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Nature publishes ridiculous editorial on researcher working hours

 Quote by twofish-quant From whom? It's incredibly difficult when you have no idea where to start.
 Quote by Diracula It's far better to ask questions like, "biotech seems to be growing, can I get in this field with a physics background? If so, how?" Then once you answer that you start thinking about specific paths to specific jobs.
[Twofish:]How did you find out about finance? Whom did you talk to?

You both know as well as I do that finding a job is a full-time job. Also, speaking from 'the other side of the fence', I don't have the time or inclination to recruit- qualified candidates come to me.

For the students (undergrad or grad), you have career services centers at school- use them. For the postdocs, you should have, by now, an established network of contacts- not just colleagues, but friends who went on to do other things.

There's no shortcut- if you want to move into a new field, you need to get familiar with that field. Being able to solve a PDE is, in itself, not a marketable skill because there are bizillions of people who can do that. People are hired because they can solve someone else's problem. If I can do something myself, I'm not going to spend money getting someone else to do it.

How do you find out what problems need to be solved? Read. Read everything. Trade journals are an excellent resource, most of them are free and give you a broad overview of a field. What skills do you have that can translate to another field? I can't answer that for you, nobody can.

In the end, nobody can point to a well-defined career path for you. Nobody can figure out what you should do, and nobody can honestly say things like "if you do [x], then you will be able to get a job doing [y]".

I took a risk by spending 4 years immersed in a Physiology department. The first 2 years that I spent working in a medical school were incredibly disorienting and difficult, for a variety of reasons. Biomedical people don't like physics, *really* don't like math, and know a $hitload more than you. For 2 years I was regularly derided in class (I took a bunch of classes) and in various Department seminars for asking idiotic questions. I suspect that both of you realize that if you can endure that period of time (and over time ask fewer stupid questions and more intelligent questions), you will start to gain mastery and value. No shortcuts, no single path.  Quote by Andy Resnick You both know as well as I do that finding a job is a full-time job. Also, speaking from 'the other side of the fence', I don't have the time or inclination to recruit- qualified candidates come to me. There is the matter of going where you are wanted. Recruiting is a royal pain in the rear end sometimes, but most financial firms *NEED* physics Ph.D.'s so that they go through quite a bit of effort to find them. Our firm (and pretty much every other firm) send people to the major big-name universities each fall looking for Ph.D. applications. The reason I post as much as I do, is that since my Ph.D. isn't from a big-name university, I do what I can to "level the playing field." There are some signals that people can put out, and you can figure out that you are needed when someone spends a lot of precious time on you. If biotech firms *NEED* physics Ph.D.'s then I've got some ideas for how to get them. If the attitude is merely "send us your resume and we'll call you back" then maybe that don't *need* you, and if they don't *need* you, maybe it's a waste of time to apply unless you are totally desperate.  For the students (undergrad or grad), you have career services centers at school- use them. For the postdocs, you should have, by now, an established network of contacts- not just colleagues, but friends who went on to do other things. And none of my contacts went into biotech. If there are jobs available then that's a big problem that needs to get fixed. Also, people *should* have a network of contacts, but in most places people don't. If you have a situation in which working in industry is considered shameful, then people just won't network. Also networking favors the big name schools, which is a problem since I didn't get into one, so I'm doing what I can to create a different network.  There's no shortcut- if you want to move into a new field, you need to get familiar with that field. But how do you decide if you want to move into a field? The reason finance looked interesting was that I knew people that made the switch, and that made a difference. Also there is really know way of learning some things until you jump off the cliff.  Being able to solve a PDE is, in itself, not a marketable skill because there are bizillions of people who can do that. Not true. There really aren't that many people that are competent at it. Being about to crunch PDE's is a very marketable skill. You just have to remember to market it.  People are hired because they can solve someone else's problem. If I can do something myself, I'm not going to spend money getting someone else to do it. That's also not true in finance or software. A lot of finance consists of what I call toilet cleaning problems. There are lots of people that *can* clean a toilet bowl, but if you have ten thousand toilets to clean it doesn't matter. Anything I can do, there are a dozen other people that can also do, and some of them can do it better. But there are lots of toilets to be cleaned.  How do you find out what problems need to be solved? Read. Read everything. Trade journals are an excellent resource, most of them are free and give you a broad overview of a field. Except that in finance the good stuff never gets published. If anyone is interested I'd be happy in private lunch what we are working on, and what skills we need, but I will get fired if I start talking about it publicly. In any case, things change quickly. Skills that are in serious demand in January 2010 may have a glut in March 2010. One reason that finance needs so many Ph.D.'s is that the rules change quickly. The human body and general relativity will not change much between May 2011 and today, but finance changes on this sort of time scale. That's also why taking classes is useless. By the time you finish a one semester class, everything you were taught could be wrong and even dangerously wrong.  In the end, nobody can point to a well-defined career path for you. Nobody can figure out what you should do, and nobody can honestly say things like "if you do [x], then you will be able to get a job doing [y]". True, but people can tell you that there is a road that leads somewhere or a road that leads nowhere. Also, I can't honestly say that "if you do X, then you will be able to get a job doing Y" and I *can* with reasonable confidence say "if you do X, then you *won't* be able to get a job doing Y" Also the fact that there is no well-defined career path for physics Ph.D.'s has to do with the way that the economy is set up. It's not an inherent characteristic of society, and if we have a situation in which Ph.D.'s are ending up vastly underemployed we have a problem, especially since other countries are rolling out red carpets for Ph.D.'s.  I took a risk by spending 4 years immersed in a Physiology department. The first 2 years that I spent working in a medical school were incredibly disorienting and difficult, for a variety of reasons. Biomedical people don't like physics, *really* don't like math, and know a$hitload more than you. For 2 years I was regularly derided in class (I took a bunch of classes) and in various Department seminars for asking idiotic questions. I suspect that both of you realize that if you can endure that period of time (and over time ask fewer stupid questions and more intelligent questions), you will start to gain mastery and value. No shortcuts, no single path.
But knowing that something is painful is useful information. For example, if you send out ten resumes and no one calls you back. Is this a problem with your resume or is this normal? In the case of software, it's normal.

As a counterpoint, there are a lot of physics Ph.D.'s that end up getting an MFE degree. They are just wasting their money, and helping the schools make \$ and pad their statistics. If it turns out that taking courses for four years is *essential* for moving into biotech, then that's very useful information and may explain why no one I know has done it.

The other thing is there is an issue of social responsibility. One thing that I do from time to time is play Carl Sagan and go to young people talking about the wonders of the universe. The fear that I have in the back of my mind is that I'll get someone hooked on science and then they'll end up like some of the post-docs in this thread. If I believed that this would be the outcome, then I'd shut up about how cool science is.

But since I really believe that society would be better off with more people interested in science, then it then becomes my responsibility to make sure that the eight year old who I get interested in astrophysics has some path in front of him.

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