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BS in Physics: Debate on Career

  1. Mar 4, 2014 #1

    I am physics senior at a 1st tier public university, Louisiana Tech. I am having a major crisis in my life concerning what I should do, so I really would appreciate if the advice was only constructive in nature. Any suggestions on websites that tailor to science undergraduates finding jobs would be much appreciated.

    To start off, when I first came to Louisiana Tech, I was motivated to be an Electrical Engineering major. After desperately trying to do my best in sophomore classes, I kept flunking and ultimately switch to Physics since most of my credits transfered. At first I was doing pretty decent in physics (A,B's) but this year (senior year) I have been having a hard time in mechanics and electodynamics (C's). Being in this last year college has shown me that I really do want to work with consumer electronics and be in electrical engineering. My GPA though is not that great (between the initial bad grades in engineering and my average ones now). My gpa is 2.75. I considered medical physics, but with my grades thats more of a struggle than I anticipated, unless I go retake physics classes. And even then, I dont have immediate access to medical physics related research groups.

    I dont care about going into a private, prestigious graduate school. And above all else, I definitely dont want to work in Education being a school teacher (though from what I research in AIP, that is not a very common occurence since 60% of undergrads go to graduate school and only 13% of the 40 % who are not in graduate pursue K-12 careers).

    I really just want to do a Masters in Engineering for Electrical Engineering. I have been very emotionally depressed over my situation, but I just dont know a way out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2014 #2


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    So what's the question or choices? The honest fact of the matter is you don't have many options at all. You either network to the best of your ability and prove to someone you are smarter than what's on paper and hope for a job, or you find some graduate school somewhere who really wants your funds to take you and prove you have the ability to do well. Regardless, of why you have your GPA, you have it, and there isn't much you can do about it.

    Probably not what you wanted to hear, but these are the realities you find yourself in.
  4. Mar 4, 2014 #3


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    If you're seriously considering the pursuit of an electrical engineering master's degree, you have to ask yourself why you expect to do better in that than you did in your undergraduate degree. Generally speaking graduate level work is more challenging than undergrad, and if you struggled there, then even if you can get in why should the outcome be different?
  5. Mar 4, 2014 #4
    Have you talked to an adviser about doing a EE masters with only physics for your BS degree? I did and came to the conclusion that doing another BS in EE is a better choice. The amount of prereqs I would have had to take would be a few years of classes. Plus, as a BS student has a chance of doing a paid internship, a BS is cheaper and allows for the possibility of a PE license.
  6. Mar 4, 2014 #5
    To answer Choppy. I do understand that a masters degree is generally a harder course load. However, the school I am going to has a reputation for being relatively harder than the other public universities. Also, there a quite a number students Ive meet from other parts of my state that have said they originally pursued engineering at my university, disagreed with the policies , and transferred to other institutions in which they are much happier.

    Not saying the other schools are easier by any means, but they are for one not 1st tier (most are 2nd tier or lower other that the State university) and they focus more on student interaction and teaching. My school is primarily focused more on research. Facts I did not find out until much later in my education.
  7. Mar 4, 2014 #6
    Marne Math. I do recognize the realities of my situation. As someone who is advising, I understand that you are being honest. However, you should keep in mind that I, like most people, do not "choose" for things to sour in life or not to work out. I tried to the best of my ability to not be in my current situation. But it did not pan out the way I wanted.

    I have made accounts on job search sites and posted my resume. I do hope to network more as I graduate from my university. I do plan on applying to schools that have lower GPA standards (as I said I know I wont make it to anywhere like Berkeley, neither do I care). I am not sure if I should try to make personal campus visits or not though.
  8. Mar 5, 2014 #7
    I have considered getting another Bachelors degree Modus. I have not yet spoken with my advisor about this issue though, and thank you, for I never really considered chatting with him over this. The only concern is that I was under the impression that I cant get student loans for another BS degree.

    In all honesty, I think that I can handle the typical BS in EE from the rigor of my undergrad physics classes. The concepts we learned at physics were much harder generally speaking. I can solve problems easily now that back when I first started in engineering, would have been difficult. My professors actually explained how processes worked and expected us to know them as well. Im not afraid of the workload, I just dont like my universities policies on engineering.
  9. Mar 5, 2014 #8
    I have not thought about this in depth. If you are a citizen of US at least at one time the federal government hired physicists for labs and weapons work. The USAJOBs website may be useful to you. Of course, you must be a citizen (and probably) be subject to background checks for clearances. For example unless you are over 50 you may need to (or have registered) for selective service (i.e. military draft).

    (Currently I have not had much luck with the USAJOBs, probably due to the sequester. There are military base closings you hear about.)

    Another possibility, my GPA as and undergrad was low. I saw there were some (specialized) graduate schools (Oregon Electrical ?, GM motors?, maybe Embry-Riddle) associated with industry, that had lower requirements, although I maybe wrong on this point, espc Embry-Riddle.

    If Navy is looking, a lot of nuclear engineers got their start onboard submarines. I suspect it is not your first (or second) choice. I do think the military does have a way of developing talent, and it is a good answer for many.
  10. Mar 5, 2014 #9
    The navy nuclear propulsion course is actually a good option. You could make a nice salary with benefits, sign on bonuses and have them pay for your graduate studies. Not only that depending on your rating you may get electrical engineering experience. Seriously see what the navy has to offer, it's a 6 year commitment but they will pay for graduate school and you can move on from there. Not many people enjoy their first jobs anyway
  11. Mar 5, 2014 #10
    Mpresic and caldweab. Thank You for the advice. I find it funny because actually I was looking into different option for science majors in the military. In all honestly, Ill take both of your suggestions and see where they go. My only concern is that I dont know how to swim ( had bad experience with water when I was a kid :( ) But Ill do whatever it takes to move forward in my life.
  12. Mar 5, 2014 #11
    Oh, mpresic. I am only 22 years old and yes I am registered for selected services.
  13. Mar 5, 2014 #12


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    Two points:

    1. I know two people who served as Nuclear Officers aboard submarines after undergrad. One now has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from UC Davis and the other has a Ph.D. in Physics from UC Berkeley. It's a strong program and you get really *concentrated* experience. It's intense.

    2. What makes you think EE courses will be easier than your physics courses? I started out in Physics and went over to Electrical Engineering because I found EE more difficult. The more heuristic engineering approach is a different way to solve problems... some find it easier, some find it harder to grasp than proof-based physics and math.
  14. Mar 5, 2014 #13
    Analogdesign. I am not in ANYWAY saying that EE is easier than physics. I apologize if there is mis-communication. All I am saying is that I feel that I can successfully handle a EE program if I tried it again, as long as it is not at my current university. If I were to go to a lower tiered school that wasnt only focused on engineering, I would probably be better off grade and careerwise. I left my schools EE program because I was struggling, even though I understood the concepts of the material. I learned the hard way that understanding = good grades is not always true. Im not dumping on engineering, I want to be one. I just dont want to pursue it at my university because I feel there is more institutionalized difficulty than conceptual difficulty.
  15. Mar 5, 2014 #14


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    Fair enough, and I have to agree with you the understanding is only weakly correlated to your grades. I wasn't saying that you were dumping on engineering, I just got the impression you expected it to be easier. Clearly that is not the case and I misunderstood.

    Wanting to be an engineer is 3/4 of success, in my opinion. if you get a physics BS you will have to take some remedial courses as part of your MSEE program. This may or may not be a problem for you. If you can figure out a way to get a BSEE it will be much easier for you.
  16. Mar 5, 2014 #15
    I know that taking EE BS classes is inevitable. It wont be a problem for me to take those classes somewhere else, because I know its just another milestone toward my goals. Whether I get a BS or not in EE depends on how long all the required BS in EE classes take me. If it is only two full years of BS classes, I wont get the BS in EE.
  17. Mar 5, 2014 #16


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    Quick note about Navy Nuke program.
    1)If you're talking about Enlisting into becoming a Navy Nuker, then have fun.
    2)If you're taking about becoming an Officer through Nuclear Training Program. You're not competitive for it. I haven't heard nor met Navy Nuke Officer with a less than 3.33. Reality, in a time for reduction of forces, 3.5 is probably a more accurate minimum. Even for a standard non-technical rate/mos I suspect 3.2 would be required for an OCS candidate.
  18. Mar 5, 2014 #17
    As you are into consumer electronics, why not work at a consumer electrical store, or in the appropriate section a large general purpose store (Walmart, or wherever...) Or what about becoming a lab technician? Someone I know went in on the ground floor of retail in a big supermarket, now he's CEO, earning more than any five professors. On the other hand, I've known many lab technicians with few qualifications, most of them appeared to be having a great time. Money not great, but enough. All-in-all, no need to get depressed, there's always something to get into. Just have a worst case fall back plan and you need never feel down.
  19. Mar 5, 2014 #18
    I have met a man with a physics degree who works removing viruses and doing computer systems backups. He also looked into high school teaching but prefers to work with laptops and home-computers.
  20. Mar 5, 2014 #19


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    Your school ranks 190. http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/louisiana-tech-university-2008

    In case you weren't aware.

    Forbes rates it
    But the problem here is your poor grades, which, I agree with Marne, is where you should be focused.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  21. Mar 5, 2014 #20
    MarneMath. I was not specifically refering to the Navy Nuke program. I did look it up at an earlier point in my collegiate education. So I know that its competitive. I am more considering being in the Navy for other technical careers outside of that program.

    For the last time, quit coming off as being arrogant. I know that Im not the best of students, but I also know I not the worst. Also, I know of people who have come from similar backgrounds and through perseverance and applying the right effort have become successful.

    Bottomline. Stop demeaning people who are in a worse situation than your own. Just because everything "perfect" in your career life does not give the right to disown other people efforts.
  22. Mar 5, 2014 #21
    Evo. I certainly know that my school is not a top school in the country. (As a matter of fact, I need to give you the email address of my Louisiana Tech President, he needs to reminded of that more than me). My school is really full of faculty who think they are the best thing ever, I know that they are not.

    I mentioned my school is 1st tier for MY state of Louisiana, not 1st tier of the entire nation. And the other universities in my state, (other than the State and private colleges) rank even lower than Tech. Just because a school has low-rank nationally ( which I already knew) does not mean it is not more difficult than some of the other schools that surround it.

    I know grades is where my biggest issue is. I have decided that whatever school I go to, I will invest more time and effort into learning the material proficiently, so that I can make better grades. As I said already, I wont come back to the school im in now for anything else, Ill simply redouble my efforts at a lower tiered school
  23. Mar 6, 2014 #22

    Stop giving inaccurate information. You need about a 2.8 to get into OCS and if you get high enough line scores on the ASVAB and qualify for the nuke program, you need at least a 3.5 or higher to qualify for reactor engineering which he wouldn't qualify for anyway because they require a degree in mechanical, nuclear or electrical engineering. Since when has there been a reduction in forces for navy nukes? Last time I went in to see what they offered, the minute I said I was studying nuclear engineering the nuke program is all they wanted to talk about.
  24. Mar 6, 2014 #23


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    The "sequester" (across the board budget cuts across) and other cuts in the defense budget in the US likely means the reduction in forces in all branches of the US military, including the navy.
  25. Mar 6, 2014 #24


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    To the OP:

    A GPA of 2.75 is not very impressive and will likely deny you the possibility of acceptance to most graduate programs, either in physics or engineering. MarneMath is just telling it like it is. Your focus right now should be to try to improve that GPA, and if that means staying another year or two and retake the physics courses, I suggest you should do so. In the absence of any internship or work experience, future employers and graduate admissions committee members will look at your grades first and foremost, and may well wonder why they would want to consider you as a potential employee versus those with higher grades or some other form of achievement that will be useful to them.

    To be able to improve your GPA, you need to determine why you are flunking or doing so poorly in your courses. Is it the difficulty of the material, your study habits, etc.? Have you sought tutoring for subjects you are struggling with or spoken to your professors or an advisor? It's possible that certain subjects may take you longer to understand than others, in which case you need to work much harder in those areas than other students. These are the kinds of things you need to assess. You still have another year left, so you still have time to improve. It is not too late yet.

    Just my 2 cents worth.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  26. Mar 6, 2014 #25
    Ok StatGuy 2000. As mentioned earlier, I know my grades are not in the best shape. Actually I only one more quarter to graduation ( 3 months) , so there nothing I can do about it at the current moment. I have decided that in the event I dont get into grad school or find a job, Ill simply apply the following year for taking BS classes in EE as a non-traditional student (again at another university, not Tech).

    But there is some stuff I should clarify for you and others since apparently the only graduate schools that exist are prestigious ones in your minds.
    1) There are some graduate schools that take people below 3.0 and in my state I have a few that I can apply to not including some in other states.
    2) I have 2 research experiences and while they are not groundbreaking, I can say that I have them and what Ive done in them
    3) I already explained earlier that the way my university goes about it engineering programs is harder than most others "in my state". I will improve my study habits as you have suggested, but improving study skills cant always overcome "institutional difficulty" ie why I am going to leave for a lower tiered engineering university.

    4) (More you and MarneMath than me) I know people who have gone to prestigious schools with higher GPA's , etc. And you know what, some of them are successful but alot of them are working in low-paying lab tech positions, or still cant find a decent staff position at any university. Point being, just because you have the best stats does not always guarantee your success in life. There any plenty of people with great stats, but for reason not all of them end up successful or if nothing else not where they originally planned/wanted to be.

    Tell you what, when I get into graduate school ill post you an acceptance letter. Fair. Im dont try to abrasive naturally, and I do appreciate your comments are far as improving study habits or improvising study time.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
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