Consider a Career in Medical Physics

Who are Medical Physicists?

Medical physicists are health care professionals with specialized training in the medical applications of physics. They are scientists with graduate training in physics (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) and membership in the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM). Their work involves the use of radioisotopes, x-rays, ultrasound, magnetic and electric fields in diagnosis and therapy. Most medical physicists work in hospital diagnostic imaging departments, cancer treatment facilities, or hospital-based research establishments. Others work in universities, government, and industry.

What do Medical Physicists do?

Medical physics is divided into two main areas: radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation in the treatment of cancer. The roles of a medical physicist in radiation therapy include treatment planning and radiotherapy machine design, testing, calibration, and troubleshooting.

Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic imaging physicists are involved in the uses of x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, and nuclear medicine for imaging patients. The roles of a medical physicist in diagnostic imaging include machine purchasing and installation, testing, quality control, and operation.

Medical physicists in both radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging are often involved in research and teaching. Medical physicists play a central role in such areas as the construction of radiotherapy treatment equipment and the development of new imaging techniques. Most medical physicists are affiliated with universities and teach in graduate and undergraduate medical physics and physics programs.

Professional Status

Canadian medical physicists are members of the the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM). Candidates with suitable educational background and experience become members of the college by passing written examinations.

Employment of Medical Physicists in Canada

There are approximately 250 medical physicists working in Canada: 75% work in hospitals and hospital-based research establishments, 7% work for government, 8% for industry, and an additional 10% are university faculty who are not hospital-based. The number of medical physics positions has generally increased by about 5-10% per year.

How Much Do Medical Physicists Get Paid?

The demand for medical physicists has increased greatly in the past few years. This has lead to a rapid increase in salaries. Currently, medical physicists in Manitoba can make up to $125,000 per year.

How Do I Become a Medical Physicist?

To become a medical physicist you need to first earn a B.Sc. honours degree in physics. After earning a B.Sc., you must complete a graduate degree (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) in Medical Physics. During a graduate degree, students are often supported through an award or grant. One then typically then completes a two year training program (residency) in medical physics, during which the resident rotates through clinical postings. These include external beam dosimetry, treatment planning, brachytherapy and provide practical experience in Radiotherapy Physics.

In Manitoba, medical physics residents are paid approximately $50,000 - $66,000 per year, depending on qualifications and experience.

To Learn More About Medical Physics Contact:

Dr. Stephen Pistorius
Division of Medical Physics
CancerCare Manitoba
675 McDermot Ave
Tel 204-787-2211
Email: graduate@cancercare.mb.ca

To Learn More About a B.Sc. Degree in Physics Contact:
Dr. P. Blunden
Department of Physics and Astronomy
301 Allen Building
University of Manitoba
Tel 204-474-9817
Web site: www.physics.umanitoba.ca

See also: the Canadian Organization of Medical Physics