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Is it worth being a scientist these days

by N5soulkishin
Tags: days, scientist
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Rika
#19
Dec17-12, 05:53 PM
P: 156
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
Does that information help anyone here in any way... no because everyone here wants to do theoretical physics.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfxfnokQuLM
atyy
#20
Dec17-12, 05:54 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 8,637
Quote Quote by StatGuy2000 View Post
And studying physics, or any science program for that matter, has intrinsic value in itself in terms of gaining a better understanding of the way the world works at a much deeper level than perhaps any other way.

That being said, if your sole concern is whether studying science will lead to a lucrative career -- well, there's no guarantee of that. And there is a greater probability that a degree in engineering (depending on what field of engineering) or medicine will lead to a path to secure employment.

So is studying science really worth it? There is no simple answer about this.
Also, medicine and engineering involve science, so it doesn't seem that studying them means not studying science.
ParticleGrl
#21
Dec17-12, 06:42 PM
P: 685
I think the short answer that you (and Locrian) are giving to the OP is that pursuing a graduate degree in science (or at least a theoretical physics PhD, your chosen area of study) is simply not worth it as far as careers are concerned. i.e. physics degrees are for suckers.
It depends on what you want. If you desperately want to make some contribution to science, a phd is probably your only way. You'll work long hours, but the works is fun, you'll meet a lot of smart people, etc. However, you most likely won't get to have a scientific 'career' in the traditional sense of the word. You'll do some postdoc work after your phd, and then you'll leave science.

I think there is an unspoken assumption in the question "is it worth being a scientist"- the better question "is it worth TRYING to be a scientist?"

Also, I'm not saying that people who study science do poorly- I'm saying that people who study physics rarely do science for a living.

If your end goal is a job in the traditional science/tech industry, you are better off with an engineering degree. What you expect to get out of your education matters. For instance, if your utility preference of job is "science > data analyst in insurance/finance/etc> IT > programming > engineering>else", then go for a science phd and you'll likely be happy in one of the fallbacks.

However, if you want "science>engineering>else", then utilitarianism suggests you should get an engineering degree.

Second, you have to be aware of selection bias when reading internet forums. People who are generally happy with their career choices tend not to post often about how great their lives are.
I would actually assume that selection bias goes the other way- i.e. people who still work in physics are more likely to spend time on a physics related forum than people who have left the field.

I make a conscious effort to come back here and post, partially to offset what I believed the selection bias to be, because I think my opinions are common among recent phds and fairly under-represented here.
chill_factor
#22
Dec17-12, 07:09 PM
P: 898
Quote Quote by atyy View Post
Since the OP asked about biochemistry, an interesting set of views is given in http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org...redit.a1200069
biochemistry is doing bad because it only has 2 industrial uses: supporting other academic biochemists through reagent manufacture, or pharmaceuticals.

that goes to show you what happens when you do stuff that's too narrow. the problem with chemistry is it gets bunched along with biology because that's where the research funding is at but jobs are not. many schools even deleted classes geared towards the traditional analytical/inorganic/physical tracks and stuffed the schedule with bio related electives.
ParticleGrl
#23
Dec17-12, 07:24 PM
P: 685
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
that goes to show you what happens when you do stuff that's too narrow. the problem with chemistry is it gets bunched along with biology because that's where the research funding is at but jobs are not.
This doesn't make sense to me- generally I would think funding -> money -> jobs. Are you sure the inorganic chemistry market is as good as you think it is?
pi-r8
#24
Dec17-12, 07:47 PM
P: 146
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
I think there is an unspoken assumption in the question "is it worth being a scientist"- the better question "is it worth TRYING to be a scientist?"

Also, I'm not saying that people who study science do poorly- I'm saying that people who study physics rarely do science for a living.
My opinion is that our science education- *especially* in physics- is just totally obsolete. It worked well in the past, when there was a lot of demand for people good at calculating things mentally or on paper because computers didn't exist yet. It worked during 40's and 50's, because a lot of technology was just in its infancy, so anyone with a basic understanding of electricity could work on it. And it sort of worked in the 70's-90's, when anyone with good analytical skills and basic math could be a programmer.

But now, all of those fields are well developed, and done by experts with years of training and experience. You can't just sit down and start working on new radar or operating systems just because you're a smart guy who's good at math- you need actual, field specific knowledge. And in physics you don't get any of that- you only get trained to be an academic physicist, and there just aren't enough jobs available for more than ~10% of physics students to do that.

So basically, no, in my opinion it is not worth trying to become a scientist at the present time. At least not unless you really would *enjoy* being a grad student, and you spend plenty of time developing skills/looking at other job options on the side.
StatGuy2000
#25
Dec17-12, 08:11 PM
P: 591
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
This doesn't make sense to me- generally I would think funding -> money -> jobs. Are you sure the inorganic chemistry market is as good as you think it is?
chill factor may be best qualified to answer this, but perhaps the situation with biochemistry is where you have funding -> money -> postdoc jobs (supporting existing faculty, not tenure-track academic jobs nor industrial jobs).

Of course, I have absolutely no idea whether the inorganic chemistry market is any better either.
atyy
#26
Dec17-12, 10:34 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 8,637
@StatGuy, how's the non-academic job market for statistics? After all, in a sense statistics is all of science - making model classes, collecting data and fitting them:)

I believe even "renormalization" in quantum field theory turned out to be something like a "fixed point" distribution, so that there is a renormalization proof of a weak form of the central limit theorem.
chill_factor
#27
Dec17-12, 10:50 PM
P: 898
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
This doesn't make sense to me- generally I would think funding -> money -> jobs. Are you sure the inorganic chemistry market is as good as you think it is?
yep Statguy got it right. its funding -> money to postdocs -> postdoc jobs. There's only 1 industrial sector for non-academic jobs, which is the pharmaceutical industry, and that industry is not doing well. No other industries really use biochemistry. Pesticides and other plant life science products are relatively mature in terms of basic science and the problems there are in production and formulation.
MarneMath
#28
Dec17-12, 11:05 PM
P: 439
Quote Quote by atyy View Post
@StatGuy, how's the non-academic job market for statistics? After all, in a sense statistics is all of science - making model classes, collecting data and fitting them:)

I believe even "renormalization" in quantum field theory turned out to be something like a "fixed point" distribution, so that there is a renormalization proof of a weak form of the central limit theorem.
Obviously not statguy2000, but we work in the same field. In my experience, job market for statistician is pretty stable. I've never had trouble finding a job or being asked to take a job. I started working doing financial mathematics type things and jumped my way to public health (think epidemiomologist). I'm probably one of the few people you'll met whose job title actually says "Mathematician Statistician". Overall, I've been happy with my experience and I'm probably closer to 'science' than a lot of people who got degrees in Physics, biology, and or chemistry, with only a masters in Stats. (Technically speaking, my job only requires a b.s)
Zarqon
#29
Dec18-12, 03:30 AM
P: 231
I think it's an easy choice if you're able to look at a PhD degree as a win by itself, regardless of what job you get afterwards. If you're interested in the subject you'd do it in, and if you'd take pride in having a PhD title and enjoy the academic setting, then you gain something at any rate, and it's no loss doing a PhD. But if you ONLY do it to get a career out of it, then it's a risk, because as people have pointed out, there is luck involved in whether or not you will actually be able to achive a career with it.
Locrian
#30
Dec18-12, 08:45 AM
P: 1,744
Quote Quote by StatGuy2000 View Post
As others have pointed out, there is an issue of selection bias, as those who are satisfied with their career choices are unlikely to be posting here in this forum.
No way! I know I'm very happy with my career choices. Leaving physics is the smartest career choice I've ever made. ;)
N5soulkishin
#31
Dec18-12, 09:06 AM
P: 11
Thank you everyone for their input, i've now reconsidered my career goals since my dreams have hit by reality. I'm now considering engineering :(
StatGuy2000
#32
Dec18-12, 09:46 AM
P: 591
Quote Quote by atyy View Post
@StatGuy, how's the non-academic job market for statistics? After all, in a sense statistics is all of science - making model classes, collecting data and fitting them:)

I believe even "renormalization" in quantum field theory turned out to be something like a "fixed point" distribution, so that there is a renormalization proof of a weak form of the central limit theorem.
Hi there. The non-academic job market for statistics from what I can see is pretty good in Canada and the US (I'm based in Canada), especially in areas such as market research, finance, business consulting, health care, and (at least in the US) the pharmaceutical/biotechnology sectors.

That being said, I would like to disclose the fact that I am actively seeking work as of this moment, preferably in the Toronto area (a number of projects at my current place have dried up in the past couple of months, so I'm feeling a little less secure than before). If there is anyone on Physics Forums that can think of anything out there in statistics or analytics in Toronto, please feel free to PM me!
ModusPwnd
#33
Dec18-12, 10:31 AM
P: 1,067
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
no because everyone here wants to do theoretical physics.
Maybe here in this forum... But my experience in school has been the opposite. Sure, freshman year plenty of people want to do particle and astro. But by the end of undergrad most of us were doing experimental or non-particle/astro theory research. In grad school most of my peers specifically avoided the HEP theory and the like because of the lack of marketability. Many, myself included, did research in more practical and what we hoped was more marketable areas. My lab was actually half chemists and half physicists so most of us were marketable to industry. Not to do science really though, to do engineering and be technicians.
chill_factor
#34
Dec18-12, 03:00 PM
P: 898
Quote Quote by ModusPwnd View Post
Maybe here in this forum... But my experience in school has been the opposite. Sure, freshman year plenty of people want to do particle and astro. But by the end of undergrad most of us were doing experimental or non-particle/astro theory research. In grad school most of my peers specifically avoided the HEP theory and the like because of the lack of marketability. Many, myself included, did research in more practical and what we hoped was more marketable areas. My lab was actually half chemists and half physicists so most of us were marketable to industry. Not to do science really though, to do engineering and be technicians.
yep in grad school what I find is alot of people who thought they really wanted to do theoretical astro/HEP, but then experience it and find out their interests actually lie in condensed matter or optics.
N5soulkishin
#35
Dec18-12, 05:57 PM
P: 11
HEy umm Chill_Factor, are you physicist?
chill_factor
#36
Dec18-12, 09:06 PM
P: 898
Quote Quote by N5soulkishin View Post
HEy umm Chill_Factor, are you physicist?
I am a graduate student in physics. why do you ask?


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