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Getting into research

by 2much
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2much
#1
Feb18-11, 02:37 AM
P: 14
So I am 20 years old and a recent college drop out. I was taking computer systems technology and decided during second year that it was not something I wanted to pursue as a career. As of right now I am taking night school courses for both advanced functions and physics at the 12U level.

I hope to get into physics, was first thinking of physics and astronomy since I have a deep interest in that field but am now considering particle physics. Now my question is how hard is it to get jobs in these two fields? Are there any other related fields I should research and consider? Is research hard to get into? Will I need a masters?

Really any personal experience/advice will help. I am jumping into these night school courses head first with no pre-requisites so I might come here for some help in the future.

Thanks.
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ZapperZ
#2
Feb18-11, 05:52 AM
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Typically, research work in physics and astronomy requires a Ph.D. Even if it doesn't, you will be competing with others who have that degree.

Now, it doesn't mean that you cannot work IN an environment or in a facility that does such research work, as in a supporting, technical role. However, principle investigators that actually do the research work tend to have doctorate degrees.

Zz.
twofish-quant
#3
Feb18-11, 09:00 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by 2much View Post
I hope to get into physics, was first thinking of physics and astronomy since I have a deep interest in that field but am now considering particle physics. Now my question is how hard is it to get jobs in these two fields?
Depends on the type of job. For the typical student, you'd have roughly a 1 in 10 chance of getting a research professorship after getting a Ph.D. Your chances are likely to be much lower than that since you are coming in through a non-traditional route.

Something that I'd like to point out is that there are more openings for major league baseball players than research physics professors. Last year, there were 1500 rookie baseball players drafted and 250 professional football players. Each year, the US graduates roughly about 1000 physics Ph.D.'s, and there are about 200 physics professorships opening up. It gets worse. You are likely going to be in a specialized field. If you want me to I can show you the one web page that has all of the astrophysics jobs opening up.

Asking me what your chances of getting a research professorship is roughly akin to asking me what your chances are of being a major league baseball or football player. I can't say it's totally impossible, but.......

Now as for as other jobs....

One thing to remember is that graduate students do research. Graduate students are basically serf researchers, and you get your Ph.d. *after* you've demonstrated that you can do research. Getting yourself to the point where you can get a competitive application to graduate school is merely extremely difficult. You *will* be a paid researcher, but you do have to realize that you will be paid below minimum wage.

Also getting yourself to the point that you can teach community college, high school, or run a teaching laboratory is much easier.

Really any personal experience/advice will help. I am jumping into these night school courses head first with no pre-requisites so I might come here for some help in the future.
My advice is to focus on things that you can get out of the courses right now. For example, if you learn calculus and basic mechanics, you can apply that right now to get a better job. To use my major league baseball analogy. If you think only about playing for the major leagues, you are going to be in for a shock if it happens to be that you can't. If you keep being a major league baseball player as a crazy dream, and then go outside to play baseball, you'll still find yourself better off than being a couch potato.

2much
#4
Feb18-11, 04:10 PM
P: 14
Getting into research

Interesting. I didn't know it would be that difficult. So if I pursue a physics degree in either astronomy or particle physics my best bet is to be a teacher eh? I definitely don't want to teach. I have some thinking to do. Any advice on programs to look into with physics/advanced functions and calculus. Since I was in computer systems already I'll look into some university related courses. I'd love to get some more input though.


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