Students with an undergraduate background in physics, sciences, and mathematics might consider a graduate degree in health physics or medical physics. Options exist to earn either degree in an online format.
Health Physics vs. Medical Physics
While there is some overlap between the fields, distinctions exist between medical and health physics. Read on to learn more about degrees in each of these fields, and some common courses that those studying in these areas might encounter.
Master of Health Physics
Health physics is concerned primarily with the safe use of radiation in a variety of settings. A Master of Health Physics program will incorporate medical applications as well as the overall study of ionizing radiation. Coursework may include instrumentation and radiation shielding. Students who graduate with this degree may pursue careers as radiation safety officers, environmental health physicists, or researchers in the field.
Master of Science in Medical Physics
Medical physics is concerned with the direct application of radiation physics in health care settings, incorporating both diagnostic, imaging, and therapeutic uses, for the treatment of disease. Coursework may include dosimetry, medical imaging, and radiation biology. A clinical rotation may allow for students to practice skills in a hands-on environment. Those who graduate from an accredited program may elect to pursue a residency in medical physics, leading to certification by the American Board of Radiology.
This course could review the fundamental principles in determining appropriate doses of radiation. Students may learn measurement techniques for exposure and dose. Other topics might include governmental requirements for exposure to radiation within work environments.
Students in this field must understand proper shielding techniques for protection from radiation. This course could provide students with information about what a shield is and how to design one. Students may be instructed in specific shielding challenges, such as heat generation and deposition.
This course may provide a foundation for how to detect and measure radiation levels. Different types of detectors and monitoring systems could be reviewed. Types of computer systems designed to measure radiation might be a topic of study as well.
This course might provide the physics background to a range of imaging modalities. Students may be exposed to general radiography in addition to fluoroscopy, mammography, ultrasound, and computed tomography. Safety considerations for each of these modalities could be considered.
A radiation biology course may consider the effects of radiation on molecules and cells. The factors that mitigate exposure to radiation might be reviewed. In addition, the use of radiation in cancer treatment is a likely topic of consideration.
Online Medical or Health Physics Master's Programs
At Georgia Tech, students have the opportunity to earn a 40-credit Master of Science in Medical Physics (MSMP) through an online program. Classroom lectures are recorded as they are delivered by an on-ground professor and then posted online. Students may periodically be required to travel to the Georgia Tech campus on weekends to complete labs. A clinical rotation may be completed close to students' homes. To apply, students should expect to submit transcripts, references, GRE or GMAT scores, a personal statement and a resume. This program is available with or without a thesis requirement.
Oregon State University provides a 45-credit Master of Health Physics through its online program. Students can pursue the majority of their courses in an online environment. A one-week on campus course in Corvallis will provide students with hands-on laboratory opportunities during the summer. To apply, students will provide transcripts, a resume, GRE scores, a statement of purpose, and recommendations.
Illinois Institute of Technology
The Illinois Institute of Technology offers a 31-credit Master of Health Physics program in an online environment, or via televised viewing at sites in the Chicago area. The program is designed for those working as health physicists who desire additional education to pursue leadership positions, and can be completed in under three years of part-time study. Students attend one on-campus lab session to learn about instrumentation. Students can also pursue a specialization in radiochemistry. To apply, students should expect to submit transcripts, a professional statement, a resume, and letters of recommendation. Undergraduate coursework in physics and calculus is expected.
Those who are interested in medical and health related physical science could consider earning a Master of Science in Medical Physics or a Master of Health Physics through an online degree program. Similar courses may be required, and either of these degrees might lead to challenging careers.