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Difference between PhD and MD in Radiology

vik_tor115vik_tor115 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
edited August 2012 in Careers in Medicine
I am about to graduate with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in May 2008 and am interested in a career in medical physics. Are there any radiologists in here who can point out the differences between having a PhD in medical physics/radiology or an MD specializing in radiology in terms of job description?

From reading articles and sources online, it seems like the medical physicist and radiologist rely on each other because the first is an expert with the equipment and making up the treatment and the latter is an expert in diagnosis and analyzing the effects of the treatment. Is this about right or is there something I'm missing? It seems that both professions require heavy cooperation with one another in the workplace.

I am also curious about the salary difference between the two, though I can probably guess that the clinician makes more.

After checking out some PhD programs in medical physics, I've noticed that many encourage taking a 3-4 year residency program after the PhD is obtained. That is pretty much how long it takes (if not longer) to do medical school and do residency? So what's the deal?
Post edited by vik_tor115 on

Replies to: Difference between PhD and MD in Radiology

  • BigredmedBigredmed Registered User Posts: 3,752 Senior Member
    Not really sure, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but my guess is that your initial description is probably pretty correct. Obviously most practicing radiologists are going to be focused on reading scans and films, very much focused on helping fellow physicians make diagnoses and treatment decisions. That part I know.

    Medical physicists, my guess is, will be focused on developing the next generation of CT and MRI scanners, working out new ways for computers to interpret and reconstruct the data, and also develop new technologies for diagnosis and treatment.

    Further, I'm guessing that the most overlap/interaction between the two is going to be at academic medical centers where research oriented radiologists are looking for new ways to impact patient care either through imaging or application of radiation...other than that though, I don't think you'd have a ton of interaction if you were just a community hospital based radiologist...but I could be wrong.
  • afanafan Registered User Posts: 1,686 Senior Member
    Radiologists (MD) are practicing clinical physicians. Diagnostic radiologists use imaging technology to diagnose, and to a limited extent to perform image guided therapy. Radiation oncologists treat cancer using high intensity radiation. Neither field requires anything like a doctorate in physics, but a stronger quantitative background than is typical for physicians is helpful. A BS in engineering is a terrific preparation for these fields.

    Medical physicists do three sorts of work
    Some work in diagnostic radiology making sure that the equipment works properly and is used correctly. This is complicate enough to require a PhD. It is not routine service- there a companies that provide this using people with bachelor's degrees. The medical physicist would, for example, make sure your radiation doses in routine CT scanning follow recommended guidelines.

    Some work in radiation oncology to help with treatment planning. A radiation oncologist would decide that a particular tumor needs a certain dose of radiation, delivered over a given period of time. Figuring out how to do this requires a PhD level of knowledge.

    Research. Although either of the above two jobs could overlap with research, someone who does them need not have research as part of their work. There are physicists at major academic medical centers whose jobs are entirely research. These need not have their degrees in medical physics, and they do not need to train in medical physics. However, like other scientists, they usually need to do post doctoral work before they can get a faculty job.

    If you are interested in academics, then an MD/PhD in physics is an ideal preparation for either field.

    The income for all three types of physics in radiology is quite good, but radiation oncologists and radiologists make much more money than do people who know the physics, but cannot practice medicine.
  • vdutchmanvdutchman Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Hello Everybody


    Ive been doing research in this subject of medical physics myself. Afan made some great points on alot of things. However, my only correction is that technically you can qualify for a medical physics program with just an MD. There are only certain specialties that require having an PHd for medical physics.
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Forum Champion Brown Posts: 8,225 Forum Champion
    Two things:

    1. just to make sure we're all on the same page, this thread is 5 years old
    2. an MD is not a master's degree
  • MrInformedMrInformed Registered User Posts: 288 Junior Member
    ^point number 2 made my day.
This discussion has been closed.