Questions for Health Physicists
February 24, 2017 4:10 AM   Subscribe

I am an engineer looking to switch into a Health Physics career. I have a few questions for any Health Physicists out there.

I am a working electrical engineer considering paying for a 2-year grad school program to earn a masters in Health Physics. I am switching careers because every engineering job I have seen is a cubicle farm. However, I am apprehensive about grad school as it will cost me to spend all of my savings (no exaggeration).

If you are a Health Physicist or Medical Physicist, please clarify which one you are.

1. Please state: Job title, salary, summary of job function and/or average day.

2. What level of education do you have?

3. Would you describe your work environment as "corporate"? Do you wear jeans to work?

4. Would you describe your work environment as low-stress?

5. What do you like about your job? Not like?

6. Would you work somewhere else if you won the lottery? Please do not call this question silly. A simple "Yes" or "No" is sufficient.
posted by Evernix to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I work with some medical physicists. I'll answer what I can.

1. most of the physicists I work with are based in a radiology clinic at large academic hospitals. I can't tell you their average day, but they are often involved in assessing new equipment and protocols for using the new equipment, managing the equipment. Often they are involved in clinical or technical research.

2. Most have PhDs

3. They work in medical clinics, usually business casual, not jeans.
posted by sulaine at 5:14 AM on February 24, 2017

I'm a particle physicist in a department with a medical physics grad program. My understanding from speaking to colleagues is that, at least in Canada, your chances of getting a job in a clinic with a master's degree in medical physics are quite slim now that there is a good supply of candidates with PhDs. This is worth checking into in your jurisdiction before you spring for a 2-year program (which I'm assuming from your description is course-based). Another question to ask is whether the program you're looking at is CAMPEP-accredited (mostly relevant in North America only).
posted by heatherlogan at 6:26 AM on February 24, 2017

My neighbor has a PhD in physics, and wasn't the academic type. He is a nuclear medicine person with a cancer therapy center (photon therapy or gamma knife, I forget which) as part of a big hospital. Even after his PhD, he had a long training program and licensing exam to complete/pass even after his PhD.

His dress is biz casual (polo/khaki), but I'm sure at times there's the collar/tie/jacket.

His job was not low stress. The machines, sick/dying people, etc.
posted by k5.user at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2017

I wanted to add that non-sketchy research-thesis-based grad programs in medical physics should actually pay you while you are enrolled (that is, you should be able to cover your tuition and basic living expenses out of the teaching assistantship + research assistantship + scholarship package that the program will offer you). That's why I guessed that the program you're looking at is purely a course-based Master's.
posted by heatherlogan at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2017

Response by poster: The graduate position is at my state's university and is a 2-year research assistantship and includes a stipend that does not fully cover my living expenses.
posted by Evernix at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2017

HPs where I work ('Shipyards' paragraph, labs might be different) are typically GS-12s or GS-13s, non-supervisory. I think there's a bonus for getting the CHP. The 12s don't really need the masters degree, just enough related coursework in the transcript, but obviously the MHP and the certification make a stronger candidate, and one more likely to eventually become management. You would most likely need one or both to be competitive at the director level.

The front-line HPs operating the machines can wear casual wear (jeans/shirt) if they want. Most go not-quite-casual, but not quite "business casual" either - think khakis and a polo shirt or button-down. I wouldn't say it's stressful, in fact I'd say it's usually boring, but to each his own, I guess. It gets interesting at the higher levels - first-time work procedure development, unusual problems, etc. But then you're probably also managing people, which can be stressful no matter what work the people actually do.
posted by ctmf at 6:08 AM on February 25, 2017

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