A medical physicist is a technician who works with medical imaging technology to map out parts of the human body. Medical physicists arenít medical doctors, but work closely with doctors in diagnosing and treating patients. A medical physicistís salary is usually much higher than physicists working in universities or research institutions, making this an attractive career choice for many people interested in natural science.[1] To start this career path, pursue a college degree in physics and a masterís degree in medical physics. If you want to work in a university, continue on to a PhD. Then complete a 2-year residency to gain practical knowledge in the field. Complete 3 tests from the American Board of Radiology to get board-certified and practice as a licensed medical physicist.

[Edit]Completing the Educational Requirements

  1. Major in physics for your undergraduate work. The first step in becoming a medical physicist is establishing a firm background in physics. There are no undergraduate degrees in medical physics, so most students complete a BS in physics with some life science or medical electives to prepare them for graduate work. Earn your physics degree for an important step towards becoming a medical physicist.[2]

    • Take courses that involve laboratory and research work as well. Youíll be a stronger candidate for graduate programs if you have hands-on experience like this outside the classroom.
    • If you didnít major in physics, a bachelorís degree in engineering or a similar natural science could also qualify you for graduate study in medical physics.
    • Even though there are no undergraduate degrees in medical physics, some schools give recommended tracks to design a course program for students who want to pursue graduate work in medical physics. See if your school offers this service, or find a sample course track online.[3]
    • If youíre at all unsure on what courses will prepare you for graduate work in medical physics, speak with an adviser at your college.

  2. Apply to CAMPEP-accredited Masterís degree programs in medical physics. The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP) is responsible for certifying medical physics graduate programs. Explore certified MS programs and find out the admissions requirements for each. Usually, programs require your transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Some may also require an interview. Keep track of each programís requirements and due dates so you submit all your applications correctly.[4]

    • Highlight any lab or non-classroom experience you have in your personal statement. Medical physics is a hands-on field, so graduate programs will like to see candidates with hands-on experience.
    • Keep your grades up during college to increase your chances of getting into graduate school. Many graduate programs require at least a 3.0 GPA for entry.
    • For a current list of graduate programs offering medical physics degrees, visit http://www.campep.org/campeplstgrad.asp.

  3. Complete your MS degree in medical physics. Masterís programs in medical physics require 2 years of full-time study. Starting in the fall, these programs provide a rigorous schedule of classwork and practical lab or internship duties. At the end of the program, you may have to write a masterís thesis or take a comprehensive exam. Work through the program to obtain your MS degree in medical physics.[5]

    • Always work with your program adviser to design your program so you know the correct courses to take for your degree.
    • Some universities require an internship during the program as well. This provides hands-on training in the field and will help you build experience to find a job.
    • Programs require either a masterís thesis or a comprehensive exam to complete your masterís degree. Some give you a choice, and some require one or the other. Follow your programís requirements to complete the degree.

  4. Pursue a PhD if you want to enter university work. For most jobs in the medical physics field, an MS degree is all you need for entry. But if you want to work at a university, either as a teacher or a researcher, youíll probably need a PhD. Find CAMPEP-accredited PhD programs, just like you did for your MS, and apply for entry. PhD programs usually require 30 more credits of coursework, a comprehensive examination, and a detailed research project that results in your written dissertation. This could all be 3-5 years or more of work. When you finish, youíll be qualified to hold university positions in medical physics.[6]

    • Make sure your career goals require a PhD before making the commitment. You may be able to work with only an MS, meaning you wonít need several more years of schooling.
    • A PhD may also open new career opportunities in industry work as well. The degree isnít required for entry-level work, but it may qualify you for promotions and pay raises later on. If you feel like your career reached a plateau, a doctorate may open new doors.

[Edit]Getting Board Certification

  1. Take part 1 of the American Board of Radiology (ABR) certification test. After you complete your MS degree, youíre qualified to take part one of the ABRís certification test. This is a knowledge test based on the material in your MS coursework. The ABR accepts applications for the exam in the fall, and tests are administered at a Pearson testing center. Study and pass this test to move on in the certification process.[7]

    • Pearson testing centers are located throughout the US. Find the one closest to you by visiting https://home.pearsonvue.com/abr.
    • You have 5 years from the completion of your degree to take and pass this test.
    • For a content guide of what to expect on the first test, visit https://www.theabr.org/medical-physi.../content-guide.
    • The part 1 test is not required for getting residencies, but getting a good score on the test could increase your chances of getting the residency of your choice.

  2. Complete a residency to qualify for full board certification. After completing your MS degree, youíre qualified for residency programs. These 2-year programs give you practical experience working in a clinical setting. This training prepares you to practice as a medical physicist independently. It also qualifies you to take the next 2 parts of the ABR certification test to become fully certified.[8]

    • The CAMPEP also accredits residency programs. For CAMPEP-approved residencies, visit https://www.campep.org/campeplstres.asp.
    • Different programs may have different application requirements and timelines. Investigate all the programs youíre interested in and keep track of their different requirements.
    • Residencies are competitive, and most programs only let in 1 or 2 residents per year. Apply to multiple programs to increase your chances of being matched.

  3. Pass part 2 of the ABR certification test. After completing your residency, youíre qualified to take the second part of the ABR test. This is a practical test based on the knowledge youíll gain in your residency. Questions cover working diagnostic machinery and applying the****utic treatments. Apply for the exam when youíre finished with your residency and visit a nearby Pearson testing center to take it. If you pass, youíll be able to take part 3 for full certification.[9]

  4. Get board-certified by passing the oral ABR test. Part 3 of the ABR test is an oral exam. Testers will ask you to apply the knowledge youíve gained through your education to real-world problems. They are testing your practical problem-solving ability and communication s****s. Apply for the exam on the ABR website. Youíll receive an invitation to take the exam 5 months before the exam date. Spend that time studying so youíre prepared. When you pass your oral exam, youíll receive full board certification to practice as a medical physicist.[10]

    • Currently, the oral exam is only given at the ABR testing facility in Tucson, AZ. Confirm that this is the test location before making arrangements.
    • The oral test is unique to each personís specialties. For a general guideline of what the ABR representatives may test you on, visit https://www.theabr.org/medical-physi.../content-guide.

  5. Find medical physicist jobs by searching online job boards. Once you're board certified, you can work independently as a medical physicist. Jobs are posted on internet job boards for specialized medical physics websites, as well as normal job sites like Monster. Find postings and submit your application materials to get a job in medical physics.[11]

    • Professional organizations like the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine usually post jobs on their websites. Start on these sites for postings tailored to your expertise.
    • You can also search job postings at particular hospitals or universities. Some may not appear on other websites.
    • Remember to call some of your old professors, bosses, or contacts that you met throughout your education. They may know about job openings that aren't posted yet.