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Can we talk about graduate school?

by tolove
Tags: graduate, school, talk
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Jorriss
#19
Nov27-12, 11:45 PM
P: 1,042
Quote Quote by ModusPwnd View Post
Easy to say... But if you don't get a career out of it and make no more after than you did before that is easily seen as money, and time, wasted. Its fun and fulfilling to know some relativity and quantum. But without a career to pay for it most people would not attempt it. Money isn't everything, but it is something.
Which is fair, but for many of us school was all about pleasure, if only because of our ignorance (my ignorance) of any real world concerns.
Bipolarity
#20
Nov27-12, 11:46 PM
P: 783
The view to college should be a balance of both financial and personal considerations. This will be different for each person, but eventually once must draw a line between money and the other things if one is to make a decision consistent with one's beliefs.

For instance, if you are an international student looking to eventually immigrate to a developed country, you need a job and sponsorship in that country. This is much easier to do with engineering than with a subject like Archaeology. All the int'l students I know have moved back to their country if their major was not in engineering/mathematics/computer science/economics. The math degree becomes heavily employable when combned with either economics or computer science (idk about physics).

This is certainly true of the US and Japan; to my knowledge the immigration laws in these countries are much more lenient towards workers in high-skill occupations, i.e. engineering/CS/financial analyst. My guess extrapolates this to other developed countries.

Another example, I have a friend who is doing computer engineering. He does not even like studying; if he could do what he spontaneously wanted to do, it would be video games, but those really don't earn you anything He was hardworking enough to scrape through the graduation and secure a modest entry level job. Why did he pick engineering?

One of the reasons was that his little brother had a passion of being a doctor. Becoming a doctor is very expensive in the US. The older brother took the decision of majoring in engineering so he could pay (at least in part) for his younger brother's expenses in medical school. The younger brother, unlike the older, is deeply passionate about medicine. To be frank the older brother doesn't care what he majored in, as long as it payed enough for his younger brother's needs.

You don't have to major in the subject you spontaneously love the most. It just's that you need to make the decision so that you don't regret it afterwards, and since few people can advice others on the future, the gut feeling is also important in these matters, since few people know you better than yourself.

This is all coming from someone who *almost* majored in math, but ended up majoring in EE. In my free time I read books on stuff like real analysis and cryptography, so I still *love* math, but have decided *not* to make it a part of my career, in much the same was Einstein did not consider violin to be a part of his career.

BiP
ParticleGrl
#21
Nov28-12, 12:46 AM
P: 681
everyone going into physics KNOWS that it won't bring nice cars, nice clothes,a giant house, or a big bank account. i do it because i love it and doing anything else would be a waste of time.
Right after you talk about how you aren't studying to gt a job, you suggest you are "going into physics." Studying physics is NOT going into physics- more likely than not its going into IT,finance, insurance,etc. You should do what you love, but it helps to think longer term than "right now." i.e. if you would be happier in engineering than in insurance, you should probably major in engineering and not physics.

The advisor to our physics club told me he thinks it's very sad that people consider education to be for job training, and not for enlightenment.
If the advisor to your physics club is a physics professor, he didn't follow his own advice. For him college and graduate school WERE job training. Beware people who are giving advice they wouldn't follow themselves.

Best case scenario-- I'm a genius and didn't know it, land a research job
Middle case scenarios-- I find an interesting job in a related field.
Worst case scenario-- I teach. Heck, teaching isn't that bad, I could live and be happy with this too.
I think you have a distorted picture. Most physics phds leave science in general (and work in finance,IT,insurance,programming,etc) after the phd+some postdocs, so your middle case scenario is pretty unlikely unless your definition of related field is different than mine.

As to your worst case scenario- there aren't very many full-time teaching positions. At the college level, teaching duties are increasingly being taken up by adjuncts, and these aren't full-time positions (its hard to get a full load of classes. and even if you do you only make 20-30k a year, no benefits).

At the highschool level- you have to convince a cash strapped district to hire someone who 1. is in the highest pay bracket (phd) and 2. has no highschool teaching experience. Its a tough sell.
DrummingAtom
#22
Nov28-12, 02:44 AM
P: 661
Quote Quote by tolove View Post
I don't think anyone goes in paying 20k+ a year just so they can "get an education," but thanks for being overly pessimistic for me today.

Welcome back anytime
Some people don't pay anything to go to school, so an education might be all they want because they won't be in debt at the end.
Rika
#23
Nov28-12, 02:48 AM
P: 149
Quote Quote by Bipolarity View Post
.Another example, I have a friend who is doing computer engineering. He does not even like studying; if he could do what he spontaneously wanted to do, it would be video games, but those really don't earn you anything He was hardworking enough to scrape through the graduation and secure a modest entry level job.
How come? With programming skills you can secure a modest entry level job in gamedev company too. Was he "indie or nothing" kind of guy or sth?


Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
Right after you talk about how you aren't studying to gt a job, you suggest you are "going into physics." Studying physics is NOT going into physics- more likely than not its going into IT,finance, insurance,etc. You should do what you love, but it helps to think longer term than "right now." i.e. if you would be happier in engineering than in insurance, you should probably major in engineering and not physics.
True. People think that if you go to college for career then it means that you see $$$ in your eyes but it's not true. For me having enjoyable job is most important. Well no matter what college lasts 3-5 years while job lasts decades.

I don't think that studying physics for 3-10 years and then going for a job that you don't like (programming or sth) pays off. In long-term it's better to think what kind of JOB would you like to have, not what do you want to STUDY.

I trully have enjoyed studying physics - reading books, watching movies etc. but I have realized that I don't want to work as programmer, medical physicist, engineer, researcher or teacher. Fortunately education in my country is tuitition-free so I didn't waste my parent's money and I could do everything over again (I work in a different field that I trully enjoy and study different, my job-related major).

It's also true that people from poor countries (not as rich as US) just simply can't afford to study whatever they want (unless their parents run successful business) because they will end up in customer services job (7200$ per year) and stay there forever. Humanities/social sciences but also science (biology, chemistry) are "no-no" in my country. Money is not everything but with 7200$ per year you can't afford to have car, 2-rooms flat or start a family.

What's more - if we want to try our luck in different, rich country we need to have PRACTICAL skills (field doesn't matter) to set our foot there. Getting academic (not practical) degree leads to low-paid job in customer services. Working 5 years in customer services doesn't count as reliable job experience or skills.

It's true that while working in customer services you can pick up some skills on your own like programming but for god's sake - not everyone can become programmers. It is said in my country that if you don't have a talent for practical degree (medicine, computer science etc.) or a certain passion that can bring food to your table (in my case it's gamedev) then instead of getting useless science/humanities degree you should get solid vocational traning and become electrician, plumber, chief etc. And if you want to educate yourself in let's say literature then you can pick up some books and read stuff in internet.
dkotschessaa
#24
Nov28-12, 06:50 AM
dkotschessaa's Avatar
P: 568
Quote Quote by tolove View Post
I was a bit cynical in my original post, I will admit. I'm going to study this even if it means I work out of field, just because the subject is amazing. But at the same time, it's expensive! I will have to recoup my losses, and I'd rather be in a better position afterwords.


May I ask about teaching? How do you guys feel about it? I don't see it mentioned too often on here (I haven't been around long, though). There are lots of teaching jobs out there, no?

Best case scenario-- I'm a genius and didn't know it, land a research job
Middle case scenarios-- I find an interesting job in a related field.
Worst case scenario-- I teach. Heck, teaching isn't that bad, I could live and be happy with this too.
I hate to sound mystical but since I'm a "returning adult" I have a different perspective on this stuff. I think you should pursue your studies with passion and vigor. Do something you absolutely love and possibly are obsessed with. Don't spend too much attention on job considerations (the biggest obstacle to this is parents, who want to know "what are you gonna do with that?") but keep your eyes open for opportunities. I think if you are hardworking, passionate, and good, the opportunities will appear. The work will come.

It might even entail a complete change of direction. You may get a bachelors in physics and find you are totally satisfied and you want to move into engineering, programming, get an MBA, become a welder or truck driver - who the hell knows. If you pursue education for enlightenment rather than for job training then that's always going to be with you no matter where you go afterwards.

I know this is easier said than done when you're younger and worrying about how to earn a living and such.

To answer your original question, which for some reason I didn't - you can do pretty much anything with a math and/or physics degree, grad school wise.

To answer your question in this post, there is nothing wrong with teaching, though I'm not sure on what level you mean this. This could mean anything from high school (or lower) to the coveted, tenured professor job (in which case you are doing research as well.)

-Dave K
Choppy
#25
Nov28-12, 07:06 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 2,668
I can't help, but wonder if my original point was missed.

If you look at the data on people who graduate with a physics degree, they tend to do fairly well financially - earning roughly in the middle of the pack when compared with engineers, and well ahead of most other majors - including business, social science, and biochem-types.

Education increases your earning potential. That's a hard fact.

What I meant was that a degree in physics doesn't train you for a specific job. Unlike engineering for example, when you graduate and go out to look for that first career-type job, you won't find many postings that are specifically looking for someone with a physics degree.

As a physics graduate you will have many skills that employers find desirable: problem-solving, programming, research, technical writing, a thorough understanding of technical areas, and even project-management skills.

But most undergraduate physics programs are not designed to prepare you for a specific job. They're designed to teach you physics and prepare you for graduate school.
Locrian
#26
Nov28-12, 08:22 AM
P: 1,731
Quote Quote by tolove View Post
Graduate school should be free?
Oh no, I meant cost $0 to you. I'm not arguing it is free.

My stipend was roughly $1400 a month, if I remember right. I did accrue a little bit of debt, but I could have avoided it had I been more prudent with my money. (For some reason, it has always been that when Im in school, I spend more freely; another good reason for me to not be in school. . .)

This is grad school in physics were discussing though, right? An MBA or PT will cost a big chunk of change.
tolove
#27
Nov28-12, 09:14 AM
P: 161
Quote Quote by ModusPwnd View Post
"There are lots of teaching jobs out there, no?"

I wouldn't say so. Teach for America could find a spot for you. Otherwise many districts are putting teachers on furlough and letting them retire without re-hiring. Teaching jobs are out there, but there is not lots. Of my undergrad cohort 3 of them ended up doing Teach for America.
This probably wasn't meant to reassure me, but I really like knowing about this program. I have an unusual ability to deal with stressful people, and have always been drawn to areas like this (not as a permanent career, though!).

Post-doc assistant jobs will be an option for a while, teaching is an option, going out of physics and into a related field is an option, grad school shouldn't cost much out of pocket, then, of course, the dream of landing a research position. This is enough for me.

Now I can just worry about getting my GPA above a 3.3. I graduated my 2-year with a 3.0, so I will worry about this now! Time to review calculus and classical physics, then pre-study modern physics before classes start.

I'm glad I made this thread, very nice forum here!
chill_factor
#28
Nov28-12, 01:00 PM
P: 887
Quote Quote by Choppy View Post
I can't help, but wonder if my original point was missed.

If you look at the data on people who graduate with a physics degree, they tend to do fairly well financially - earning roughly in the middle of the pack when compared with engineers, and well ahead of most other majors - including business, social science, and biochem-types.

Education increases your earning potential. That's a hard fact.

What I meant was that a degree in physics doesn't train you for a specific job. Unlike engineering for example, when you graduate and go out to look for that first career-type job, you won't find many postings that are specifically looking for someone with a physics degree.

As a physics graduate you will have many skills that employers find desirable: problem-solving, programming, research, technical writing, a thorough understanding of technical areas, and even project-management skills.

But most undergraduate physics programs are not designed to prepare you for a specific job. They're designed to teach you physics and prepare you for graduate school.
averages are misleading; you should know the distribution. physics majors have a very wide distribution of pays ranging from investment banking level to fast food level. turns out that investment banking + fast food / 2 = slightly higher than average pay.

this tells me that it is the quality of the people that learn physics, rather than physics the subject itself, that predicts success. Your personal potential is maximized (or minimized) with a physics degree. An average guy majoring in business and getting a 3.5 is going to have better prospects than an average guy majoring in physics getting a 3.0; on the other hand, someone brilliant will be better served in physics.

Also its interesting to note but the average GRE scores, both verbal and quant, are higher for physics majors than for any other physical science/engineering majors, which themselves are higher than for life and social sciences.
Locrian
#29
Nov28-12, 02:58 PM
P: 1,731
I don't see where Choppy mentioned averages at all. He could well be referring to the median, which is less sensitive to skew.
Bipolarity
#30
Nov28-12, 04:16 PM
P: 783
Quote Quote by Rika View Post
How come? With programming skills you can secure a modest entry level job in gamedev company too. Was he "indie or nothing" kind of guy or sth?
I meant playing video games not designing them. Even game design does not pay as much as engineering.

BiP
Rika
#31
Nov28-12, 04:32 PM
P: 149
Quote Quote by Bipolarity View Post
I meant playing video games not designing them. Even game design does not pay as much as engineering.

BiP
ah I see now.

Yes ofc - gamedev doesn't pay as well as business programming or advertising but still allows you to lead comfortable middle class life (at least here).
Moneer81
#32
Dec3-12, 10:00 AM
P: 155
Quote Quote by tolove View Post
I've decided on going back to school for a physics degree. I want to know it, and there's nothing else out there that I'm as interested in. But school isn't for pleasure, it's for getting a job. A 4-year in physics alone, from what I've been reading, is about as good as any other degree. It'll look nice, but get you very little by itself.

Now, for graduate school.. help?

What degrees are currently in demand? What degrees could I cross over into with a physics BS? Where are good places to find internships (Virginia)?
Wanted to put in my 2 cents, although the discussion here kinda ended.

I think you guys are a little hard on the OP. I completely understand your way of thinking, tolove, you love physics, but like most normal people, you want a secure career. You might or might not be on a quest to get rich, but that's besides the point. I think it is completely normal that you want to go to school for potentially many years and also want to have that pay off, both by virtue of learning what you love, and also financially.

That being said, my (potentially inaccurate) research is pointing me towards the following in demand areas:

1. Accelerator physics: there are a couple threads about this topic and there was an article back in 2010 that described this field as a field where "jobs go begging". Not many schools offer this program, but I find it very interesting as there is going to be a growing demand and at the same time it is a very applicable field (there are industry-demands for it), and it is also hands-on.

2. Laser physics: that also includes optics and its many applications. I am currently very interested in this field as I am aware of the many applications and industry demands. Lasers are very important in the communications industry for example (where my background is in), so you're always going to have companies and research programs looking for optical physicists. Also, this is one field that is not dominated by engineers (there are no optics engineering programs). Most engineers working in laser physics typically have a double major in EE and physics or a heave focus in physics.

3. Medical physics: used to be good a few years ago and you could get into the field and secure a nice job at a hospital as a medical physicist with just an MA (at a radiation oncology department for example) but the field has become very competitive, and last I heard, medical physicists have to go through a residency program now (like medical students). But in my opinion anything that has to do with healthcare will always have good prospects.

4. Experimental particle physics: not sure about this one. I am sure Particlegirl would disagree. This field is very popular now and is making good strides, but I think it is very competitive, and if I am not wrong, if you want to be good at it, you would have to master the very difficult math.


Any other suggestions? I am very interested in this topic as you can tell. Please correct me if I am wrong about any of the above or if I missed something obvious.
tolove
#33
Dec3-12, 11:28 AM
P: 161
Quote Quote by Moneer81 View Post
...
Thank ya very much for the suggestions. I have heard the medical physicist suggestion a few different places now. Laser physics sounds very logical as well, and that's actually a subject that has been a mystery to me for a while. The other two suggestions you made are a bit above my understanding, but they sound interesting.

I will look for some books on each subject and see how they feel.
ZombieFeynman
#34
Dec3-12, 06:05 PM
PF Gold
P: 277
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
An average guy majoring in business and getting a 3.5 is going to have better prospects than an average guy majoring in physics getting a 3.0; on the other hand, someone brilliant will be better served in physics.
Data, please. Support this claim.
Moneer81
#35
Dec3-12, 07:13 PM
P: 155
tolove,

Here is the article about accelerator physics:

http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/arti...obs-go-begging
dkotschessaa
#36
Dec4-12, 06:59 AM
dkotschessaa's Avatar
P: 568
Quote Quote by ZombieFeynman View Post
Data, please. Support this claim.
I don't know about the exact data as far as GPA he quoted, but in principal I agree. Do a google search for the top rated jobs/careers and you'll find they are always math and science related. Sometimes medical, depending on the list.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123119236117055127.html
http://money.usnews.com/careers/best...e-25-best-jobs
http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/10-best-jobs-2012
http://www.time.com/time/business/ar...858773,00.html

I think a major in "business" in itself is pretty useless, because it begs the question "*what* business?" Though I think it could very powerful when combined with another major.

In general as far as GPA, a 3.0 in math/physics etc. is much more impressive than a 3.5 in business/literature/film etc. Though people passionate about those topics should pursue them for their own sake, IMO.

-Dave K


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