Career Path > Radiation Safety

Health Physics or Medical Physics


  Hi.  I am a former nuke SWO officer (7 years) with a BS in physics.  I'm interesting in a little shift in career going into Health or Medical Physics, rather than the operational side of things.  Ideally, I'd like to end up in a hospital setting, but I'd also be very intersted in a lab/research setting.  Power plant isn't myh first choice, but definitely an option as well.
  Is this something that I can step right into with my experience, or would I have to go back to school for a masters first?

Ideas or insights on any aspect of this would be great.  I feel a little lost looking into the real world when all I've known is the Navy.


You may need to plan on a little more education for the Medical physics route...

Here is a typical job description:

For this particular position the education/experience requirements are:

Master's degree in Radiation Therapeutic Medical Physics or an equivalent field or discipline; at least 5 years of experience that is directly related to the duties and responsibilities specified.

Board Certification as Medical Physicist (ABR, ABMP, or equivalent).

There may be a possibility of working in a Health and Safety Office of a large hospital. Usually the RSO's are physicians and most of the day to day radiological work is done by the nuc med techs. The medical field seems to be reluctant in hiring non-medical types to handle the day to day radcon aspects of their facilities.

The best bet here is to look at University Hospitals as they usually will have a regular Health and Safety group that will have a non-medical RSO with a few HP tech types. Working on staff at a University is not a bad life...

Melissa White:
B.E.'s Got it right. 
I switched from reactors to hospital a little over 4 years ago. Doing a little bit of everything, surveys, decon, calibrations, training etc.
We have about the largest program in the country, but still we have only 5 techs.  The pay is "OK" and it's steady, I have a retirement package after I get vested next year and my 403b is building.  (After 14+ years on the road, 20 plants and I don't remember how many outages, just staying home is pretty darn nice). Its all predominantly low level contamination control. Almost zero job coverage unless one the of sinks in laboratories gets clogged and we clear it for the plummers. We have one tech for the clinical side, and 4 for the research laboratories. The clinical tech deals with patient information and instruction predominantly for thryoid ablation therapy, but we have other clinical things involving radioisotope therapy that he may have a hand in. Other techincal duties: Leak testing, dose calibrator verification, surveys etc.  Patient room decon. (we all share that) 

The clinical aspects, administration of isotopes or issuance of prescriptions doses are done by nuclear medicine techs, which I believe is at least an AS degree with cert for the former and BS degree in nuclear pharmacy for the latter. The prescriptions are of course written by physicians specializing is the appropriate areas. Those folks work in the nuclear medicine department.  The techs there do their own decon, and area surveys. The surveys our tech does are for compliance.
 Our Radiation Safety  program is large enough to warrant a dedicated RSO (MS in Medical physics worked his way through grad school as an x-ray tech), who also happens to be a Certified Medical Physicist(currently non practicing).  A smaller place would usually have a radiologist (MD) acting as the RSO.
 The medical physics usually requires at least a Masters degree.  From discussion with my boss, the asst RSO (MS in HP, undergrad Physics) the university based programs that created most of the Health Physicists in the country are slanting more and more to medical physics. Not a bad life, and the pay on that end is pretty good.
  I'm not at a university hospital, but we are a teaching hospital and research institution, so you come in contact with the best and the brightest folks from all around the world. I think that's pretty cool.  The road was fun, but I think I finally finished the withdrawal symptoms of being an "outage junkie".
best to all,

OK, thanks for the info.  Sounds like I pretty much have to get my Masters first.  When you say hospitals are reluctance at hiring non-medical types, can I get in if I get a MS in Medical Physics, or do you have to have a medical background of some sort? 

"at least 5 years of experience that is directly related to the duties and responsibilities specified."

Any tips on how to get around the can't get a job without experience paradigm?

If there is a better pay and future in medical physics rather than health physics, it seems sensible that I'd want to go that way.  What's the best approach to get in?

Thanks again,



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