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A puzzling dilemma between a safe future job and physics

  1. May 14, 2015 #1
    Hello there, I am looking for possible advice from people more versed than I about my current situation.

    A bit of overview of where I am currently standing:
    I am 18 and recently started serving in the army - that is, mandatory army. I got accepted to a good computing & security unit after numerous tests and interviews, which requires me to serve four and a half years; mainly doing programming.
    Serving in such a unit has a few perks:
    • I am practically guaranteed a good, above average salary job after I finish serving. The companies where I live tend to hire people from these units straight away, sometimes they even call you.
    • You can gain a lot of knowledge and more importantly - major experience in the software world.
    • They give you a few exemptions from several university computer courses based on your training.
    A few other details: abysmal salary - think about 140$ a month for three years and 1300$-1600$ a month for the remaining year and a half. 9 hours or more + 2 hours to travel, Sun-Thu - it's an open base.
    The thing is, I do not have my clearance answer yet, and so I am currently in semi-training but not quite there yet.

    Now, I have zero desire to be in the army; I only care about this unit because of the future job it will land me.
    Don't take me the wrong way, I like computers and have been self-studying for years.
    But in the past months this interest has been pushed aside as I have taken a great interest in physics.
    Up until recently I wanted to get out of the army (in a way which probably will not let me have a clearance in the future) and pursue my education in physics in order to do research in the future and be occupied in things I consider most important. Until I browsed this forum.
    Most of what I read here basically told me that I have slim chances of ever doing actual physics research after my PhD. On top of that, I probably will not be able to do government R&D because I wouldn't have finished my mandatory service.
    And on top of everything else, I have little time to decide since the timeline to register to the university is short.

    So here I am, struggling to decide whether I should choose my passion for physics over my current safer & known route.
    I am interested in your opinions, what would you do?
    Thank you for reading.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2015 #2


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    Gold Member

    Read my signature.
    I'm a very firm believer in following your passion.

    I think there is a good chance of you doing research after your PhD, however the more realistic approach, at least from what I've gathered is you end up at a university as a professor, using the university's money to fund your research. This is more realistic comparatively than something like trying to get in at CERN as an experimentalist. Not saying you shouldn't try for that, but they have limited funding.

    Every one of my professors at college that is a professor, and not a continuing lecturer, is not only encouraged to have multiple research projects going on (of course, collaborating with students), but they are REQUIRED to. We have research ranging from superconductors, to measuring argon clusters, to quantum dots and an entanglement project that a junior undergrad is heading.

    If you don't want to deal with the whole undergrad working with you thing, maybe try for a professor of a masters program or even doctoral.

    I also think it may be feasible in the undergrad programs to, in addition to working with the students, have a project that YOU work on exclusively, or if you can make friends with one of the other doctors of science, with them as well.

    Where do you live that you have mandatory military service? I'm guessing somewhere in Europe like Germany or Sweden or something?
  4. May 14, 2015 #3


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    Gold Member

    Additionally, please PF, don't hate me for this, but I think it definitely applies and goes along with what I said previously...

  5. May 14, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    To me this is a HUGE red flag. A few months of interest in physics is not a sound basis to make a decision. Particularly not one that may have legal consequences regarding the mandatory service. Frankly, at this point you have no idea if you will actually like a career in physics.

    I don't know what the legal penalties are for what you are planning regarding getting out of your mandatory service, but you should think carefully before accepting that high of cost over this kind of a whim.
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