After a BS in physics, what are the skills needed for employment?

  • #1
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Hello all,
So I am looking for advice on what my next move should be after graduating with my bachelors in physics this May. I have quality engineering internship experience but every job I’ve applied to only wants to hire people with actually engineering experience and not entry level type people. I was also told by a staffing agency that a masters in mechanical engineering would not help my job prospects because experience is prioritized. For now I will be teaching high school physics.

Do you have any advice on how I can make my degree more marketable without any other experience like skills to develop? I am open to other careers as well that I can get with a physics degree and any additional certification I could get for a good paying jobs. Thank you for reading.
 

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  • #2
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I have quality engineering internship experience but every job I’ve applied to only wants to hire people with actually engineering experience and not entry level type people.
Keep trying. The cost is low and the reward high. Unfortunately, the probability of a hire is also not great, so you'll need endurance. You're looking at a tough time, so keep applying to jobs, even as you explore other options and gain other skills.

There's folks from many careers here - physics (academia & industry), engineering, statistics, actuarial, data science, and more. Feel free to ask some more specific questions if you have some. Giving us any more info on your skills would help (programming langues? scientific instruments you're skilled with? etc.)

Note that there are very few areas of the economy hiring right now, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try..
 
  • #3
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How is "quality engineering internship experience" not "actual engineering experience"?
 
  • #4
StatGuy2000
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How is "quality engineering internship experience" not "actual engineering experience"?
I would suspect that employers are looking to hire those with >1 years of work experience (i.e. not fresh graduates).
 
  • #5
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Most engineering co-op and internship programs where I live give students exactly that. Students graduate with 12-24 months experience.
 
  • #6
StatGuy2000
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Most engineering co-op and internship programs where I live give students exactly that. Students graduate with 12-24 months experience.
That is certainly true in the province of Ontario in Canada (where I'm from), where you have schools like the University of Waterloo requiring all engineering graduates to pursue co-op, and offering co-op work experiences for students in all other programs. Or schools like University of Toronto (my alma mater) which offer the 1 year Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship program for full-time students in engineering and the sciences.

These programs, however, are not necessarily offered in many colleges/universities in the US. In such cases, an internship experience may be no longer than 4 months, taken during the summer holidays.
 
  • #7
vela
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I have quality engineering internship experience but every job I’ve applied to only wants to hire people with actually engineering experience and not entry level type people.
If you're a recent grad, why aren't you applying for entry-level positions? That's what your qualified for.
 
  • #8
Dr. Courtney
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I was also told by a staffing agency that a masters in mechanical engineering would not help my job prospects because experience is prioritized. For now I will be teaching high school physics.

Do you have any advice on how I can make my degree more marketable without any other experience like skills to develop?
Job markets are local, so it is possible that a masters in Mech E would not help your prospects in a given market served by that staffing agency, but I know of plenty of markets in the US where a masters in Mech E from a reputable ABET accredited program would help an applicant's job prospects.

Hiring demand also goes in cycles in most local markets. There are times in the cycle when demand for engineers tends to be focused on experience and skill with few inexperienced hires. Due to COVID-19 related business downturns, a lot of local markets are in this stage of their cycles right now. But there are also stages of the cycles where companies are looking for more entry-level engineers to enter their training programs.

Generally speaking it is best to make educational and training choices based both short and long term career needs, and with an eye toward both local job markets AND broader markets one may be applying in over the course of one's career.
 
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  • #9
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If you're a recent grad, why aren't you applying for entry-level positions? That's what your qualified for.
I have, but then those employers who post an entry level engineering position ask me if I have any engineering experience even though it said entry level.
 
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  • #10
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There are other jobs than engineering. When I graduated with a physics degree and saw all my engineering peers get what I considered at the time to be my dream job, I was immediately persuaded to think engineering was the only alternative. I don't even want to be an engineer anymore. From what I hear, engineers are stuck making spread sheets in Excel. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

A degree in physics is actually a really good foundation to build upon. It's akin to a degree in math. I would look into careers in data analytics and consulting. One of the consultants I worked with had a degree in sociology. If he can make six figures as a consultant, why can't you? A lot of data analytic jobs are looking for people who know Microsoft Excel and a little bit of programming, which you should already know. The best thing you can do is keep trying and broaden your search.

One mistake I made was not being aware of how hard I would actually have to try to finally get a job. I thought applying to 200 jobs over the coarse of a year meant that there was no hope left for me, but now I consider applying to about 100 per week or more to be an actual effort. I know someone who thought applying to 20 jobs was a lot and gave up. You need to put some serious effort into searching for a job. The people I worked with gave me 600 for their number of applications sent before getting hired. You want to do even more than that, since these are the people you will be competing with.
 
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  • #11
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Here is one more thing to consider. Out of the hundreds of applications I send out, only a small fraction are actually viewed. So, it might not be that you are unqualified or lacking skills. You may have not been visible to a significant number of employers. You should be looking at this data, which job boards offer for your convenience. It could also be that your resume is not effectively representing your skills and your career goals. It could even be that some of those jobs were canceled, no longer active or any other reason. If you send out 200 applications, but only 10 of those are viewed, then effectively, you've really only applied to 10 jobs.

I recommend ramping up your job search efforts. If you think 200 or 300 jobs is a lot and by that time you should just give up, you're wrong. You should be applying to hundreds of jobs regularly. If you can't find jobs to apply to, you're not looking hard enough.

Note: I am only presenting possibilities based on my own ideas and experience, not hard facts
 
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  • #12
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I have, but then those employers who post an entry level engineering position ask me if I have any engineering experience even though it said entry level.
I think "entry level" can mean anything from fresh grad, early career professional, "fresher" with some experience to early-to-mid career professional. I have found jobs requiring 0-2 years experience. Others requiring no experience at all. I understand the frustration, though.
 

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