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ORISE report shows number of health physics degrees increased for graduates, decreased for undergraduates in 2010

Decreased number of B.S. degrees remains higher than levels in the early 2000

Dec. 20, 2011

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The number of health physics graduate degrees increased for both master’s and doctoral candidates in 2010, but decreased for bachelor’s degrees, says a report released this year by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

The ORISE report, Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2010 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, such as other health physics-based programs embedded in life sciences and engineering.

According to the survey, a total of 166 health physics B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees were earned in 2010, down slightly overall from the year before.

“This year’s graduate numbers look very solid and indicate a return to the overall positive trend that first started in 2003,” said Kathy Pryor, president of the national Health Physics Society. “However, it remains to be seen what impact the March 11 Fukushima Daiichi accident may have on the nuclear industry. On the positive side, Japan will need assistance from the international community of radiation safety and nuclear engineering experts for both recovery and cleanup activities. Conversely, the Fukushima incident has also led to a reassessment of the safety requirements imposed on U.S. reactors and to a slow-down in new reactor licensing/construction in this country.”

Data showed that degrees earned in 2010 included 62 B.S. degrees, down 19 percent from 2009; 89 M.S. degrees, up 7 percent from 2009; and 15 Ph.D. degrees, up 67 percent from 2009. Even though B.S. degrees were reportedly down in 2010, the number of B.S. degrees earned remains higher than levels in the early 2000s.

Based on the recent enrollment trends, the ORISE report forecasts that B.S. degrees are likely to remain in the 60-70 range in 2011, but may decrease modestly in 2012. As for graduate degrees, ORISE forecasts numbers for both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees will remain relatively constant over the next few years due to a consistent rate of graduate enrollment.

Name of Institution B.S. M.S. Ph.D. Total
Oregon State University 10 20 0 30
University of Massachusetts, Lowell 2 12 2 16
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 10 1 2 13
Texas A&M University 6 7 0 13
Illinois Institute of Technology 0 11 0 11
University of Tennessee 7 2 2 11

*For a complete list of academic institutions granting health physics degrees in 2010, see page three of the full report.

The most common post-degree activities reported for B.S. graduates included continued study, nuclear utility employment and active duty in the U.S. military. Reported plans for M.S. graduates included other nuclear-related employment, continued study and federal government employment. And for those who earned Ph.D.s in 2010, academic employment was the largest post-degree activity.

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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