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ORISE report shows number of health physics Ph.D.s declined in 2009

June 15, 2010

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Health physics undergraduate degrees increased slightly in 2009 continuing a six-year trend, but doctorate degrees reported a 40-year low, says a report recently released by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. The report also showed the number of M.S. degrees was 21 percent less than in 2008.

The ORISE report, Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2009 Data, surveyed 24 academic programs with enrollment and degree data and included students majoring in health physics or in an option program equivalent to a major.

According to the survey, a total of 154 health physics B.S., M.S. and Ph.D degrees were earned in 2009.

“The recent drop-off in Ph.D. degrees in health physics probably reflects the fact that B.S. and M.S. degrees are most in demand in the nuclear industry and government agencies today, to staff up for the inevitable nuclear renaissance,” said Richard Toohey, associate director for Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Independent Environmental Assessment and Verification programs.

“My colleagues in health physics academic programs tell me that every student is receiving multiple job offers upon graduation. However, continued government support for scholarships and fellowships is absolutely necessary to sustain the health physics profession,” said Toohey, who is also a recent past president of the National Health Physics Society.

Data from the survey showed 69 B.S. degrees and 76 M.S. degrees were earned in 2009, while nine Ph.D degrees were earned in the same year.

Based on the recent enrollment trends, the ORISE report forecasts a stable-to-modest growth rate for B.S. and M.S. degrees over the next two to three years, and modest growth in Ph.D. degrees over the next few years.

Name of Institution B.S. M.S. Ph.D. Total
Purdue University 26 1 0 27
Oregon State University 7 10 1 18
University of Massachusetts, Lowell 2 13 1 16
University of Tennessee 9 2 0 11
University of Cincinnati 0 7 2 9
University of Missouri 0 7 1 8
Idaho State University 4 3 0 7
University of New Mexico 0 6 0 6

* For a complete list of academic institutions granting health physics degrees in 2009, see page three of the full report.

For those with data reported, all B.S. graduates were U.S. citizens. Among M.S. graduates, 16 percent were non-U.S. citizens, and 44 percent of Ph.D graduates were non-U.S. citizens.

Finally, among both B.S. and M.S. graduates, 14 percent of U.S. citizens were minorities. Women comprised 35 percent of the B.S. graduates, 28 percent of the M.S. graduates and 44 percent of the Ph.D graduates, the report said.

No minorities were reported for Ph.D. graduates.

Since the 1970s, ORISE has collected and/or surveyed data on enrollments and degrees in science and energy-related fields of study for the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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