## B.S. in Physics - doomed?

 Quote by Locrian Want to hear something really funny? When I was an undergrad I actually thought that progressing through my Universities undergrad physics curriculum was teaching me useful skills! Like "critical thinking". I thought that getting to know the various professors and meeting professors from other universities was networking! And I believed all those people when they told me that employers needed people with the background I was building. God I was stupid. The idea that professors and universities have their student's interests at heart seems so naive it's making me blush just writing it. So I get where you're coming from, but I'm not in any position to throw stones.
This is where co-op programs (such as those offered at the University of Waterloo in Canada, or in Drexel University in the US) or other similar external internship programs (including the Professional Year Program offered at my former alma mater) are so meaningful and valuable, since these programs give the opportunity for undergraduate students to work with various employers in fields at least tangentially tied to their field of study. Furthermore, these early experiences also provide future references and sources for networking, allowing these students a leg up in terms of seeking employment.

Recognitions:
Gold Member
Staff Emeritus
 Quote by bjj8383 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.
 Quote by bjj8383 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.
I'm having a hard time figuring this out. The first quote seems to indicate that you have a good job prospect for a job that a bachelor's degree in physics qualifies you for ... but you're complaining that you're stuck working at Target. The second quote refers to being a "professional physicist," but to be a professional physicist you need a PhD. I can't believe that your school failed so badly to give you an "accurate view" that you somehow got the impression that a bachelor's in physics qualified you to be a professional physicist. Similarly, a bachelor's degree in history doesn't qualify you to be a professional historian.

 Quote by bjj8383 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.
This is hard to reconcile with your other statements above.

 Quote by bjj8383 Today, Careerbuilder literally returns one result within a 50 mile radius of me.
Why are you restricting yourself to jobs within a 50-mile radius? It sounds like, in addition to having unrealistic expectations about what kind of jobs a B.S. qualifies you for, you have unrealistic expectations about being able to drastically restrict your job search geographically.

Another issue that we have no information about is what school you went to and what your GPA was. Since you're posting pseudonymously, why not tell us that information? There's a huge difference between graduating from UCLA with a 4.0 and graduating from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a 2.0. At this stage, the school and your GPA are the only concrete information prospective employers have about your level of ability.

You may want to consider taking work that doesn't require your physics training but that does offer an environment in which you can prove yourself to an employer and move up. For example, after I graduated with a B.S. in physics, I didn't get into any of the grad schools I applied to the first time around, so I had a year out of school. I got a couple of part-time jobs, one of which was working in a factory doing mind-numbing work. But there were opportunities for advancement there that I could have taken advantage of if I hadn't been planning to go back to grad school. For example, while I was there they hired an army veteran with not that much formal education to be in charge of keeping all the production-line machinery going. If I'd applied for that job, I probably would have gotten it. It still wouldn't have been a job that I would have wanted to spend my life doing, but it would have been a step up, and a chance to demonstrate that I could take responsibility, supervise other people, use some quantitative skills, etc. You have to realize that many people who graduate from college are utterly useless as employees. They're irresponsible, passive, don't have good reading and writing skills, need constant supervision, and don't take the initiative to learn new skills. Employers need to have it demonstrated to them that the person I'm describing isn't you. No, just obtaining a degree doesn't demonstrate that.

 Quote by spamctor What did your peers/friends that majored in physics end up doing?
I probably should have clarified, i meant to ask the OP this. Or more to the point, are they having the same problems as you?

 Quote by StatGuy2000 This is where co-op programs . . .
Yea, but that would require effort by the school. Most physics dept have no interest in such a thing, and in my opinion, many would frown on it. I prefer a solution in which students enter into the university with a more critical (and cynical) view of what they're told by the university and their professors.

I like to think (pretend?) that threads like this may play a small part in just such an outcome.

Mentor
 Quote by bjj8383 Today, Careerbuilder literally returns one result within a 50 mile radius of me.
 Quote by bcrowell Why are you restricting yourself to jobs within a 50-mile radius? It sounds like, in addition to having unrealistic expectations about what kind of jobs a B.S. qualifies you for, you have unrealistic expectations about being able to drastically restrict your job search geographically.
I agree with Ben.

Fifteen months ago, for work, I moved from one side of Canada to the other, 4100 kilometres (2550 miles) as the crow flies, 5500 kilometres (3420 miles) by road (hopefully, my last move). I have worked in five Canadian provinces, two U.S. states, and one U.S territory.

I think that many people would be unwilling to make the number of moves that I have, but I also think that 50 miles is extremely restrictive.
 Is it possible, bbj, that you could just go back for those key classes that engineering majors have to take - the idea that you have to go back for 4 MORE YEARS doesn't make any sense to me. Most engineering majors have to take a handful of general education requirements, and math that you've probably all ready taken. Why not just go back and try to just take the engineering classes? Out of the 130 credit engineering degree - around only 60-70 credits of those are in engineering classes. Universities are in part a business - they want you to stick around for 4 years and pay tuition the whole time. I would just go back and take the classes. If I had known this, I wouldn't have listend to some of my advisors. I would take 3 or 4 engineering classes / semester while working at target (if that's manageable - maybe work part time?) and then in a year or two apply for some internships/jobs - it might even make you more marketable - they'll view you as closer to a double major....

This has a lot of good advice. I think searching for "physics" in career builder with BSc isnt the right way to go about searching for a job. When employers put physics in their ads they tend to be looking for "professional" physicist which really means at least a PhD. As a physics BSc you dont have a professional degree which means you are going to have to learn how to market your skill set instead of expecting a "check here for qualified" situation.
 One thing I've noticed from my EE degree is that realistically, the "engineering" only comprises about half of the credits an engineering requires. I took about 15 engineering classes - 50-60 credits. Yes I had other technical classes (math- which you've had enough of I'm sure), but the skills that are directly applicable to an engineering position mostly come from engineering classes. I'd suggest taking a handful of engineering classes, particularly the less theoretical ones like circuit design and embedded systems. These are extremely marketable skills regardless of the education level. After just 5-10 classes of engineering, you should be able to get some type of an internship. Another option is programming - a large portion (~1/3 I believe) of programmers in industry are self taught - there is no reason so many kids with high school diplomas can teach themselves something a B.S. Physics kid couldn't. I'd start making C++ projects (learn to use as many libraries and IDES as you can!).
 justsomeguy, are you actually doing programming/serious software engineering or whatever or are you more of a "lab tech" kind of person? I'm not sure how to define the distinction but are you doing really interesting stuff or just maintenance? I missed it in your post...

 Quote by Arsenic&Lace justsomeguy, are you actually doing programming/serious software engineering or whatever or are you more of a "lab tech" kind of person? I'm not sure how to define the distinction but are you doing really interesting stuff or just maintenance? I missed it in your post...
I'm a serious coder. Not desktop support or a dilettante if that's what you mean. I've done everything from tiny websites to huge multiuser n-tier enterprise apps shoveling millions of dollars a day around. For a while I was writing EM (RF and IR) simulation management software for a fortune 500 defense contractor.

Solving problems is what I find interesting, so I'm happy no matter what space the company is in as long as the problems are an intellectual challenge, but that's not always the case, in any job. Once the big mysteries are solved in any project, you're left with the mundane task of actually implementing the myriad tiny details, which is always boring.

 Want to hear something really funny? When I was an undergrad I actually thought that progressing through my Universities undergrad physics curriculum was teaching me useful skills! Like "critical thinking". I thought that getting to know the various professors and meeting professors from other universities was networking! And I believed all those people when they told me that employers needed people with the background I was building. God I was stupid. The idea that professors and universities have their student's interests at heart seems so naive it's making me blush just writing it.
So much this- I relied on what I thought were the experts to know more than I did about the field. It wasn't until I asked my adviser where his former students had ended up, and he knew where everyone did their postdoc, but had no idea where they had gone after that I realized what a horrible mistake I had made.
 Consider a trade certificate at a community college or look into a local union. A friend of mine was a sheet metal grunt fabricating all kinds stuff when he was recruited from within to the engineering dept. Many unions and some employers will train or pay for your (additional) schooling. HVAC and electrical certificates or AAS degrees could get you making $25-30k in about 5 years. This approach would require you to apprentice (slave :P ) for a bit, but with some hands-on plus your education you would see more doors open. Most union trades pay really well if you stick around and climb the ladder. Www.payscale.com shows a pipefitter topping out at$84k. Same for a sheet metal worker, master electrician, or HVAC engineer.

 Quote by Locrian Want to hear something really funny? When I was an undergrad I actually thought that progressing through my Universities undergrad physics curriculum was teaching me useful skills! Like "critical thinking". I thought that getting to know the various professors and meeting professors from other universities was networking! And I believed all those people when they told me that employers needed people with the background I was building. God I was stupid. The idea that professors and universities have their student's interests at heart seems so naive it's making me blush just writing it. So I get where you're coming from, but I'm not in any position to throw stones.
I have learned all that stuff from Physic degree. I knew that I need to do research interships, network with other scientists, present stuff during conference etc.

I did it in physics field so I didn't have any problem with doing it in any other field.

That's why I find it strange. If OP did what I did he shouldn't have any problems with transfering his skills to the job market.
 Can someone please give me a easy-to-understand good-advice summary of this thread? I read it all, but I'm so confused because it seems no one can agree with each other. I'm a first-year computer engineering student. From what I understand so far, co-op and internships are really important, right?
 Many people have suggested grad school. Have you considered certification for a specific positions that might interest you? As a physics major, certification in medical/radiological/health physics could be an option if you're interested in maintaining diagnostic imaging equipment (NMR, CT) as a medical physicist. It's a good-paying job and uses your specialized skillset in physics to solve technical problems and help diagnose patients along-side doctors. Some universities even offer a 4-year degree in medical physics, or at least a medical physics track. The flip side to medical physics is radiological/health engineering. (Word of caution however, many medical physicists have at least a masters, but its not uncommon for them to have a bachelor's with supporting education such as certification and/or addition courses.) Have you considered certification for Nuclear Power? Many community college and universities offer 12-credit-hr programs for nuclear power technology. You'll learn reactor physics and engineering/design/operations aspects of BWR and PWR reactor plant designs. This sets you up as a great candidate for entry into the nuke field as a non-license reactor operator, as most applicants only have a high school diploma, some college, or an associates degree... and you'll be more than equipped to ace the qualifying exams. Just a couple of things to think about.

 Quote by geophysics10 Have you considered certification for a specific positions that might interest you? As a physics major, certification in medical/radiological/health physics could be an option if you're interested in maintaining diagnostic imaging equipment (NMR, CT) as a medical physicist. It's a good-paying job and uses your specialized skillset in physics to solve technical problems and help diagnose patients along-side doctors. Some universities even offer a 4-year degree in medical physics, or at least a medical physics track. The flip side to medical physics is radiological/health engineering. (Word of caution however, many medical physicists have at least a masters, but its not uncommon for them to have a bachelor's with supporting education such as certification and/or addition courses.)
Just a side-note: if you're looking at becoming a medical physicist today, graduate school is a must, and an accredited graduate program is a must if you want board certification. It's not really a profession you can enter with only a bachelor's degree these days. That said, you can work as a medical physics assistant or a health physicist with a BSc.