medical physics, residencies

Degrees in Medical Physics

The DMP is a much-discussed topic in medical physics, offering a clinically-focused degree with guaranteed residency.

Which path do I take?

However, not all programs offer the DMP and students may have a tough time determining which degree is best for their intended careers. Here, we’ve broken down the path for each of the degrees offered in medical physics and which individuals might be interested in each degree.

MS: The Master’s

The MS offers the shortest time-to-degree, but securing a clinical position will still require a residency afterwards. The MS is still a competitive degree, however, residency positions have been harder to come by due to competition from PhD graduates. Due to this competition, there are concerns that schools will transition to offering the DMP in place of the MS.

For: Individuals who want to pursue clinical, regulatory, or consulting careers with little or no interest in research.

Time to Completion: 1.5 years (no thesis) – 2.5 years (with thesis)

Checklist:

  • Meet all CAMPEP pre-requisites (physics minor)
  • Complete all core CAMPEP-required coursework (23+ hours)
  • Complete Clinical Rotations
  • Complete Special Project or Research Thesis (includes publication)
  • Complete ABR Part I Certification (optional)

Estimated Cost: $15,000 – $40,000+ annually (includes basic living expenses)

Certain MS programs offer a partial stipend, while others require tuition and living expenses to be covered by the student. Fellowships may also be available for a research-based MS through the external sources, such as the NSF.

Note: For a clinical position, residency will be required for ABR part II certification after receiving the MS. However, many MS graduates pursue fulfilling careers outside of the clinic.

DMP: The Professional Doctorate

The DMP has been likened to other professional degrees, where the title ‘Doctor’ is awarded without an MD or PhD. Some medical physicists feel that this title will grant them more respect in their clinical roles. The DMP offers training that is commensurate with the MS+2-year residency and, in the final year of the DMP, students will have the opportunity to work in a physics practice. To date, Vanderbilt University offers the only CAMPEP-accredited DMP program, however, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has proposed adding the DMP to their current educational program.

For: Individuals who want to pursue clinically-focused careers. Includes 24-month residency experience.

Time to Completion: 4 years

Checklist:

  •  Meet all CAMPEP pre-requisites (physics minor)
  •  Complete all core Medical Physics coursework (23+ hours)
  •  Complete Research Project (includes publication/presentation at AAPM)
  •  Complete ABR Part I Certification
  •  Complete 24-month clinical training (takes place of residency)
  •  Serve in community physics practice (year 4)

Estimated Cost: $15,000 – $60,000+ annually (includes basic living expenses) for years 1-3. Year 4 may be covered by the physics practice that hires you.

The DMP will require tuition and living expenses to be covered by the student for years 1-3 and possible year 4 of the program. Teaching and lab assistantships may become available, offering a partial stipend through the institution.

Note: The DMP guarantees a residency-type position. After graduation, you will be prepared for a junior clinical physicist position and well on your way to ABR part II certification.

PhD: The Research Degree

The Ph.D. in medical physics still stands as the research-focused degree, but offers diverse career paths. Certification is not necessarily required for a medical physics Ph.D. to have a successful career, unlike for the DMP.

For: Individuals who want to pursue academic research and teaching, industry research, or are interested in a joint appointment that includes clinical, research, and possibly teaching duties.

Time to Completion: 5+ years

Checklist:

  •  Meet all CAMPEP pre-requisites (physics minor)
  •  Complete all core Medical Physics coursework (23+ hours)
  •  Complete Clinical Rotations
  •  Complete ABR Part I Certification (optional)
  •  Pass Qualifying Exams and/or Present Research Proposal
  •  Complete Dissertation (includes publication)

Estimated Cost: $0 annually

Ph.D. students are typically awarded stipends or fellowships that cover tuition, fees, and basic living expenses. These stipends may range from $13,000 – $29,000 depending on the program and perceived cost of living. Students may be expected to find funding on their own, through fellowships from the AAPM, NSF, or NIH.

Note: For clinical positions, residency will still be required after Ph.D. to become ABR Part II certified. Hybrid resident/post-doc positions may become available for graduates who are interested in the joint role as clinical physicist and researcher.

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