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Physics BS in Physics and absolutely no luck getting an entry level job

  1. Jul 26, 2016 #1
    I have my BS in Physics and am wondering if you all would be so kind as just just list as many possible job search keywords for somebody like me, it doesnt even have to be in STEM. I would love to just get a job that pays decent thats outside of sciences, say, in finance or something, but I'm having an extremely hard time finding any jobs that aren't something along the lines of customer service...which i went to school to NOT do...lol

    if it helps, i'm currently residing in Arizona. I've tried countless times to get my foot in the door at Orbital, honeywell, boeing, intel, On semiconductor, NXP semiconductors, Taser INTL, aerospace companies, etc.

    I'm just so defeated that I would love guidance on job hunt help for anything outside of STEM that I could get a job in that i'm qualified for that say, only requires a Bachelor's degree (generic), that pays at least 35k

    any help/tips would be sincerely appreciated, i've been on the job hunt for 9 months
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    A job is not a reward for getting a degree. What skills do you have?
  4. Jul 26, 2016 #3


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    I would also ask for your GPA and relevant work/research experience.
  5. Jul 26, 2016 #4
    highc23366, there are some degrees that provide students with skills that transfer well into the workplace. Think computer science, engineering, etc.

    Physics is not typically one of them.

    You probably need to change your approach. The questions Vanadium and MarneMath asked are a good place to start.
  6. Jul 26, 2016 #5


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    Done any internships or have any research experience? You could identify and express how they contain relationship to some jobs to be employed in. Built, repaired, or modified anything? That is practical skill or experience.
    Go back to school for something practical. Not just Physics.
  7. Jul 27, 2016 #6
    welocme to PF, highc

    Try Arizona Public Service, see if they're hiring at Palo Verde plant west of Phoenix. Ask about the reactor engineering and fuels groups.
  8. Jul 27, 2016 #7


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    Have you used the career resources your school offers? It might not hurt to talk to the physics department as well about finding a job. The department does have an interest in producing graduates that can find employment.
  9. Jul 30, 2016 #8
    Not OP and not a physics grad but I have spoken to the pure science departments at my university and my interpretation is they don't care, they are insular and largely disconnected from anything happening outside of their narrow area(even within their respective fields).

    Considering that completion of BS degrees nowadays is essentially technical in purpose(to get a job) most departments have done a terrible job keeping relevancy.
  10. Jul 30, 2016 #9
    Are you willing to relocate? I think with a physics degree, try looking at consulting positions. You are basically trained at solving problems, you can definitely put it to good use here.

    Look at financial analyst positions, consulting ( as I said above), even marketing ( it's a good entry way). You need to make sure your resume doesn't have physics jargon, but focuses on the skills! Make sure you right excellent cover letter on why you think you are a good fit for the company, and they might be for you.
  11. Jul 30, 2016 #10


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    That might be your experience, but it's not the same at every university.

    Many universities offer coop programs in the sciences for example, which aim to balance the academic material with practical experience in related or tangential workplaces. On top of that nearly all universities offer job fairs, invite speakers from the commercial world in to give presentations on their fields, or alumni to speak about their experiences post-graduation. You also have entire departments dedicated to finding employment for graduates. And something that's becoming popular are join commercial-academic research programs that sponsor/mentor start-up companies from academic research or that link up commercial entities with academics who may have solutions to their problems.

    Of course a lot depends on who you talk to. If your only source of information is a subset of professors who have known nothing but academia for their entire lives then of course they are doing to seem disconnected. That's kind of like asking a polar bear what it's like in the Amazon rain forest and then walking away disappointed because he tells you he's never been there.

    But that's not the purpose of a bachelor of science degree. Vocational training is the purpose of a community or technical college. In addition, some university programs will give a student an education directed towards a specific profession: engineering, law, medicine, nursing, teaching, etc. However, the purpose of a four year bachelor of science degree is to give the student an education in that science. To carry on the analogy, if you ask someone to teach you how to be a polar bear, you can't go on and later complain that they aredoing a terrible job of keeping relevant because all they taught you was how to swim in cold water an hunt for seals.
  12. Jul 31, 2016 #11


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    Some students, even those but maybe not many of them, at your department, have worked as employees related to what they are studying. TALK TO THESE STUDENTS, and maybe you can form some ideas of how to help yourself gear for some jobs.
  13. Jul 31, 2016 #12
    The purpose of BS degrees for most students is employment, to think otherwise is delusion - the vast majority of students will never go onto graduate school, many don't even care about their field - it's just become a standard qualification akin to a HS diploma.
  14. Jul 31, 2016 #13


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    "...vast majority of students will never..."?

    A bachelor's degree in any natural science or technologic science serves a few different purposes: Graduate school, employment in business or government, personal academic development for some type of professional school or training different from their undergrad/bachelor degree.

    Most undergraduate students must be interested in their field of study. To not be interested in the subject makes little or no sense, and the student would sooner or later choose some other major field of undergraduate study.

    One of the troubles for a bachelor degree person trying to find a job with his EDUCATION is that the employers try to find a person with the "right experience", and these employers do not always understand that the educated person with bachelor's degree can be trained on-the-job and can also think. Some or too many employers want to do as little training as possible.
  15. Jul 31, 2016 #14


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    To the OP, a lot can depend on your job-hunting technique too.

    If all you know about the industry is limited to keywords that someone else posted online, you're probably not a good fit for that particular industry.

    Job hunting with a BSc in physics can be tough, because you have an education in physics, but it can be difficult to articulate the skills that you have acquired - particularly if you're competing for engineering jobs against graduates from engineering programs.

    It helps to figure out the "inside scoop" on a particular position - what does the position actually involve, what skills are they looking for, what kind of person will fit best in the position, are there internal candidates, etc. This means talking to the people in the organization and that often happens through the "networking" process. That's why people are so often hired out of internships or coop positions. These also give potential employers the ability to assess how you work without any major commitment. But if you don't have those "ins" other options include job shadows, or simply talking with contacts that you have in the field. A "contact" can be something as simple as looking up an alumnus from your program. Sometimes university career and placemet offices have fostered these kinds of connections as well. Trade conferences can also be great for learning about the industry and making contacts (although sometimes expensive to attend). You can also use job interviews as opportunities to learn about the field. If you don't get a particular position - follow up and ask if they know of other opportunities that might be better suited for you.
  16. Jul 31, 2016 #15
    From the American Institute of Physics: https://www.aip.org/statistics/whos-hiring-physics-bachelors which includes employers in all States

    Arizona employers who recently hired new physics bachelor recipients
    • Arizona Radio Observatory
    • Bard Peripheral Vascular
    • Crown Castle International Corp.
    • DILAS Diode Laser, Inc.
    • Edgenuity Inc.
    • Ex3
    • Freescale Semiconductor
    • General Motors
    • GSAA, LLC
    • Intel
    • Kitt Peak National Observatory
    • Leidos
    • Lowell Observatory
    • Lumension
    • National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
    • Orbital ATK
    • Radiall
    • Raytheon
    • TASER Inc.
    • University of Arizona
    • Ventana Medical Systems
    This is only a portion of the employers who hired recent physics bachelors into technical positions.

    Source: AIP Statistical Research Center, Initial Employment Surveys, classes 2010 thru 2014.
  17. Jul 31, 2016 #16
    I don't have the report and statistics on hand... but I recall something like 70% of physics BS grads go on to get a graduate degree of some kind (not necessarily a PhD). Every physics BS student should have graduate or trade school aspirations or thoughts. A mere BS in physics just isn't that useful or marketable on its own. (I suspect the same is true for Chem and Bio).

    What you say may be true for most BS degrees. Generic science degrees are a different animal. The original poster's predicament looks completely normal to me.
  18. Jul 31, 2016 #17
  19. Jul 31, 2016 #18


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    Or combine their physics degree with another degree program that is more directly marketable (e.g. computer science, business, economics, etc.). Or acquire relevant employable skills, either through coursework, internships, extracurricular activities on campus, etc.

    The truth is that, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. engineering, nursing, computer science, accounting, actuarial science degree programs where available), there is no such thing as a undergraduate degree that is marketable on their own.

    [As an aside, I would suspect that ModusPwnd believes that physics degrees are a waste of time, given his experiences.]
  20. Jul 31, 2016 #19
    My point was, the inadequacy of science BS in industry is because science departments haven't been held accountable in making their programs relevant to current industry, unfortunately they don't need to because they have a steady supply of student loan money.

    Anyway good luck OP.
  21. Jul 31, 2016 #20
    The facts of life are that you must have some practical skill when you enter the market place. General; knowledge is not enough. Companies want people that can basically hit the "ground running". They don't want or need to hire people who can't do that because there are enough that can.
  22. Jul 31, 2016 #21
    Problem solving skills is too generic. We all know that you must understand the area relevant to the problem. In a recent post a BS physics graduate said that in applying for a financial oriented position that he was required to take a test to assess his knowledge and capability to deal with problems in that area. One needs to know the subject, terminology and issues that you routinely face.
  23. Aug 1, 2016 #22


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    But your point is based on a false assumption.

    The purpose of a bachelor of science degree is to provide the student with an education in the fundamentals of that particular science. The education needs to be robust enough that graduates are fully capable of continuing on in graduate studies in that subject. Of course you can change this, but as soon as you start replacing the necessary material to accomplish this, as soon as graduates can't go on into graduate school, the degree is no longer a bachelor's degree in that science. It's something else.

    But even if one were to argue that physics departments had a secondary mandate to prepare students for employment, the general statistics for graduates would seem to indicate that they are doing just fine in that respect. It's not like physics students that do not go on to graduate programs face drastically higher unemployment than students in other disciplines.
  24. Aug 1, 2016 #23
    People have to remember what standard BS degrees in physics have a person do:

    Calc 1-3, Diffy Q, Linear Algebra: standard maths most STEM degrees take
    Physics 1-2: learn the basics of mechanics, thermo, E&M, and optics
    Modern Physics: basics of relativity, stat mech, solid state, nuclear, particle, and quantum
    thermo: classical and quantum expanding on the basics
    classical mechanics and intermediate E&M: solve for spherical cows in gravitational and electromagnetic fields
    quantum: solve for basic, easily normalizable wave functions (particle in a cell, harmonic oscillator, etc), learn some pertubation theory
    senior laboratory: experimental methods and data analysis
    electives in nuclear, plasma, optics, astro, whatever.

    Though your theoretical expertise will be above that of say most engineering students, they've spent the same time you were solving 'pretty' problems doing things like advanced circuits, communication systems, power systems, RF electronics and such like which are all taking the physics the physics student knows and distilling it to what's useful to solving problems in the applied world (which is what employers need, though at a BS level their problems are 'pretty' as well). The physics student could all learn these things relatively easily but as been's stated before, the engineer already knows these things (for the most part) and get started churning though projects more readily on day 1. There's places for people with theoretical backgrounds though, one of the interns at my company was hired with degrees in physics and math (BS level) to do mathematical modeling on an experimental system (solving a problem not unlike what one might see in Griffiths or Jackson), though I'm an EE I do have a degree in physics and some of my profs had the forsight to teach useful scientific computing which I use alot in my job for data reduction and analysis; and I credit my physics degree for my ability to learn new concepts fairly quickly (work in a chemistry centered research environment, though I knew next to no chemistry starting off). So it's not as useless as someone like ModusPwnd might assert, but any way one can attach skills beyond solving pretty analytic (ie relatively 'easy') mathematical problems; such as scientific computing, data reduction and analysis, simulations, electronics, and the like would help greatly.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2016
  25. Aug 1, 2016 #24
    On the contrary, many changes in curriculum could be made that would improve both employability and grad school readiness. Just swapping out 19th century labs for ones that employ modern techniques (Labview, programming, etc) would certainly fit that bill.
  26. Aug 1, 2016 #25
    Indeed, and there are universities that do this; one the CSU's holds an entire course on LabVIEW in the physics department, not engineering:


    With so much Data Acquisition being done in LabVIEW, anyone would be hard pressed to find the lack of robustness such a course would give to experimentalists and people going into engineering industry at the same time.
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