If you are considering a career in the medical industry, but you don’t have a medical degree or you have little interest in getting one, you may want to consider becoming a medical physicist. A medical physicist is a person that make sure prescribed radiation treatments are administered safely. This relates to not only the correct dosages of radiation, but it also includes optimal positioning of the patient as well. If you’re wondering how do I become a medical physicist, how much does it pay and what do I need in terms of education, simply read on.
What is it like to be a Medical Physicist?
While the job is important in treating people with conditions like cancer and can be extremely rewarding, one unexpected side effect of this job is how emotionally taxing it can be. Typically you’ll be working with patients who are facing very serious conditions with very poor prognosis. Many medical physicists find it emotionally difficult to know that many of the people that they treat will not survive.
The Requirements to Become a Medical Physicist
The next question is, what does it take to become a medical physicist. In most cases, you will need to have at least a Master’s degree. In some situations, a master’s degree can be replaced by extensive educational and training courses with a focus on areas such as anatomy, biology and physics.
Regardless of whether you decide to work for your Master’s degree, or you have the training needed to become a medical physicist, you will still need to qualify for and pass three parts of the certification exam administered by the American Board of Radiologists.
This exam, broken up into three parts, is very detailed and the process can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years at minimum. The first part is a basic exam. As long as you have proper training and education requirements, or a Master’s degree, you‘ll qualify to sit for the part one of the exam.
The second part of the exam is the longest. In this stage you need to acquire at least two years of experience and training in the medical physics field outside of any past training or field experience you may have obtained during your Master’s degree program. Once you have completed those two years of training, and once that training has been approved by the Commission for the Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Program, you’ll then qualify to sit for the second exam.
The third and final part administered by the ABR is an oral exam and can be taken immediately after passing the second exam. However, it’s important to note that this exam is only given in the month of June.
Pay and Future Demand for a Medical Physicist
From the standpoint of pay, a medical physicist typically does very well. Depending on where you practice, pay ranges from $140,000 per year to $250,000 a year.
Estimates are that there are around 3,000 to 4,000 medical physicist currently in the U.S. Most are primarily over the age of 50 and this indicates that there will soon be a need for qualified medical physicists. Currently, about 250 to 300 new medical physicist are needed per year. There will, however, soon be a need for a significant increase in that number.