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Offline Phthal

I feel very fortunate to have stumbled across this community, let me first say that I am interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Health Physics and I just wanted to see what some of your perspectives about the education and profession were.

I originally went to school for Chemical Engineering some years ago but petered out during my Jr. year.  At the time I suppose I was more interested in chasseing women and hanging out with friends to give the degree the dedication it required.  I have since returned to school a much more responsible adult and I will be graduating in May with a degree in Healthcare Management.  I have been working in a hospital setting for about two years now.  I have found that I desperately miss my scientific roots, (the subject that got me interested in a higher education to begin with) and I mastering in Health Physics may be a great way for me to combine my passions.

I meet the pre-reqs for most of the programs that I have looked at due to my pre-engineering sequence that I completed several years ago.  However my calculus is just a tad rusty.  My questions are as follows:

-Is the curriculum very calculus heavy?  Do any of you remember doing a lot of calculus related proofs or was it plug and play stuff?  How about the career itself?

-Do graduating Health Physicists have decent job prospects?

-I see there are only a handful of ABET accredited schools, is this accreditation important?

-And lastly, as a safety specialist, am I likely to partake in activities that subject me to higher than normal levels of radiation like a tech may be exposed to?  Overall, what type of exposure would I expect to see in this profession?

I apologize in advanced if any of that came off as ignorant, I don’t know a great deal about the field (yet) but I am looking forward to learning more about it and reading your responses.  Thank you in advanced.

Offline tr

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Re: A few Questions about an MS degree in Health Physics.
« Reply #1 on: Mar 08, 2012, 11:27 »
Have you looked into the Health Physics Society?  They may have a local section with meetings near where you are, where you could talk to people with similar education.

Offline Phthal

Re: A few Questions about an MS degree in Health Physics.
« Reply #2 on: Mar 12, 2012, 03:16 »
Thank you for the resource, it looks like it is hard to access the online forums at   I’m not a student yet so I can’t register for a student account and I emailed them some questions to no avail.

If anyone knows anything about mastering in HP I’d love to hear from you.  Particularly about accreditation because it really narrows down the schools I can attend if ABET is important. 

Thank again.


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Re: A few Questions about an MS degree in Health Physics.
« Reply #3 on: Mar 12, 2012, 04:02 »
To answer a couple of your questions:

As to the calculus, any curriculum worth its salt will require a solid base in calculus.  Difficult to understand the theory behind shielding calculations, internal dosimetry, ventilation assessments, activation and buildup, to name just a few, without it.  That being said, in practice, most of it gets whittled down to rules of thumb and assumptions or programs that can do it for you.

Lot of statistics in the programs that I have reviewed. 

In my experience, I have had minimal exposure (<200 mrem) over the 20+ years I have been an HP.

While there are jobs out there, employers prefer individuals with experience.  I would suggest looking at job descriptions for state and federal positions to get a better idea of the current expectations.  Will also give you an idea of whether or not there are jobs in that specialty (D&D, waste, medical, instrumentation, dosimetry, operations, etc.)

You are correct in that HPS will probably not grant you access to the online forums without being a member, the HPS website does have public access to the Ask the Expert section which probably answers a lot of your questions.  You can also contact your local HPS chapter which you can find through the public access portion.

As to an accredited program, IMHO, you should stick to one that is.  My current employer doesn't recognize degrees from programs that aren't.  But my employer may be an exception.  Doesn't make a lot of sense to spend lots of money on a program that isn't though.  My employer also considers an individual's undergraduate GPA even after lots of experience and additional education.

Offline macgator

Re: A few Questions about an MS degree in Health Physics.
« Reply #4 on: Mar 12, 2012, 04:56 »
It would seem that medical physics might be a better fit for you with your hospital background and I would suggest further research into that field.

In regards to health physics masters programs, ABET accreditation is strongly suggested and the calc/stats portion was more of a reinforcement of my undergrad work (brush up on differential equations).

The type and amount of exposure that you can expect to receive will depend on the type of facility you work in, but as a subject matter expert in the biological effects of ionizing radiation, you will understand the risks involved.

Dr. Rich Brey runs an excellent program at Idaho State University.
Good Luck

Offline Phthal

Re: A few Questions about an MS degree in Health Physics.
« Reply #5 on: Mar 13, 2012, 01:21 »
Good catch with medical physics.  It was actually the first degree I researched however the MP programs require a technical undergrad, while the HP programs are slightly more relaxed with admissions criteria.

Thank you everyone for the replies.


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