Although there are no master's degrees in nuclear medicine, interested students may pursue a master's degree in medical physics, which is a broad academic discipline that combines subjects in biomedical engineering, physics, and radiological sciences. Specifically, students are trained to use radiation in therapies and diagnosis. Students also gain practical experience in the use of various technologies necessary for medical procedures, such as diagnostic imaging. Some programs allow students to choose between a therapy physics track and a diagnostic physics track. Prior to graduation, student may be required to submit a research-based thesis. Most programs take about two years to complete.
In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field such as physics, physical science, radiologic science, or nursing. They must also submit GRE scores.
Master's Degree Programs in Medical Physics
Courses are lecture and lab based, and they often 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 may work for medical imaging clinics or radiology departments. 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 2015, the average annual salary for physicists was $118,500, with those working for hospitals earning an average of $169,120, according to the BLS. The anticipated employment growth for physicists from 2014-2024 was 8%, about as fast as average.
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.
In conclusion, despite the lack of programs in nuclear medicine, master's degree programs in medical physics provide students with advanced theoretical and practical training so that they can gain employment in the medical field or go on to earn a Ph.D. in a related area.