Masters Degree in Nuclear Medicine: Program Summaries
Nuclear medicine is a health care field that concentrates on the use of radiation to diagnose, monitor, and treat many illnesses and conditions. Master's degrees in nuclear medicine do not exist, but there are related programs, such as a master's in medical physics.
Medical physics is a broad academic discipline combining subjects in biomedical engineering, physics, and radiological sciences. A master's degree in medical physics can qualify an individual for professional practice in clinics and hospitals. Medical physicists are often sought for scientific guidance regarding the use of radiation in therapies and diagnosis. Some programs allow students to choose from a therapy physics track or a diagnostic physics track.
In addition to academic and theoretical work, students learn to operate various technologies necessary for medical procedures, like radiation oncology and diagnostics imaging.
- Program Levels in Medical Physics: Usually master's level.
- Program Length: About two years.
- Prerequisites: Usually bachelor's degree in engineering, physics, or physical science; completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
- Other Requirements: Students may also be expected to produce an original thesis based on research conducted individually or in groups.
Master's Degree Programs in Medical Physics
Many programs offering graduate-level medical physics education prefer students whose undergraduate study is related to medical physics, such as nursing or radiologic sciences. Some applicants already have worked as physicians or other health care professionals.
Courses are lecture and lab based, and they include hands-on clinical practica. A master's degree in medical physics might include courses such as:
- Systems physiology
- Radiation detection
- Clinical therapy physics
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Popular Career Options
A degree in medical physics often leads to a career in diagnostic medicine. Individuals with graduate degrees in medical physics can work for medical imaging clinics and radiology departments, for example. A master's degree in medical physics can create employment opportunities in the following occupations:
- Radiation specialist
- Radiation oncology consultant
- Medical researcher
- Diagnostic consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't collect salary and employment information specifically on medical and health physicists. However, the agency does compile information about physicists in general. In 2014, the average annual salary for physicists was $117,300, with those working for hospitals earning $170,270, according to the BLS. The anticipated employment growth for physicists from 2012-2022 was 10%, and the BLS noted that the demand for physicists in medicine should continue.
After receiving a master's degree in medical physics, students can continue on to earn a doctorate if they so desire. Students also have the option of receiving additional graduate education in fields related to medical physics and nuclear medicine, such as radiological sciences or biochemistry.