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Medical Physicist Job Description, Career as a Medical Physicist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

physicists hospitals physics radiation

Education and Training: Advanced degree

Salary: Median—$124,532 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Medical physicists apply the principles and theories of physics to all aspects of medicine. In hospitals, they help plan radiation treatments for cancer patients using external radiation beams or internal radioactive sources. They provide images of internal organs and determine metabolic rates and blood flow. The images provide physicians with important information that allows them to diagnose illness.

Medical physicists also design radiation installations for hospitals and ensure that the complex equipment functions properly. They are responsible for precautions against the hazards of radiation.

Many medical physicists are involved in the research and design of new medical equipment. They work on new applications for high-energy machines, such as linear accelerators to treat cancer. Diagnostic imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging, is constantly being improved. Medical physicists are also developing new imaging procedures using infrared and ultrasound sources.

At many teaching hospitals, they are faculty members who instruct future medical physicists, medical students, and radiographic technologists. In colleges and universities they may teach medical physics, biophysics, and radiobiology to graduate and undergraduate students.

Education and Training Requirements

Graduate training in medical physics is required for all jobs in this field; most medical physicists have doctorates. Knowledge of physics and basic medical sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, genetics, and biochemistry, is essential.

Getting the Job

The best sources for information about job openings are college professors, advisers, and placement offices because they usually have contacts in the medical industry. Graduates can also apply directly to hospitals, universities, and government agencies. Professional associations and journals often list job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement opportunities are good for medical physicists with doctorates. In hospitals and research centers, they can advance by taking on more responsibility and heading project teams. Those in teaching positions can move through the ranks from assistant professor to full professor.

Employment of physicists is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. More doctorates are being granted than there are openings for medical physicists, so competition for jobs may be stiff. However, new positions may be created because the aging population may need an increasing number of diagnostic tests. Openings regularly occur when experienced workers retire or leave the field.

Working Conditions

Most medical physicists work in clean, well-lighted laboratories and classrooms in hospitals and universities. They may conduct research independently or as members of teams. They must be able to communicate their ideas to doctors, students, and sometimes patients both orally and in writing. While they generally work forty-hour weeks, overtime may be necessary for emergencies and special projects. They spend additional hours studying the latest developments in the field.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Physicists in Medicine
1 Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740-3846
(301) 209-3350

American College of Medical Physics
12100 Sunset Hills Rd., Ste. 130
Reston, VA 20190-5202
(703) 481-5001

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries for medical physicists are similar to those of other physicists. In 2006 the median salary for experienced medical physicists with advanced degrees was $124,532 per year. Benefits usually include health insurance, paid vacations and sick leave, and retirement plans.

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about 9 years ago

I am a Medical Physics graduate and have no job for 1 year. two other graduates from same program are jobless. We are from good program - all those who graduated 2 years back have jobs. I dont know what to do...There is no demand for junior people..

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over 6 years ago


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over 7 years ago

This link is very useful to know various fields, jobs and informative one...

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over 8 years ago

i think all what you guys are saying is the reality in every job.its baout lucky,good timing,environment and certification. I am doing my Msc in Medical Physics now in Germany.All My friends who graduated from this program all get a job in lessthan 3 months.I mean Germany have job offer and also have shortage worker in this field.The pay is not as in the USA.We have German Version of AAPM called DGMP. Graduate from Msc need just 2 yrs or practical experience with the 2 main radiation protection courses and will be certified.This 2 years can be achieved during the bachelor and masters studies.We do our Masters thesis simultaneously with the practical experience in a clinic or hospital and that will give us one year. its so easy and fast to have a job here in Germany.

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over 9 years ago

The salary is largely exaggerated. Salaries are low and positions are rare now-a-days. It was boom 3-7 years back when radiation therapy boomed initially. Now, it is a junk... people are unemployed afters MS degrees, better become a dosimeterist. easy job, bit less money.

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almost 11 years ago

The working conditions listed here seems to imply that medical physicists are primarily research oriented. I don't know the exact number, but I'd bet that most are in-fact clinically oriented with specialties in either diagnostic or therapeutic options. The working environment varies but is in a typical hospital or outpatient setting, rather than a laboratory behind a desk.

Also, medical physicists primarily focus on applying the principles of Radiation Physics.

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over 8 years ago

I would like to agree with tim that demand for junior Medical Physicist has become very stiff in recent time. I am M.Sc. graduate in Medical Physics with about 4 months clinical experience and very sound knowledge of the profession. I applied for position in the hospital and could not get one because I have little experience and not board certified.this experience has forced me to painfully take up job in the NDT field. I really hope I can get a place to start my profession...

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over 9 years ago

Mike's comment is quite misleading and really just incorrect. While it is true that medical physics is a slower field now than it was a decade ago, the salary information is actually quite a bit LOW compared to reality.

Take a look at the AAPM's most recent salary survey and you will find that the median salary for board certified physicists is upwards of $170,000-190,000 a year depending on whether they are a M.S. or Ph.D. degree holder.

There were six students that graduated from the M.S. program that I am involved with this past June and their respective first-job salaries are: $92,000, $98,000, $105,000, $110,000, $112,000, and $120,000. They are located all around the United States and I consider those to be very good starting salaries. Once they are ABR certified they can expect to have even greater earning power in the field of clinical physics.

Dosimetry is a fine field and radiation medicine always needs good dosimetrists, but if you are interested in medical physics then by all means pursue a degree in medical physics.

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almost 9 years ago

I've got to agree with Chris. The salary information that I see quoted all over the internet is quite low compared to what's actually being paid. If you have at least an MS, board-certified and maybe 5 years of experience, you should be making at least 175K. For a PhD, add 20K. If you can speak fluent english, add another 20K. And I can find these jobs all day long.

Medical physicists are in huge demand. Uncertified, unexperienced or non-US natives, not so much. I would guess from his grammar, that Mike falls into the later category.

With the enactment of the CARE bill and additional restrictions, the supply of qualified people is going to shrink dramatically.

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almost 11 years ago

this resourse was very useful to my experience

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almost 8 years ago

medical physicists really deserve a lot more than what they are getting as a monthy salary

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over 8 years ago

Do any of those who responded mind and post where they are from or where the people you know got jobs? I feel that it really depends where you live and apply to whether you can easily get a job or not. Some places are more active and are in constant demand for medical physicists. However, I am sure there are places where they are not needed at the time.

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about 4 years ago

Am impressed with all i have read from the forum,
Am planing to come into the field very soon though i had done with my first degree (physics with electronics)
Now what would be your advice now on if is a field to come into or not because i equally have a mind to go into auroneutic engineering .
ineed an advice becasue i do not want to venture into something at the end of the day No work to show

i welcome every contribution.