Schools for Aspiring Medical Physicists: How to Choose

Medical physicists use radiation therapy to treat patients with cancer and other illnesses, or they may focus on medical diagnostics and engage in research and teaching in the field. Medical diagnostic technology that uses physics includes x-rays, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, positron emitting tomography and ultrasound.

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Aspiring medical physicists can find master's and doctoral programs at 4-year colleges and universities. Applicants to these programs typically need an undergraduate background in the sciences, engineering or mathematics.

Schools for Medical Physicists

Here's a list of schools with relevant programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition 2015-2016
University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota 4-year, Public Master's, doctoral In-state $15,844
Out-of-state $24,508
University of Wisconsin Madison, Wisconsin 4-year, Public Master's, doctoral In-state $10,728
Out-of-state $24,054
University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona 4-year, Public Master's In-state $11,040
Out-of-state $29,362
Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana 4-year, Public Master's, doctoral $8,813
Duke University Durham, North Carolina 4-year, Private Master's, doctoral $47,590
Columbia University New York, New York 4-year, Private Master's certificate $42,280
University of Miami Coral Gables, Florida 4-year, Public Master's, doctoral $33,300
University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri 4-year, Public Master's In-state $8,402
Out-of-state $22,498
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 4-year, Private Master's, certificate $31,068

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, School websites

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School Selection Criteria

Some important considerations for prospective students include:

  • Medical physics programs are generally offered at the graduate level. Admission typically requires a bachelor's degree in a field like chemistry, engineering, mathematics, natural sciences or physics.
  • Look for a program that prepares graduates to sit for the American Board of Radiology certification exam.
  • Find a school with state-of-the-art facilities for clinical practice or research, depending on your interest.
  • Students should look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP). Such accreditation ensures a quality education that meets CAMPEP's standards of excellence.

Master's Degree Options

A master's degree, taking about two years, prepares students to enter the workplace by taking courses that combine physics with chemistry and biology. A combined bachelor's and master's program might take up to five years.

Doctoral Degree Options

A Ph.D. in Medical Physics can be finished in 2-4 years and generally involves a clinical internship. Doctoral candidates might choose a specialization within medical physics, such as therapeutic radiology, diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology, medical health physics or nuclear medicine, with clinical rotations customized according to a student's specialty track. A research thesis is another piece of most curriculum.

Before looking into a medical physics graduate program, students should make sure they meet the prerequisites. Students should also ensure they'll be prepared for certification and will have access to a proper facility for research.

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