To become a medical physicist, you first need an undergraduate degree in physics or other physical science. After acquiring your undergraduate degree, you have two options:
- Graduate degree in Medical Physics
- Master of Science (MS)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Professional graduate degree in Medical Physics
- Doctor of Medical Physics (DMP)
There are many graduate programs that offer MS, PhD, or DMP degrees in Medical Physics. Graduate programs in North America are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP). CAMPEP also accredits residency programs.
If you choose the first option – an MS or PhD in Medical Physics – you have a choice between either a non-clinical or clinical career after graduate school.
If you decide to pursue a non-clinical career, you could be a medical physicist in research or industry. Career opportunities without direct clinical involvement can be found in government, industry, and academia. Board certification and completion of a CAMPEP-accredited graduate program is optional for non-clinical medical physics careers.
If you are interested in a clinical career, you will want to obtain an MS or PhD in Medical Physics from a CAMPEP-accredited medical physics graduate program and complete a CAMPEP-accredited clinical residency in order to be certified by the American Board of Radiology (ABR). Other organizations issue board certifications in certain specialties that do not need residency completion.
If you choose the second option, a DMP degree, your training will include the required clinical residency. You will be eligible to take the ABR board exam after you receive a DMP degree from an accredited program.
Clinical medical physicists typically seek board certification in their clinical specialty. Board certification in North America is organized by entities such as the American Board of Radiology (ABR), the American Board of Medical Physics (ABMP), the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM), or the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine (ABSNM). The majority of the clinical physicists in the US choose to be certified by the ABR. Documentation showing that you’ve graduated from a CAMPEP accredited residency program is required to take the ABR board exam.
Interested in learning more about different medical physics degrees? Take a listen!
Podcast courtesy of Dr. Alison Roth.
- SDAMPP Student Guide to a Medical Physics Career
The Society of Directors of Academic Medical Physics Programs (SDAMPP), 2016
- Academic Program Recommendations for Graduate Degrees in Medical Physics
AAPM Report #197, 2009
- Essentials and Guidelines for Clinical Medical Physics Residency Training Programs
AAPM Report #249, 2013
- The Essential Medical Physics Didactic Elements for Physicists Entering the Profession Through an Alternative Pathway
AAPM Report #197S, 2011
- Alternative Clinical Medical Physics Training Pathways for Medical Physicists
AAPM Report#133, 2008