Advice for medical physics job seekers

The employment market for medical physics registrar positions in Australia is a competitive one. Between May and July 2016 I conducted a survey of heads of departments that had advertised for medical physics registrars recently (mostly from 2015 onwards), asking for information and opinions on the number and performance of candidates applying for junior positions.

I received responses from 14 heads of department – 12 ROMPs and 2 DIMPs. Based on their feedback, and on conversations with colleagues – I’ve presented advice to those competing for medical physics registrar positions below, mostly aimed at those enrolled, or about to enrol, in a Masters course. A summary of the survey responses follows this advice.

Résumés and interviews

  • Ensure your résumé is tailored to the position being advertised, and keep it concise – your potential employer may receive dozens of applications, and may not want to sift through excessively long résumés. Your university may provide advice on preparing résumés.
  • Prepare for the interview – be ready for some technical questions and be familiar with expectations placed on registrars. The most common complaint raised by respondents was poor interview preparedness. Your university may offer workshops to help you prepare.
  • Some potential employers want candidates to be familiar with the ACPSEM TEAP clinical training guide. Look at the suggested items of evidence of competency – hold on to any documents from your Masters course that you believe could be submitted as evidence – this may demonstrate that you have considered how you might progress through TEAP.
  • If you are unsuccessful, politely ask for feedback on your application (and interview, if applicable).

Masters research project

  • Ideally your research project should involve time in a clinical environment, and ideally you should have a supervisor that is clinically based. This may allow you to observe clinical tasks within the department, such as routine quality assurance. A familiarity with these tasks may be well-regarded by a potential employer who is keen for you to contribute to the department quickly. Your project should also have a supervisor that is clinically based, as they may advocate for you when speaking with colleagues.
  • Projects examining contemporary and clinically relevant topics may be seen favourably. As an example, having completed a study involving a new or recent treatment technique (e.g. SABR) may improve your chances of getting a job at a department currently introducing that technique.
  • Aim to publish the results of your research project. The ACPSEM training program requires publication for certification, and some registrars have found this difficult to achieve (particularly in less-resourced departments). Having a publication before enrolment in the training program could separate you from other candidates. The drafting of a manuscript after graduation is one way you can stay engaged with physicists in the clinic.
  • You should be prepared to discuss and/or present your research project when applying for a position – this is a great opportunity to demonstrate communication skills.

Networking

  • Networking with those working in the clinic is very important, as it demonstrates initiative and communication skills. In addition to pursuing a clinical research project, consider attending ACPSEM branch events where possible (e.g. PRIMPS meetings in QLD). Keep in mind that not all positions are widely advertised, particularly short term contracts – you may end up securing a position because you made a good impression on the right person.

Survey results

For those interested, I have summarised the numbers provided by survey respondents below:

Metric Mean (Range)
Number of applicants 41 (24-57)
Percent interviewed 33% (10%-75%)
Percent domestic 69% (29%-92%)
Percent women 28% (10%-45%)
Percent with Masters degree 53% (20%-90%)
Percent with Doctoral degree 18% (6%-48%)
Percent with past clinical experience 7% (0%-25%)
Percent considered hireable 23% (7%-50%)
Percent requesting feedback 11% (0%-50%)

Some notes on the above numbers:

  • ROMP positions received more applicants, on average, than DIMP positions (44 vs. 29)
  • Sydney ROMP departments (n=3) received the highest number of applicants (mean = 52)
  • New Zealand departments (n=3) had an average of 38 applicants
  • The percentage of candidates that are women (28%) is similar to values presented recently (28% of ACPSEM branch members, and 36% / 33% of Australasian medical physics MSc / PhD students).

I’d also like to point out that for all the cases above, the number of candidates considered employable was ≥4, and >20 in some cases.

Good luck!