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Physics Medical Physics vs Biomedical Engineering

  1. May 17, 2017 #1
    Hi All, I am new here.

    I have been doing research, nuclear physics stuff, mainly, for a couple of years . Over time, I have grown to be very tired of pure research, and I believe it is just not for me, not that there is something wrong with research but I am not motivated to keep going, also in experimental nuclear physics programming has become the bread and butter, and I kind of hate programming.

    On the other hand ,
    I have always loved medicine, but at the end I decided to study physics, and continue with postgraduates studies and so forth. Since last year I have been looking for sort of a change of career, a field where I could still continue in something related to nuclear physics, radiations etc, and also fulfill at least partially my dream of becoming a medical doctor. All this, while doing nothing to next-to-nothing programming, oh how much I would love that. So I thought why not medical Physics?. I have been checking out a few programs, and there is one I am particular interested in, the only problem is that is called biomedical engineering. Looking at the description of the courses I have found that there is a strong emphasis on radiation therapy and lab work on hospital, it seems like it is a medical physics program in disguise.

    my questions therefore are,
    1-If I start the program and focus on radiation therapy which is what I like , do you think this would have good future job prospects?
    2-is it possible for biomedical engineer to have a career in medical physics, or be admitted to do the residency program in a hospital?
    3- Are biomedical engineers required to have good programming skills? will not wanting to work doing programming restrict too much the search for employment or hurt my employability. I would be happy to work on radiation therapy or imaging, more in radiation therapy.

    thanks everyone, and sorry for the lengthly post.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2017 #2


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    While it's impossible to predict what the future holds, job prospects in Medical Physics are generally pretty good with a couple of caveats. The first is that currently in North America, we seem to be accepting more students to MP graduate programs than we have residencies. Last I looked this was at a ratio of ~ 3:2, but the number of residencies is growing, and graduates who don't make it into a residency do have other very viable career options. The second is that Medical Physics is a small numbers game. This means that once you're finished your education, though jobs may be available, they may not be exactly where you want them to be. You will most likely have to be open to moving around. The good news (from an employment point of view) is that the field of cancer care is expected to grow at a fairly steady rate over the coming years as the population continues to age.

    What I think you're looking for here is that to get into Medical Physics you should really go through a CAMPEP-accredited graduate program.

    There can be a fair amount of programming involved in Medical Physics in general (I can't speak as much to BME, but I suspect the same is true there). That said, a lot of the actual "programming" can be avoided if you're allergic to it. Tasks like network or database administration, or figuring out how to get a set of files from one piece of software into another, optimizing software, etc. are part of the grind.
  4. May 18, 2017 #3
    thank you very much Choppy for your reply, and for your time ( really important thing) I don't know anyone working in Medical physics so I really appreciate your insight.
    I should have mentioned it is not the US I am talking about, the program is in Europe, Germany to be precise. And it is DGMP ( Germany's medical physics society ) accredited . I don't know to what extent is important to have this accreditation as compared to the US. But nevertheless I was one of the first things I looked upon, after reading a few posts in this forum.

    Yes I had read also something about that. That is no problem for me, I am willing to relocate worldwide if necessary. I have lived/worked in a few countries already and I like that.

    yes that is the best way to put it, allergic to programming.
    getting a residency in Europe varies a lot from one country to another, but in german speaking countries , from my understanding, it is about a medical physicist willing to have you as a resident-student so that one gets the 2 or 3 years of the clinical experience necessary to be certified as a medical physicist by the government.
    I have seen other programs titled medical physics in other universities, also DGMP accredited, however in my opinion, they are not as good as this biomedical engineering, in terms of the amount of clinical experience, and courses offered. So my question is basically if I want to work in radiation therapy, what would you recommend, going to a medical physics program with not so much amount of clinical experience or another program titled biomedical engineering which has more clinical experience. It seems a priori no brainer. But what I think is that my potential residency supervisor would see the biomedical engineering background as a backlash as compared to other applicants with medical physics in their resume, eve if that means they haven't had the same exposure as me to the actual residency work.


  5. May 18, 2017 #4


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    I wouldn't worry too much about semantics if the program is accredited. One thing you should be able to do is try to get an idea of where recent graduates of this program are ending up. If they're getting Medical Physics residencies with at least the same frequency as graduates from the other programs, then you should be fine. If that information is not already online, you could try contacting administrators within the program. It's very common to keep statistics on this kind of thing.
  6. May 20, 2017 #5
    thanks a lot, I will do so.
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