Advice/opinions at the crossroads

  • Thread starter robb_
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  • #1
I am at a cross roads and wonder if anyone has been here or what you all think. Let me start with some background.

I went into college and picked a major- physics with a math minor. I found the material interesting but I was not absorbed by it. I figured that if i can get a degree in a hard field, I should be able to get a job afterwards. My GPA in physics was a 3.3 or so, 3.8 in math, and about a 4.0 in the electives. I really didn't study too much, pretty much did my homework and figured I was set.

Graduated with my BS and had no idea what I wanted to do. I figured that I would apply to graduate school to eat up some more time and I would figure things out.
I got into an aerospace eng. program at a major university. I was in the program for one semester before switching into the physics department. Eng. is not for me. :yuck:
I got into the physics program without even taking the physics gre. After entering, I pretty much kept to myself. I basically only learned Q.M. in graduate school since I didnt take a course as an undegrad. My other classes were a complete waste of my time. Seriously. I know a lot of that is my fault as I was burnt out on school and my profs would point me to a solution manual when asked questions during office hours. (Not all of them mind you)Soon, I stopped studying altogether. I received mostly B's in my classes, which I take as saying- "yes you showed up to class." Essentially my conceptual understanding not only stagnated but likely regressed during this interval. I was not happy with school. So I got out with my M.S. after submitting a thesis on semiconductor physics, which I didnt even think was worthy of a thesis.
Somehow or another, I was offered a temporary position to teach the intro undergraduate classes at this school. A few of the profs recommended me for the position. :biggrin: I also started to teach at the local community college.
I found it! I love teaching physics.
Problem is that this school is now is letting me go since I do not have a PHD. (My reviews from students are very good by the way.) It does seem to me that even the community college really wants everyone to have a PHD as well for a full time position. (I have applied for the full time positions there with no luck yet; I do know the dept. head.)
So while teaching physics, I realized how much I really do not know. I still make mistakes in the intro classes although not nearly as much now. Of course this is to be expected, I guess. I also realized that I am fascinated by the subject. I study it now more than I ever have in the past. I am currently going through all of my undergraduate texts and solving a great deal of the problems in them.
Do I go back and get my PHD? I really couldn't pick an area to focus on when in school before and it is still hard now. I like all areas of physics.
Secondly, in the back of my mind I wonder if I am able to do it? I am my own biggest critic and sulk for a week if i make a mistake in front of my students. :cry:
I really felt lost in graduate school. It seemed everyone else had a grasp of what was going on and to me every class was about learning how to calculate this or that integral, etc. Maybe I am too classical minded?? I want to understand why and I was not getting that.
Have you been down this road? I would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks for your time.
  • #2
As someone who worked for a couple of years between BS and going back for PhD, here is my humble opinion:

If you can't pick an area you want to spend several years working in, it isn't time yet. Learn more and find your niche! Liking all areas isn't good enough - something has to grab you.

Having said that, how long are you going to be alive from now? I'm going to guestimate you'll be working at least thirty more years, and possibly forty or more. A PhD will dramatically change your employability for every one of those years, as well as your pay.

What's three years out of the forty?
  • #3
Thanks, yes I am still under 30 at this point.

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