of finding residencies recently. PhDs tend to be more competative for residency programs. I think that's largely because with a lot of residents are also expected to help out with a research program.

    Residents from either the program I went through or the one I now instruct in do not seem to have had any trouble getting jobs.

    Of course, there are no guarantees.
  4. Jan 27, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the information. When I read through thread like one on this board and another one one here (http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2466&start=50), it worried me that maybe the field was saturated. I hear great things from some people and bad things from others. What you have said is definitely encouraging for someone like myself.
  5. Jan 27, 2012 #4
    My husband is soon to graduate with his PhD in medical physics. He's been applying to residencies, but has already passed Part 1 of the ABR board exam, so his getting a residency isn't necessary... as is, there are many he hasn't heard back from (now it the time when they start interviewing), 1 where he has an interview, and several that have said no. For a variety of reasons, he's decided to go the route of starting a consulting firm instead of taking a residency, and possibly resuming the certification process in a year or two.

    The problem right now is that ABR is creating a huge bottleneck in the certification process. I'm not sure of the exact wording, but if you haven't taken Part 1 by now, you won't be able to finish the board certification without going into a CAMPEP accredited residency. In the past, I think there were many graduates who went straight on to junior physicist jobs; this will no longer be true. I think that the number of residencies will hopefully grow to accomodate this bottleneck, because right now each only accept 1 or 2 students a year, and every medical physics program graduates many more people than that.

    I have heard that once you're certified, it's easy to get a job. My husband's friend is recently certified, and receives solicitations for jobs every week. The problem seems to be getting ABR certified...
  6. Jan 27, 2012 #5
    See, that is what I was afraid of. Right now I have a good job at a national lab, and I think it may be foolish to leave that position for an industry that may be experiencing a bottleneck ... decisions, decisions.
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