Masters Degree in Nuclear Medicine: Program Summaries
Nuclear medicine is a health care field that concentrates on the use of radiation to diagnose, monitor and treat many illnesses and conditions, such as broken bones, cancer and pregnancy. Master's degrees in nuclear medicine do not exist, but there are related programs, such as a master's in medical physics. Read on for information on this program's prerequisites, curriculum and employment outlook for graduates.
Medical physics is a broad academic discipline that combines subjects in biomedical engineering, physics and radiological sciences. A master's degree in medical physics can qualify an individual for professional practice in clinics and hospitals. Medical physicists are often sought for scientific guidance regarding the use of radiation in therapies and diagnosis. Some programs allow students to choose from a therapy physics track or a diagnostic physics track.
In addition to academic and theoretical work in classrooms, students learn to operate various technologies necessary for medical procedures, like radiation oncology and diagnostics imaging. Students may also be expected to produce an original thesis based on research conducted individually or in groups. These programs generally require about 38 credit hours of coursework, including clinical practice.
Graduate programs in medical physics require students to possess a bachelor's degree in a specific area, like engineering, physics or physical science. Many programs offering graduate-level medical physics education prefer students with undergraduate education in a field related to medical physics, such as nursing or radiologic sciences. Some applicants already have worked as physicians or other health care professionals. The admissions process will usually require that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Courses of this program include lecture- and lab-based courses, and they also include hands-on clinical practicums. A master's degree in medical physics might include a number of courses in the following:
- Systems physiology
- Radiation detection
- Clinical therapy physics
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Popular Career Options
Comprehensive medical physics graduate education often leads to careers in diagnostic medicine. Individuals with graduate degrees in medical physics can work for medical imaging clinics and radiology departments. A master's degree in medical physics can create employment opportunities in the following occupations:
- Radiation specialist
- Radiation oncology consultant
- Medical researcher
- Diagnostic consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't collect salary and employment information specifically about medical and health physicists. However, this agency does compile information about physicists in general. In 2012, the average annual salary for physicists was $114,150, with those working for hospitals earning $161,080, according to the BLS. The anticipated employment growth for physicists from 2010-2020 was 14%, and the BLS noted that the demand for physicists in medicine should continue.
After receiving a master's degree in medical physics, students can continue and earn a doctorate. Students also have the option of receiving additional graduate education in fields related to medical physics and nuclear medicine, such as radiological sciences or biochemistry.
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