# B.S. in Physics - doomed?

by bjj8383
Tags: doomed, physics
P: 1,745
 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
P: 6,246
 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.
 P: 140 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....
P: 446
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.
 P: 140 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!).
 P: 296 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...
P: 166
 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.
P: 685
 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.
 P: 5 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.
P: 156
 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.
 P: 273 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?
 P: 15 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.
P: 2,723
 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.
P: 43
 Quote by tahayassen 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?
For an engineer Internships are EVERYTHING. I'm not garbageting you when a 2.5 GPA with good internships / Co-ops will make you more competitive than 3.5GPA+ without them. When I graduated 2010 Chemical Engineering jobs were on the downturn and literally despite having a great GPA and working at a professors company for 2 years doing optimization for Oil refineries I can tell you it meant squat. I thought saying **** like I traveled to foreign companies doing real work and whatnot would mean something but the refining companies at the career fair looked down on it just because if I was so good why didn't I get an internship with Shell or Chevron? You need an internship from a reputable company if you want to do well in engineering out of the gate. Else your going to have to take the slower route of going to a small company getting the 3-5 years experience then moving to a better company and starting out near where you could have been 3 to 5 years ago in your life.

I went into the oil field and only reason they gave me a job was that I got a recommendation from someone really high up in the company that was a family friend. Fact I had been doing research / working with computers most of the time was pretty much universally looked down upon in my job search to be honest (wouldn't be the same for a CS degree, but chemical engineering in the non-academic areas is actually still pretty old school in how they take care of things). Now I'm going back to get my masters in petroleum engineering next year since that's where my work experience is and will make me more competitive in the industry I started working in.

Honestly though it was probably a blessing in disguise because I'm making more money doing this then I ever could as a chemical engineer (without like 20 years experience and a PHD).
P: 1,071
 Quote by G01 Many people think a Physics degree means you spent four years talking about particles in a square well and twins on spaceships.
And you are implying this is not the case? Or rather you are suggesting that one should list marketable skills gained outside the curriculum?
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P: 2,685
 Quote by ModusPwnd And you are implying this is not the case? Or rather you are suggesting that one should list marketable skills gained outside the curriculum?
I am implying that it is not necessarily the case that a physics degree is all about twins on spaceships.

Also, The skills I mentioned can most certainly be gained from within a good physics curriculum. I learned MATLAB, Mathematica, and Java in core and cognate courses from my degree. I learned how to use oscilloscopes and lock in amplifiers during advanced lab. I learned circuit analysis from an engineering elective. I learned how to write technical papers from a required writing intensive course. During my undergrad research experience I learned LabVIEW, how to solder, and how to do basic optics alignment, and how to use an AFM and STM. I also did my fair share of twins on spaceships and particles in wells.

It's quite possible that one could go through a different physics program at a different university and not gain these skills. It could be that your university allows students freedom to ignore the courses in which one would gain these skills, or perhaps one could have professors that never considered these things important. It's also possible that students did not get sufficient research experience as an undergrad.

However all of the issues mentioned above are issues with the student, the program, or the educators, NOT the degree itself. A physics B.S. is not a free ticket to a high paying job. However, it's increasingly apparent that no college degree is. Like any other college degree it what you and your program put into it.

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