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All students take the same core courses in the first year, followed by specific courses that correspond to their chosen area of specialization. Each student can create an individualized curriculum to meet their research and didactic needs. Courses may be selected from the program’s List of Courses or other departments at Duke.

Degree Requirements

PhD Requirements

Course Credits

  • 6 mandatory core courses – 16 credits
  • 1 track-specific advanced course – 3 credits
  • 1 minor track course – 3 credits
  • 5 elective courses (including practica) – 15 credits
  • Seminars in Medical Physics – 4 credits

16 + 3 + 3 + 15 + 4 = 41 course credits

Qualifying exam

  • Passing qualifier exam parts 1 and 2
  • Passing doctoral preliminary exam


  • Doctoral dissertation including dissertation document and defense


  • 41 course credits + dissertation
  • Duration is 2 years of course work and typically 2-4 years of additional research.

MS Requirements

Course Credits

  • 6 mandatory core courses – 16 credits
  • 1 track-specific advanced course – 3 credits
  • 4 elective courses (including practica) – 12 credits
  • Seminars in Medical Physics – 4 credits

16 + 3 + 12 + 4 = 35 course credits

Qualifying exam

  • Passing qualifier exam part 1

Thesis Option

  • 6 credits MS thesis research (including thesis document and defense)

Non-thesis Option

  • 6 credits elective courses + scholarship project (including scholarship document)


  • 35 course credits + 6 credits thesis or scholarship = 41 credits minimum
  • Required duration is 4 full-time semesters (2 years).

PhD and MS Requirements

Completion of orientation workshops and all requirements by the graduate school, which may include Responsible Conduct of Research, BIOTRAIN, English for International Students, etc.

Master's or PhD?

Our program offers both degrees, but the two groups interact as one tightly knit community. Required coursework is the same. Both degrees require original research culminating in a thesis or scholarship project for MS and dissertation for PhD. In terms of duration, the MS takes 2 years while the PhD typically takes 5 years. Upon graduation, many MS students continue on to the PhD, and both groups are successful in pursuing residencies and jobs. MS students are self-funded, and the program provides substantial scholarships. PhD students are fully funded by fellowships, and are thus extremely competitive. Ultimately, the choice comes down to your ultimate career goal. The MS provides pre-professional training, while the PhD prepares you for higher-level research positions or academia.

"Upon joining Duke Medical Physics, I have felt a strong sense of camaraderie among my classmates, as these relationships are emphasized by the program since day one. A curriculum based on collaboration and teamwork, combined with the genuinely caring faculty and staff have created a learning environment where I have grown both academically and professionally. Outside of the classroom, we receive clinical training at the highest standard. We promote leadership and involvement in the larger Duke and Durham communities. Not to mention the access we have to a world class cancer center and research facilities that keep us students on the leading edge of this rapidly advancing field. My time in this program has been an amazing experience in all facets of graduate education."
Zachary Gude Portrait
Zach Gude
PhD student (MS 2022)

The program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP).