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B.S. in Physics - doomed?

by bjj8383
Tags: doomed, physics
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Choppy
#19
Dec7-12, 02:19 PM
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Quote Quote by Prince Rilian View Post
Try pushing off four resumes a day* to places all around the country, if you are not doing so already.
...
*Note: That is what is "suggested", but I myself can only achieve rate of 2 1/2 resumes per day at my very best.
Who is suggesting this?

This kind of shotgun approach to job hunting has never seemed all that effective to me.

To be successful at job hunting you first have to assess the job itself, which means researching it and the company. What would you be doing? What skills does the job require? How much does it pay? What benefits is the company willing to offer? Who would you repoprt to? Etc. This involves talking to someone. Over the phone if you have to. In person if possible.

There are lots of strategies to get talking with someone:
- job shadows
- internships
- volunteer work
- summer jobs
- conferences and trade shows
- headhunters
- social networking
- cold calls

Once you're talking, you can also ask questions along the lines of:
- Do you know of anyone else who may be hiring?
- Are similar positions available?
- Are there any other positions you think someone with my skill set might be qualified for?

Once you understand the position, then you prepare a detailed cover letter and a tailored resume or CV and submit it. Address it to a specific contact. THEN submit something through the formal HR system.

Once submitted you have to follow up as well. Don't harass. Just follow up.

Simply shotgunning a resume filter may eventually land you a position, but it may not be one that you want.
bjj8383
#20
Dec7-12, 02:42 PM
P: 4
1) You aren't swinging enough - you're either restricting your job hunt or your geographic area too much.

2) You're at the wrong field. Are you just sending in apps to newspaper or Monster adds? Things like that don't work.

3) Swinging and missing. Your resume is being seen but it isn't good enough. You're getting interviews but underperforming.

4) You're getting offers and turning them down because you're looking for something better (sounds like this isn't the case)
1) It's difficult for me to justify spending 20 minutes tweeking my resume and cover letter for positions that I obviously don't qualify for. When a job description says that an applicant needs a masters, needs 5 years experience, etc, I don't even bother. But trust me, if it's even close, I do apply. I have, admittedly, limited myself geographically because I have a very young sibling, I'd LIKE to not be half a country away, but, yeah.

2) If things like career builder, monster, indeed.com don't work, then please tell me what does work. How do positions get filled if they don't advertise?

3) I think my resume is good for having just graduated, I know that visually it is good, it is concise. I've had very few interviews.

4) The only position I've been offered and turned down was a 6-month SEASONAL gig at a science camp that was literally half way across the country.

You could try going back for a more marketable degree.
I know a lot of people have this advise. And it may come down to me having to more seriously consider it. But honestly, I just want to get on with my life. The prospect of spending +4 more years studying while working part time is an agonizing one. Not to mention that my parents and I both are already up to our armpits in student loan debt. I would really, really like to not add to it.

What approaches have you tried so far? I wouldn't expect too many places to openly advertise for someone with a bachelor's degree in physics.

Have you made use of your school's career services centre? Usually they can be very helpful with job searches, resume building, mock interviews, and networking opportunities and usually these are all free, or at least extremely reasonable, for recent grads.

Have you attended any conferences or trade shows? These can offer excellent networking opportunities.
A) Please suggest some other approaches specifically. I've heard this from people before but, I just don't understand how places fill jobs consistently without ever posting them anywhere. If there a secret underground railroad or what?

B) My school career center did those things, but, it didn't help. They told me the best websites to browse, looked over my resume and my qualifications, all that jazz. They seemed very optimistic, but for one they are paid to seem that way and for another, they aren't scientists. So that was the extent of the help I got there.

C) I'm not sure what you mean. My university has a few career fairs throughout the year but the big one is for engineering. I've never had much luck there.

No interest in teaching high school? Usually there is quite a healthy market for math and science teachers, even when the market for K-12 teachers in general is really miserable (as it is in California right now).
I'm fully aware of all this, I have a high school teacher in my immediate family, and I have one of those "we'll certify you in 5 weeks cuz we're desperate" organizations in my bookmarks. Frankly it sounds like hell but this year's last deadline is in Feb, I'm considering it. It's at the bottom of the pile.

I know people who work as engineers with physics BS degrees.
I guess it just comes down to applying for the right thing at the right time. I've heard a dozen stories about physics B.S. holders working in engineering, chem jobs, pharm jobs, sales jobs... I've applied to things like this often with no better luck. Still trying.

This is the reason why OP is unemployed or why ParticleGrl was sending CVs for a few years while working at bar (not to mention that repeating same task and expecting different result is a...).

That's why I belive that unless you know what you want to do with your life you shouldn't get academic degree. Most young people won't make a use of it anyway. It's better to get any job training at the young age.
I find this kind of offensive. I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I've always loved science. It's honestly not my fault if the progression of education in the US didn't give me an accurate view of what being a professional physicist actually entailed. In high school I followed a chemical engineer around at the university for two days. At the end of those two day I still had NO IDEA what a person could actually do with a degree in chem engineering. And I said as much. And he couldn't give be a good answer. It's not the kind of thing that, in my opinion, you can get a grasp of until you've immersed yourself in it.

The college courses don't help either. First semester, Gen Phys I. Alright. Second semester, Gen Phys II. There goes a whole year wasted on baby classes that don't paint an accurate representation at all. Third semester, Gen Phys III with the worst professor in the Dept and Quantum with the department's well known crack-pot march-to-my-own-drummer guy. I felt that those, while not too fun, weren't fair classes to judge the whole field on.

I kept plowing on, even though I didn't really enjoy it, because I'm not a quitter and I kept trying by best. It wasn't until my 4th year that I really came to understand that I wasn't enjoying it. But, by then, you've wasted two years taking all Phys courses that can't be applied to any different degree and you're already in loan dept to your eyeballs. So I plowed through and finished.

In practice, it means that a MS degree is the new BS degree
Yeah, it's the sad sad truth. Spend 22 years, one quarter of your life learning stuff? Not good enough!

OP, have you considered investment banking, or business consulting? Not in NYC, but the regional offices...unless you went to a so-called "target school."
Iiii cannot say that I've applied to any positions like that. Are you suggesting going back to school for those things? Don't get me wrong, if I had a time machine and could do it over again I'd just be an accountant or something that just. Makes. Money. But see above for my feelings about going back to school.

You also may want to get into an internship if you had never done so before. Even if it is unpaid, you will be obtaining work experience. This is an important point.
I'll take a harder look at internship opportunities I come across if you think it's worth it, but as for experience, I have one summer of an out-of-state undergrad research an a full two semesters of a dedicated research project I presented, so, I don't think my resume is COMPLETELY lacking in "I have experience"-ness.
TMFKAN64
#21
Dec7-12, 02:50 PM
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Quote Quote by bjj8383 View Post
2) If things like career builder, monster, indeed.com don't work, then please tell me what does work. How do positions get filled if they don't advertise?
Networking. I always hate to generalize, but so far in my life, I've had exactly *one* job that I got by sending in resumes to people I don't know on a website. Every other time, people who knew me called me up and asked me for a resume.

This makes sense if you think about it... better to hire a known quantity than take a risk on searching for an unknown.
Locrian
#22
Dec7-12, 03:30 PM
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Quote Quote by Andy Resnick View Post
For a change, the reporter spoke to the companies, not the students. What he found was that, aside from companies looking for very specific skills, typical starting salaries of these jobs (which require at least an associate's degree and prefer a BS degree) are *less* than the starting salary for a manager position at a fast-food company- a position that doesn't even require a high school diploma. The reporter concluded that jobs requiring a 4-year degree are not worth the cost of obtaining a 4-year degree.
Hah, exactly! This is what I keep telling people:

At what number of candidates will employers say "no, there are plenty of qualified candidates, please don't spend any more government money educating and training my future employees.”

At what level of supply is an employer ever going to say “no, pay is low enough, I’d prefer to have to offer higher salaries in the future.”

A lot of the "skills gap" talk is just lobbying in a less obvious form.
symbolipoint
#23
Dec7-12, 05:56 PM
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Quote Quote by bjj8383 View Post
I graduated one year ago with a B.S. in Physics. I work at Target.

I remember back then, for the first three or four months when I had the energy and will to aggressively job hunt every day, there were at least SOME things to apply for. Not much, but some. Nowadays, when I search for jobs with the term "physics," the numbers are even worse. Today, Careerbuilder literally returns one result within a 50 mile radius of me.

I'm about at the end of my rope, going to resign myself to a fate of $14,000/year.

The thing is, I'd happily work at any real job that requires a 4 year degree. It doesn't need to be physics related. But no employers realize that if you're smart enough and hard working enough to get a degree in physics, you can do pretty much anything at the intro level. As my advisers used to say, it's among the most difficult of undergrad degrees, to the tune of several sigma. I've been turned down so many times for really easy jobs just because my degree didn't officially contain the words "engineering" or "chemistry" or "business." Is there any good way to find jobs that would accept me? Can anyone offer me any final advise? Thanks in advance.
Good for you! You have a job. It does not relate much to science, but you do have a job.

Most technical and scientific employers are trying to get the most ideal person with the exact experience and skill to fit the job. That is why you are having so much difficulty finding employers to consider you. The employers' views are too narrow.
Choppy
#24
Dec7-12, 06:44 PM
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Quote Quote by bjj8383 View Post
A) Please suggest some other approaches specifically. I've heard this from people before but, I just don't understand how places fill jobs consistently without ever posting them anywhere. If there a secret underground railroad or what?
I made a bunch of suggestions earlier today on how to get to the point where you can have conversations with people who are in hiring positions.

Maybe an example will help for some clarification. Say there's an entry-level position where I work and the current guy holding it gives his two weeks notice.

(1) Administration puts together a hiring committee and someone is tasked with writing up a job description (or at least digging up a previous/similar one).

(2) At about that time the people who are directly affected by this position, such as myself, start to think about who they might want for the position. Forefront in our minds are the people who've come to talk to us about positions already, people who've done job shadows, students that have done projects or co-op terms with us, etc. Often people in a position such as mine will actively seek out those who've expressed some kind of interest (and who have in one way or another come across as impressive). "Hey, we've got a postition in ____ opening up. If you're still interested, send in your CV to _____."

(3) If it's a half decent position, normally there is already a pool of interesting and interested candidates. We tell the HR people, we have already identified a few candidates.

(4) There are legal, corporate and often union rules about hiring. HR will then determine how aggressively they have to recruit for the position. If a pool of candidates already exists, they may simply post the position internally to satisfy whatever rules they need to. Only if there is not a pool of candidates, or there is too much uncertainty, or there isn't a pool of "good" candidates, will HR campaign more aggressively.

(5) The forerunners are invited for interviews once they complete the HR paperwork.

(6) 90% of the people who would otherwise have applied for the position had it been advertised online somewhere are cut out of the loop. So yes, there is a secret underground railroad.

B) My school career center did those things, but, it didn't help. They told me the best websites to browse, looked over my resume and my qualifications, all that jazz. They seemed very optimistic, but for one they are paid to seem that way and for another, they aren't scientists. So that was the extent of the help I got there.
You're using the past tense and yet you don't have a position you're happy with. I agree completely they aren't scientists. But sometimes they can give you statistics like where previous graduates from your program have ended up. (Sometimes your department will track this as well). Look at where other people from your program have gone. Call them up and ask them about their position. Ask them how they were successful in getting it. People like to talk about themselves.

C) I'm not sure what you mean. My university has a few career fairs throughout the year but the big one is for engineering. I've never had much luck there.
Career fairs are just the tip of the iceberg. Say for example, you were interested in getting into the medical imaging field. Look up the major radiology organisations such as RSNA. They have annual conferences where all the major corporate players in the field will show up to show off their latest toys. But it's not just about selling. They're interested in seeing what the other guys have. They hold scientific and professional development talks. This is where you network. Often they will have job boards. Conferences can be expensive (sometimes being several hundred dollars just for registration + you often have to travel), but often you can register for only a single day, or you might be able to qualify for a student rate if you haven't been out of school for too long.
Vanadium 50
#25
Dec7-12, 09:45 PM
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There are a lot of these messages, and I am afraid they come across as "I got this degree. The world owes me a job. Where the heck is it?" That is probably not how they are intended, just how they come across.

There are a couple of things that people seem to manage to graduate from college without learning. One is that universities are not trade schools. Another is that academic disciplines, like history or physics, are not the same as trades and professions, like engineering or law. The last one is that people don't get hired because they are swell people - they get hired because they have some sort of skill set that the employer needs.

So the question that people should be asking is not "what kind of sheepskin is on my wall", but instead "what can I do that people will pay me for?"

In my first job post-SB, I argued that I could program, but not as well as a CS grad, and I could do statistics, but not as well as a statistician, and I could design things, although not as well as an engineer, and I could do mathematical modeling, but not as well as an applied mathematician. They could do better, but they'd have to hire four people to do it. I ended up officially in IT, but my job was largely to communicate with the statisticians, the engineers, the modelers, as well as accountants and marketing folks to ensure that the work that the IT group was doing met their real needs, not just the written spec, and to tease out the unstated and necessary requirements. This is something employers need done. They don't need someone with a degree in physics from MIT, except insofar as it helps get that job done.
StatGuy2000
#26
Dec7-12, 10:15 PM
P: 564
The question I have to the OP is this: during the time you earned your BS in physics, what skills have you developed? Do you have a solid background in programming in languages like C or Python? Do you have an understanding of experimental design or statistical analysis? Do you have a solid grasp of mathematical modelling?

What you should do is assess the skills you have developed, then customize your resume to highlight those skills, and then apply to companies with openings that require those specific skills. HR and hiring managers for the most part hire people based on specific skills they need for the position (unless they are specifically looking for those with a specific certification e.g. engineer, lawyer, accountant), so highlighting those skills will become important for you to stand out.

If you don't have those skills, then while you are employed at Target as a "filler" job, seek to acquire them, either by taking courses in community college or university or by self-teaching. Going back to school to pursue a graduate degree is also an option (if you are going to take this route, I would suggest pursuing a graduate degree in some field outside of physics but in a cognate field, unless you really have a passion for physics research).

It's also important to network with companies. One way of doing so is attending career fairs at your alma mater; another way is to join LinkedIn and join various the various groups organized on various themes. Talk to people. And just keep going at it.
Mépris
#27
Dec8-12, 03:08 AM
P: 830
Quote Quote by Choppy View Post
The assumption here is that you'll be able to do something with a law degree. I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that there are a lot more unemployed or underemployed lawyers than there are physicists.
My assumption was that the OP could get into a top 25 law school with a scholarship. Getting one is quite straightforward: high GPA + high LSAT.

I have no clue how much worse off the law grads *without* debt from law school are than the physics PhDs.

From what I gather, the major roadblock for that first graduate job looks like it's lack of experience and/or marketable skills. Fixing it looks straightforward enough: look for internship positions!

---

OP, no. I wasn't suggesting going back to school. The choice of major doesn't matter. For instance, some Harvard physics grads work in investment banking, private equity, hedge funds and business consulting. That's largely because firms recruit on campus there, but if they can do it, so can you. You just gotta work harder to land interviews. From there on, I doubt that where you went to school will get in the way.


Check out www.mergersandinquisitions.com for more information on the subject. "Network like crazy" is the advice that this guy, and the people on www.wallstreetoasis.com, give. Especially if one isn't from a target school. From what I've read, genuine interest in the job, the ability to get things done, and work 80-100 weeks, are what they look for. Hours tend to be better in the regional (i.e, not Wall Street - for example there's a Barclays Capital branch in Portland, Oregon) banks.

For e.g: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.co...nd-recruiting/ - very detailed, and lots of inside info as to what the interview process is like. It looks like you'd have to learn finance 101 on your own, and make a case for yourself.
---

Bear in mind that my knowledge does not go beyond what I've read on various forums, and websites of certain firms. I have not actually applied for jobs myself. That said, I make a big effort to inform myself. And from different sources. I try to talk to people in the industry as much as possible.

One reason (another being that I was bored, lazy, and naive) I didn't do well in high school is because I didn't know what opportunities doing more could get me. I didn't know of the existence of financial aid at US colleges, I didn't know about olympiads, programming contests, or anything at all. All I knew was what I was told by the people around me.

Guess whose fault that was? :-)

I decided I wouldn't let that happen again, and that I'd stay on top of things as much as I can.

---

Edit: http://physics.williams.edu/people/graduates/

This could be of interest to you, and other physics majors. Interesting outcomes there, ranging from trading commodities in Chicago to scuba diving instructor.

http://cosmology.berkeley.edu/jobs/jobover.html

I haven't read this page yet, but it looks interesting.
ModusPwnd
#28
Dec8-12, 11:15 AM
P: 1,051
Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
There are a lot of these messages, and I am afraid they come across as "I got this degree. The world owes me a job. Where the heck is it?" That is probably not how they are intended, just how they come across.
Why would you interpret it like that? He didnt say anything of the sort, he just wants a better job than Target. I think this kind of dismissive attitude is more than not helpful, its part of the problem. There are lots of complaints like yours here and IRL and I'm afraid they come across as "You didnt make it to the PhD so just forget about a career. You are not good enough to be a physicist so just be happy you even got a job at Target." That is probably not how you intended it, but that is how it comes across. Its not fair at all. He got a B.S. in physics, he is allowed to be unhappy with working at Target.

Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
There are a couple of things that people seem to manage to graduate from college without learning. One is that universities are not trade schools. Another is that academic disciplines, like history or physics, are not the same as trades and professions, like engineering or law. The last one is that people don't get hired because they are swell people - they get hired because they have some sort of skill set that the employer needs.
Why do you suppose that they manage to graduate college without learning those things? I would suggest it has less to do with some fault of their own and more to do with being deceived by high school teachers and physics departments. My physics departments actually tried to recruit more students to be physics majors! It was pathetic. They would convince young students that a physics BS does provide a sort of skill set that employers need. Of course this isnt true at all. Fortunately for them most of them quit, but not before wasting semesters of time and money.

I agree with what you say to some extent, but I certainly wouldnt blame the students. Physicists have an air of superiority about themselves and it spills over into their students. They actually think that if their students are good at physics they can "do anything", or at least market the skills they were taught in the dept. for a decent job. You even see this ridiculousness on these forums, in this thread even, the idea that a physicist is a better engineer than an engineer. And of course like your offensive preamble suggests, they dont give a crap about any back up plan for the majority of students that dont make it all the way. They can go work at target and they have no cause to complain about that...

All the marketable skills that get mentioned as something you can sell an employer... None of those are taught in physics departments. Not a one. For example, physics departments are generally more interested in teaching you obscure math methods that were used before computers were invented rather than using computers to solve problems as is done now-a-days. I took computer programming as an undergrad of my own accord and I once suggested to the undergrad coordinator that programming should be part of the physics requirements or at least incorporated into math methods. He laughed it off, and Im not sure why. I suspect he knows that none of the old timers would go for it. Teaching marketable, usable scientific skills like programming is not part of the physics culture, not in undergrad curriculums. Now I can certainly be convinced that this is OK and physics shouldnt be about job marketability at all. But in that case this should be made well known to the students rather than swept under the rug like it is. Swept under until after graduation that is, at that point the "you should have known better, enjoy your work at Target" attitude comes out when job hunting comes up.
micromass
#29
Dec8-12, 11:58 AM
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Quote Quote by ModusPwnd View Post
I agree with what you say to some extent, but I certainly wouldnt blame the students. Physicists have an air of superiority about themselves and it spills over into their students. They actually think that if their students are good at physics they can "do anything", or at least market the skills they were taught in the dept. for a decent job. You even see this ridiculousness on these forums, in this thread even, the idea that a physicist is a better engineer than an engineer. And of course like your offensive preamble suggests, they dont give a crap about any back up plan for the majority of students that dont make it all the way. They can go work at target and they have no cause to complain about that...

All the marketable skills that get mentioned as something you can sell an employer... None of those are taught in physics departments. Not a one. For example, physics departments are generally more interested in teaching you obscure math methods that were used before computers were invented rather than using computers to solve problems as is done now-a-days. I took computer programming as an undergrad of my own accord and I once suggested to the undergrad coordinator that programming should be part of the physics requirements or at least incorporated into math methods. He laughed it off, and Im not sure why. I suspect he knows that none of the old timers would go for it. Teaching marketable, usable scientific skills like programming is not part of the physics culture, not in undergrad curriculums. Now I can certainly be convinced that this is OK and physics shouldnt be about job marketability at all. But in that case this should be made well known to the students rather than swept under the rug like it is. Swept under until after graduation that is, at that point the "you should have known better, enjoy your work at Target" attitude comes out when job hunting comes up.
Students really shouldn't be so naive to believe everything that they're told. They are aspiring to be physicists, so they really ought to have some kind of critical thinking skills.
The professors and advisors just give their opinion. And I'm sure that they are not intentionally deceiving their students, but they actually believe what they say. It is the student or his parents that should know better and actually research the situation before taking the job. In the end the student himself is in charge of his own education. If anybody is to blame, it is the student. It is not fair to start blaming the entire world for deceiving them.

You are right that some people academia can be quite arrogant. Such people tend to think that they are better than everybody else. But that's not an excuse for not researching and thinking critically about their future.
George Jones
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Dec8-12, 12:09 PM
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Something I posted years ago:
Quote Quote by George Jones View Post
Life isn't so simple, and there are no guarantees.

I tell high school students that if they have real passion and ability for a subject, be it physics, math, history or philosophy, then they should study it at university with peers who have the same passion, and with experts in the field guiding them. Sometimes students major in something marketable with the intention of studying their passion, either formally or informally, after graduation. I tell them that even with the best of intentions, this usually won't happen. Picking up a spouse, car payments, mortgage payments, and kids make life too hectic for it to happen. I tell these students that marketable subjects like business and computer programming should be considered seriously as options, though, since everyone has to earn a living. I also say that it might turn out that what they think is their passion isn't really their passion. There are no guarantees.

The above advice is meant for a minority of students. Students who can't decide what they're interested in, or who are interested in a number of areas, might be better suited studying something marketable.

Finally, students that study physics often end up working in jobs that are not related to physics, but they usually end doing OK for themselves. And they had the chance to experience their passion for at least four years.

Is this such a bad thing?
ModusPwnd
#31
Dec8-12, 12:38 PM
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Quote Quote by micromass View Post
Students really shouldn't be so naive to believe everything that they're told. They are aspiring to be physicists, so they really ought to have some kind of critical thinking skills.
The professors and advisors just give their opinion. And I'm sure that they are not intentionally deceiving their students, but they actually believe what they say. It is the student or his parents that should know better and actually research the situation before taking the job. In the end the student himself is in charge of his own education. If anybody is to blame, it is the student. It is not fair to start blaming the entire world for deceiving them.

You are right that some people academia can be quite arrogant. Such people tend to think that they are better than everybody else. But that's not an excuse for not researching and thinking critically about their future.
I disagree. Physics students should be able to expect to get the straight dope from their professors, dept. and societies. That's why the adviser relationship is so important. Here you are basically advocating for the notion that your mentor and professors in college cant be trusted and you should know that. That's a ridiculous claim to make. One of the key reasons students pay the big bucks to go to university rather than just self study in a library is to get a group of competent, trustworthy experts who's advice and dispensed knowledge and skills can get you where you want to go. Not exploring the caveats makes them either dishonest or incompetent as a teacher or mentor to students. You get some of course, I had a couple professors who were more realistic about careers and the fact that the students actually do want one someday. I choose an adviser who actually had a non-academic job once in grad school, it was refreshing.

It is the students responsibility to learn. But that in no way changes the fact that physics depts. go out of their way to avoid catering to the non-PhD achieving students. Other depts, like engineering and even sciences like chem. and bio. do cater to terminal BS and MS students. They organize internships and research, rather than just internal research and they actually connect their students with employment opportunities rather than shunning them.


You say that students should research their opportunities themselves, I wonder where specifically you have in mind? I think without getting a reality check from their adviser most of what they read and hear will be the usual mantra of "Employers love to hire physics!". Now you are saying that we shouldn't trust our adviser... Well, I trust mine. Each (undergrad and grad) earned my respect and I take what they have to say about physics and careers seriously.
micromass
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Dec8-12, 01:06 PM
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Quote Quote by ModusPwnd View Post
I disagree. Physics students should be able to expect to get the straight dope from their professors, dept. and societies. That's why the adviser relationship is so important. Here you are basically advocating for the notion that your mentor and professors in college cant be trusted and you should know that. That's a ridiculous claim to make. One of the key reasons students pay the big bucks to go to university rather than just self study in a library is to get a group of competent, trustworthy experts who's advice and dispensed knowledge and skills can get you where you want to go. Not exploring the caveats makes them either dishonest or incompetent as a teacher or mentor to students. You get some of course, I had a couple professors who were more realistic about careers and the fact that the students actually do want one someday. I choose an adviser who actually had a non-academic job once in grad school, it was refreshing.
The problem is that professors and such are not infallible. I have had many professors who had spent their entire life in academia. I don't expect them to know much about finding a job outside academia. They are not intentionally misleading or dishonest, they are just talking about their experience and this is not necessarily the experience that other people will have.

That said, I have never really taken anybody's word as truth. Even experts make mistakes occasionally, and I've seen it happen a lot. If they make a claim, then I will be sure to investigate it myself and to see why it is true. I really don't like to believe something only because an authority says so.
Of course, when actually doing research, it is impossible to verify every single thing that people did in the past. This has caused me quite some difficulties because I don't like to accept things as true.

I see professors as people who can guide you in studying mathematics or physics. You should listen to what they say, but in the end it is you yourself who should research things.

It is the students responsibility to learn. But that in no way changes the fact that physics depts. go out of their way to avoid catering to the non-PhD achieving students. Other depts, like engineering and even sciences like chem. and bio. do cater to terminal BS and MS students. They organize internships and research, rather than just internal research and they actually connect their students with employment opportunities rather than shunning them.

You say that students should research their opportunities themselves, I wonder where specifically you have in mind? I think without getting a reality check from their adviser most of what they read and hear will be the usual mantra of "Employers love to hire physics!". Now you are saying that we shouldn't trust our adviser... Well, I trust mine. Each (undergrad and grad) earned my respect and I take what they have to say about physics and careers seriously.
If you trust one single person, then you will end up fooled. People make mistakes, even advisers.
When an adviser says something, then of course I respect what they say and of course I take their advice seriously. That doesn't mean that I actually believe their advice. Nobody should believe advice because some authority figure said so. Even if the figure is very knowledgeable or honest.

Students should give themselves reality checks now and then. What they do in undergrad will be a very large factor of what their later life will look like. It's a very huge decision that they take. If you don't research your stuff or talk to multiple people from various backgrounds, then you should kind of blame yourself if things fail. It is your future, so you are responsible, not anybody else.
StatGuy2000
#33
Dec8-12, 02:26 PM
P: 564
Quote Quote by micromass View Post
The problem is that professors and such are not infallible. I have had many professors who had spent their entire life in academia. I don't expect them to know much about finding a job outside academia. They are not intentionally misleading or dishonest, they are just talking about their experience and this is not necessarily the experience that other people will have.

That said, I have never really taken anybody's word as truth. Even experts make mistakes occasionally, and I've seen it happen a lot. If they make a claim, then I will be sure to investigate it myself and to see why it is true. I really don't like to believe something only because an authority says so.
Of course, when actually doing research, it is impossible to verify every single thing that people did in the past. This has caused me quite some difficulties because I don't like to accept things as true.

I see professors as people who can guide you in studying mathematics or physics. You should listen to what they say, but in the end it is you yourself who should research things.
I'm afraid that I am with ModusPwnd on this matter. Yes, I recognize that professors are only human and are fallible; however, there is an understanding by students (and their parents, who quite often are responsible for covering the tuition if the students aren't putting themselves in debt for doing so) that professors have at least some knowledge of the current marketability of a physics degree outside of academia and should have some type of honest assessment of what their degree is worth to potential employers. It is also worth it for physics departments to consider in their curriculum what skills are of utmost importance for students to acquire to ensure that they are potentially employable subsequent to graduation, whether they pursue further graduate study or not.

This is commonly done in programs like engineering and even in chemistry or biology. It is not done often in math programs, but then again many math majors who don't intend to pursue further graduate studies in math often double major in another field which is more immediately marketable (e.g. statistics, economics, accounting, finance, business, computer science)

If you trust one single person, then you will end up fooled. People make mistakes, even advisers.
When an adviser says something, then of course I respect what they say and of course I take their advice seriously. That doesn't mean that I actually believe their advice. Nobody should believe advice because some authority figure said so. Even if the figure is very knowledgeable or honest.

Students should give themselves reality checks now and then. What they do in undergrad will be a very large factor of what their later life will look like. It's a very huge decision that they take. If you don't research your stuff or talk to multiple people from various backgrounds, then you should kind of blame yourself if things fail. It is your future, so you are responsible, not anybody else.
And just how do you expect a student to do this? A student who is graduating from high school have no idea who or where to turn to for reliable information. It is part of the responsibility and obligation of the college or university to provide the sources of information on which students could then make the responsible decisions on their future, as well as be honest and upfront about the limitations of such information. And if the colleges and universities (more specifically, the physics departments) are not doing this well, then you really have to question the value of a university education (or a physics degree obtained from said university).
micromass
#34
Dec8-12, 02:44 PM
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Quote Quote by StatGuy2000 View Post
I'm afraid that I am with ModusPwnd on this matter. Yes, I recognize that professors are only human and are fallible; however, there is an understanding by students (and their parents, who quite often are responsible for covering the tuition if the students aren't putting themselves in debt for doing so) that professors have at least some knowledge of the current marketability of a physics degree outside of academia and should have some type of honest assessment of what their degree is worth to potential employers. It is also worth it for physics departments to consider in their curriculum what skills are of utmost importance for students to acquire to ensure that they are potentially employable subsequent to graduation, whether they pursue further graduate study or not.
I once asked my professors why we only studied pure math and not more applicable things. They said to me that a degree in mathematics is to train people to become research mathematicians. That is the main goal of the department and that is how they were judged by government commissions. Of course I have a limited experience in these things and even then, these things are only true for the country and the university that I went to. But it gave me the impression that the only things that the departments were responsible for was to prepare students to do research and not to get skills that can be important in later employment. If the students wishes to obtain these skills, then they should do that themselves.

The situation tends to be different for engineers. Engineering departments are really trade schools. They should generate good engineers who are ready for the job. They are more trained towards what they will do later in their job.

Again, I'm not claiming to be an expert in the policies of university departments, but it would surprise me if it were very far from the truth what I said.

And just how do you expect a student to do this? A student who is graduating from high school have no idea who or where to turn to for reliable information. It is part of the responsibility and obligation of the college or university to provide the sources of information on which students could then make the responsible decisions on their future, as well as be honest and upfront about the limitations of such information. And if the colleges and universities (more specifically, the physics departments) are not doing this well, then you really have to question the value of a university education (or a physics degree obtained from said university).
Oh come on. Students just have to go to google and they will find enough information. I see many people on this forum who are asking questions about whether the degree they are planning to do will be employable (and they usually get quite good answers in my opinion). At least those people are actually out there researching things about their future.
It might not be easy to find reliable information or to recognize which information is reliable. But I'm sure you can get a clear picture if you research things for yourself. At the very least, you will read stories of people who were not succesful with their degree (and the "failures" is something that universities are rarely going to tell you about!!). So at the very leasty, you are going to think twice about choosing a degree.
StatGuy2000
#35
Dec8-12, 03:09 PM
P: 564
Quote Quote by micromass View Post
I once asked my professors why we only studied pure math and not more applicable things. They said to me that a degree in mathematics is to train people to become research mathematicians. That is the main goal of the department and that is how they were judged by government commissions. Of course I have a limited experience in these things and even then, these things are only true for the country and the university that I went to. But it gave me the impression that the only things that the departments were responsible for was to prepare students to do research and not to get skills that can be important in later employment. If the students wishes to obtain these skills, then they should do that themselves.

The situation tends to be different for engineers. Engineering departments are really trade schools. They should generate good engineers who are ready for the job. They are more trained towards what they will do later in their job.

Again, I'm not claiming to be an expert in the policies of university departments, but it would surprise me if it were very far from the truth what I said.
It is certainly true that one of the goals of the math department is to train research mathematicians, but that is not the only goal. In the math department at my alma mater, there are various programs offered -- some geared towards pure math and aimed for students intending to pursue graduate degrees, others geared towards applications or joint programs, aimed for students who intend to pursue employment upon graduation. Many other programs offer this because there is an understanding that students may consider options beyond graduate school, and tailor such programs to offer such options. (btw, I am not stating that these programs are effective in providing marketable skills to their students -- I'm just stating that something is available).

In my alma mater, as far as I understand, this is not done in the physics department. There is one major program, a few joint programs, but nothing tailored for students intended to pursue an industrial career (there is an engineering physics program, but this is offered through the engineering department). What I take out of this is that the physics department (at least in my alma mater) does not seem to be overly concerned with those students who do not intend to pursue graduate studies in physics -- which is wrongheaded, in my opinion.


Oh come on. Students just have to go to google and they will find enough information. I see many people on this forum who are asking questions about whether the degree they are planning to do will be employable (and they usually get quite good answers in my opinion). At least those people are actually out there researching things about their future.
It might not be easy to find reliable information or to recognize which information is reliable. But I'm sure you can get a clear picture if you research things for yourself. At the very least, you will read stories of people who were not succesful with their degree (and the "failures" is something that universities are rarely going to tell you about!!). So at the very leasty, you are going to think twice about choosing a degree.
I am not suggesting that students should not do research about their future on their own, and I recognize with the existence of Google that information is more readily accessible than for students in the past. I also understand that forums such as Physics Forums are important sources of information.

However, neither Google nor Physics Forums necessarily provide information that is reliable or usable for many students. I still stand by my assertion that colleges and universities have a responsibility, if not a duty as part of their mandate, to help provide information on the future prospects of whatever field they wish to study, and to be honest about the limitations of the information available.
symbolipoint
#36
Dec8-12, 03:30 PM
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P: 2,795
Long topic! Both points argued are equally valuable. Students should investigate career fields and opportunities and how to qualify for them. University and college faculty should be knowledgable about their field and job possibilities and inform and advise their students. Those are the basic ideas; not much more can be done with this topic.


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