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Engineering Nuclear Engineering PhD to Medical Physics Residency (questions)

  1. Jul 29, 2011 #1
    I'm have a PhD in Nuclear Engineering, and all of my research has been on the radiological health and dosimetry side. I am interested in a career in Medical Physics and plan to apply to several residencies this upcoming year. I am currently working at a research laboratory, and although the work is semi-interesting, I don't get much fulfillment because I am not able to see the benefits of my work. I want to go into a career where I can see the fruits of my labor first-hand, and I have always been interested in Medical Physics, so I'm planning on applying for several CAMPEP residencies.

    Having read the majority of the Medical Physics threads on this forum (including the 14 pg one that was closed :smile:), I see that there are mixed feelings on the job market. Some say it's OK, some say it's horrible. All pretty much agree that it is slower than it was 5 years ago (but that's the case with all job markets). Also, I have heard mixed opinions on applying for a residency with a PhD in an areas besides MP. I have contacted residencies to see if I am a eligible candidate, and they ask me to apply because I am definitely qualified, but then I see some people here saying that your chances aren't that good if you don't have a PhD in MP.

    Saying all that, I have a basic list of concerns, and I'm wondering if some of the MP folks on here could give me their advice:

    1. I'm worried that I may be leaving my current job as a research scientist paying about $90k for a job in MP that doesn't exist (this fear is due to the shoddy job market in MP that I has come up several times). Also, it just never feels comfortable walking away from something you have (a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush).

    2. I'm worried that by asking my current boss to write several recommendation letters, I may make things a bit awkward at work for the time period from application to hearing back from the residencies. If I don't get into a residency, I don't know if things will be "the same" as work considering my boss knows that I was willing to leave my current job for something else.

    3. Finally, I'm a worried that if I don't give Medical Physics a shot, I will regret not taking the chance. (My mind cycles through these 3 worries 1->2->3->1 ...)

    Also I have a few questions:
    1. Are there any statistics for CAMPEP residency acceptance rates available?
    2. Are there any statistics for residency job placement rates upon completion of a CAMPEP residency?
    3. Based on my background, what do you think my chances are of getting into a residency?
    About me
    Age - 27
    Degree - PhD Nuclear Engineering
    Research - 7 papers published in peer reviewed journals

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and respond. Your input is much appreciated.:biggrin:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2011 #2


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    I'm not sure anyone can give you any concrete answers. I haven't seen any statistics on residency acceptance rates or permanent job placement rates from residencies. Recent PhD graduates from CAMPEP-accredited programs I've been involved with have been successful in finding residencies or other full-time positions. And similarly the residents have been successful in finding medical physics jobs once they've obtained their certifications.

    Getting into an accredited residency from NOT having come out of an accredited graduate program, is becoming more difficult. The problem is that most programs expect clinical work to come from their residents and if you don't have the background coursework, you'll be spending that first year or so just getting up to speed on the background knowledge you need to perform clinically (I don't know how much applies to your particular situation, but this is at least the perception you'll be fighting against). Sometimes, employers are willing to accept this - particularly if you're looking at a residency/post-doc position where the skills you bring to the research game will allow you to push the research project forward better than anyone else.

    Your situation is a little different from that of a student. You have a reasonable job and you're looking for something better. NOW may not the the best time to make the jump from an economic point of view. I've heard some CAMPEP PhD gradates from are having difficulty finding jobs. MSc graduates are having an even harder go of it. So there is a lot of competition for residency positions.

    Also worth factoring into your decision is the fact that by 2014, the ABR will require graduation from both an accredited graduate program AND an accredited residency. The CCPM, which is largely accepted on par, is following suit in 2016.

    On the other hand, from a personal point of view, NOW may be a good time for you to make this jump - depending on how willing you are to transfer cities, whether you have a family to support, etc. - as opposed to waiting for a few years for the economy to pick up, when your circumstances may be different and you may not as easily give up a steady paycheque.

    One final option worth considering is that there is at least one CAMPEP-accredited program out there for PhDs who want to get into medical physics without doing another degree. PM me if you want the details.
  4. Jul 29, 2011 #3
    PM sent

    Thanks for the response.
  5. Jul 29, 2011 #4
    My experience tells me that Ph.D. degree holders are more competitive than M.S. degree holders for many residency positions (all else being mostly equal). Many residencies are based in academic settings and will ask that you present on your research during the interview process, and that is obviously a place where your Ph.D. will be valuable -- especially since it sounds like your research has application in the field of medical physics.

    There are even some medical physics fellowship programs out there for Ph.D. holders that consist of two years of clinical training and two years of research, which might be something to consider if you are interested in both academic and clinical physics. You would have to check to see whether the clinical components are CAMPEP accredited, though, as getting in the pipeline for ABR certification is obviously a priority if you want to avoid having to complete another graduate degree.
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