Job descriptions and industry overviews

Medical physicist: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:53

Medical physicists use analytical and applied scientific techniques to assist healthcare workers to diagnose and treat patients.

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine used by medical physicists.

Medical physicist : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Medical physicists provide information and expertise that help teams of medical professionals diagnose and treat patients. Information can include nuclear imaging that doctors can use to assess patients’ internal organs, for example.

They are also involved in the radiation services hospitals offer, designing equipment and making sure it is operated safely.

Typical duties include:

  • planning and ensuring patients’ treatment.
  • analysing images and data to aid diagnosis.
  • working directly with patients to explain treatment plans.
  • developing or procuring equipment to investigate medical conditions in patients.
  • providing advice about radiation protection.
  • training and updating healthcare, scientific and technical staff.
  • managing radiotherapy quality assurance programmes.
  • teaching.
  • carrying out research.

Graduate salaries

Medical physicists in the NHS start out on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), a work-based learning scheme, which is salaried at band 6 of the NHS agenda for change pay rates. As an employee on the NHS STP, you will earn around £35,000.

Once you’re qualified, your earnings will increase to around £39,000 and they will continue to rise as you gain experience.

You’ll also be entitled to a salary supplement if you work for the NHS in London. This is to cover the higher costs of living in the capital.

Typical employers of medical physicists

  • Hospitals, both state-funded and private.
  • Universities.
  • Diagnostic and medical instrumentation manufacturers.

Once you’re experienced, there are opportunities to do locum work filling in for permanent staff or to meet additional needs.

If you plan to work in the NHS, you’ll need to apply for the NHS STP (or its equivalent in Scotland). Vacancies for qualified NHS scientists are advertised on specialist jobs boards and by specialist recruitment agencies.

Qualifications and training required

To become a medical physicist you’ll need a good degree in physics, applied science, computation, mathematics or engineering. If you’re in England or Wales, you can then apply for the NHS STP, which leads to a masters. Having completed this, you can apply for registration with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). Once registered, you can apply for relevant roles.

Scotland has a separate training scheme that also involves studying towards a masters-level qualification.

An additional postgraduate qualification can be beneficial. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Research work, hospital laboratory placements and/or relevant experience gained using similar scientific and analytical techniques can also be useful.

Key skills for medical physicists

  • The ability to work with people from a range of backgrounds and who may be in pain.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills , including the ability to explain complex information to non-specialists.
  • The drive to continue learning throughout your career.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Analytical skills .
  • Good team working abilities.
  • Research skills.

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