Career Progression in Medical Physics
Round, W. H. (2014). Career Progression in Medical Physics. Presented at the 14th Asia-Oceania Congress of Medical Physics & 12 South East Asia Congress of Medical Physics, 23-25 October 2014, Novotel City Centre, Ho Chi MInh City, Vietnam.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/9056
In several western countries there is a formal medical physicists’ training scheme after which a lot of graduates are employed in government hospitals where there is a formal, national salary scale and levels of responsibility through which physicists can expect to move. Those who are employed in private institutions are usually employed on contacts that are somewhat similar to those in the government institutions, but with perhaps a higher salary level but with an expectation that they will have a higher output. This is often not the case in AFOMP countries, especially in developing countries where there may be very few medical physicists. There may not be a “recognised” path that a clinical medical physicist would expect to follow from being a trainee/registrar/resident to a chief physicist in charge of the physics in an imaging or radiation oncology or medical physics department. There is often no official salary scale, limited access to continuing professional development, and little concept of how their careers might be expected to progress, especially amongst administrators. Those countries that do define a career path for medical physicists usually do so through a nation- or state-wide employment contract (or award) negotiated between the profession and the government. These can be used as a model for career planning elsewhere. A survey done of the career pathways in other countries showed that where awards exist, often they are constructed as a multilevel system consisting of, for example, four levels: physicist, senior physicist, principal physicist and chief physicist. Minimum education qualifications and experience are often needed to enter each level, along with a compilation of achievements and an expectation that the physicist will be able to fulfil the requirements of the level. If possible, such systems should be set up in all AFOMP countries where this is possible so that medical physicists will be able to see where their career will lead and how far they have progressed. Sometimes this can be difficult to set up because being a medical physicist is not a government-recognised profession in some countries, even though it is recognised by the International Labour Organization. To ensure that physicists’ careers will develop in a way that will fully develop their potential, it is important that issues such as have proper education and training, sufficient access to continuing professional development, interaction with physicists within and outside their own institution. Also, for those who temporarily leave the profession, a pathway for them to re-enter must be available. Career progression is something that all AFOMP National Member Organizations must address if the potential of their members is to be properly developed and their skills to be fully utilized.