Medical physicist

Healthcare
Discover

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would research new techniques and develop new medical equipment for treatments in hospitals. You’d make sure specialist equipment is safe and works properly.

You’d work with equipment, like MRI scanners, ultrasounds and x-rays, which are used to investigate patients' conditions.

You would:

  • Develop and test new systems
  • Monitor equipment to make sure it is accurate and safe
  • Train hospital staff to use new equipment and do complex procedures
  • Help to plan treatment and explain procedures to patients
  • Carry out certain procedures and analyse test results
  • Use computer simulations and mathematical modelling

You would develop new technology for diagnosis and treatment.

For example:

You could work on imaging techniques to track how organs are functioning and to help with image-guided surgery

If you wok on radiation and radio therapies you could calculate dosages for beams and radioactive implants used in the treatment of cancers.

You could develop electronic instruments which take measurements or support damaged organs.

Or you could work on laser technology. It is used to reduce the need for invasive surgery, for example to break up kidney stones or treating eye disorders.

You would work closely with medical professionals such as doctors, radiographers and medical physics technicians.

You’d need to keep up to date with the latest research in healthcare science, also known as clinical science.

Working conditions

Hours

You would usually work around 37.5 hours a week. You may have to work evenings or weekends as part of an on-call rota, depending on your role.

Environment

You would be based in a hospital, clinic or laboratory setting, and you may need to travel to other hospitals to meet with other scientists. You would wear protective clothing and take other safety measures when working with hazardous substances and radiation.

Travel

You may need to travel to other hospitals to meet with other scientists.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Taking the lead
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Accuracy
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Paying attention to detail
  • Making decisions

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

You'll need an honours degree in physics, or a related subject like biomedical or electrical engineering (SCQF Level 10).

Some medical physicists also have a postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11).

The NHS offers a Scientist Training Programme. This is a three-year graduate scheme where you'll get work-based training and study for a Master's (SCQF Level 11) in your chosen specialism.

To enter an honours degree in physics usually requires Highers at AAABB, often in one sitting. You'll also require National 5 qualifications including English.

If you're an adult without the right qualifications, you may be able to apply for a one year course to help you access a degree. The Scottish Wider Access Programme(SWAP) has more information. 

Useful subjects

Most courses require maths, English and sciences, in particular, physics.

Technologies subjects such as Engineering science may also be helpful.  

You will also need

Competition for courses and graduate programmes is fierce. Some research experience or work experience in a hospital's medical physics department would be useful.

Helpful to have

Courses accredited by the Institute of Physics or one of the engineering bodies, such as the Engineering Council or Institution of Engineering and Technology, lead to membership of professional bodies, which may help further your career.