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Can we talk about graduate school?

  1. Nov 27, 2012 #1
    I've decided on going back to school for a physics degree. I want to know it, and there's nothing else out there that I'm as interested in. But school isn't for pleasure, it's for getting a job. A 4-year in physics alone, from what I've been reading, is about as good as any other degree. It'll look nice, but get you very little by itself.

    Now, for graduate school.. help?

    What degrees are currently in demand? What degrees could I cross over into with a physics BS? Where are good places to find internships (Virginia)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2012 #2
    If you want to get a good job easily, then you might want to think of an engineering degree. For example, Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering degrees are very employable/ They have a significant overlap with physics, so a double major in physics and engineering is certainly doable.
  4. Nov 27, 2012 #3


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    It's worth mentioning now that university and particularly academic programs like physics do NOT exist "for getting a job." They're for giving you an education.

    If you want job training, you have to look at either professional programs (engineering, medicine, etc.) or to a community college.
  5. Nov 27, 2012 #4
    I don't think anyone goes in paying 20k+ a year just so they can "get an education," but thanks for being overly pessimistic for me today.

    Welcome back anytime
  6. Nov 27, 2012 #5
    i have to disagree with you. i go to school for the fun and to learn. i am planning on spending 20k+ just for an education and because i enjoy it.

    everyone going into physics KNOWS that it won't bring nice cars, nice clothes,a giant house, or a big bank account. i do it because i love it and doing anything else would be a waste of time.

    please refrain from making statements like university is to get a job and no one goes to school just for knowledge. No, university is for learning. people hire university graduates for their knowledge.

    if you think no one would pay 20+ k just for knowledge you are ignorant. i played hockey all my life and payed well over 20k because i love it.

    the same way as i am going to pay for knowledge because thats what is important to me in life
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
  7. Nov 27, 2012 #6
    The vast majority of people cannot hope to pay for that without significant assistance from their parents, or a job waiting for them at the end.

    OP: Consider engineering, most definitely. Some engineers are heavily into physics, although not the kind of physics that a physicist would explore. Orbital trajectory designers are my favorite example: most of the things they do are physics. It's just hell-and-gone from the kind of physics you'd see as a physicist.
  8. Nov 27, 2012 #7
    and to add to that. Just because you have a degree it guarantees nothing. so asking what degree is in high demand doesn't mean anything. i got a job over people who graduated with degrees for a nutrition job straight out of highschool.
    i got it over people with nutritional science degrees, kinesiology degrees, and others.

    so... is university for getting a job? it willhelp but no guarantees. if you chase things in "high demand" now, it may not be tomorrow. if you do what you love and your damn good at it. you will be happy
  9. Nov 27, 2012 #8
    yes, but my point is that a lot of people DO go to university for the education.
  10. Nov 27, 2012 #9
    The advisor to our physics club told me he thinks it's very sad that people consider education to be for job training, and not for enlightenment.

    -Dave K
  11. Nov 27, 2012 #10
    i agree with your advisor completely.
  12. Nov 27, 2012 #11
    Why not? They pay for all kinds of silly things, why not that one? In any case a physics Masters or PhD shouldn't cost $20k, it should cost roughly $0. (I agree the BS will cost, but I thought the thread was about grad school).

    If you're careful about what area you study, are geographically flexible, are very good in both school work and lab work, and have a bit of luck on your side, I really believe you can earn a great living with a Masters or PhD in physics.

    Go into the wrong area and your education will have been worth very little.

    Good luck!
  13. Nov 27, 2012 #12
    I was a bit cynical in my original post, I will admit. I'm going to study this even if it means I work out of field, just because the subject is amazing. But at the same time, it's expensive! I will have to recoup my losses, and I'd rather be in a better position afterwords.

    May I ask about teaching? How do you guys feel about it? I don't see it mentioned too often on here (I haven't been around long, though). There are lots of teaching jobs out there, no?

    Best case scenario-- I'm a genius and didn't know it, land a research job
    Middle case scenarios-- I find an interesting job in a related field.
    Worst case scenario-- I teach. Heck, teaching isn't that bad, I could live and be happy with this too.
  14. Nov 27, 2012 #13

    Graduate school should be free? Are scholarships really that easy to come by?

    One of my biggest worries about going to grad school is whether or not I'll be able to afford it. I'm sure there are guides everywhere on here for finding scholarships, I'll look around. Thanks for the ease of mind.
  15. Nov 27, 2012 #14
    As far as graduate school is concerned, inquire about the funding level provided to students enrolled in that graduate program beforehand (unless the program is in a school like UBC, where funding is made clear enough to prospective graduate students so that they can plan their graduate studies around it)

    There really are grad schools that would cost nothing out of your own pocket since these grad schools are fully funded.
  16. Nov 27, 2012 #15
    "There are lots of teaching jobs out there, no?"

    I wouldn't say so. Teach for America could find a spot for you. Otherwise many districts are putting teachers on furlough and letting them retire without re-hiring. Teaching jobs are out there, but there is not lots. Of my undergrad cohort 3 of them ended up doing Teach for America.
  17. Nov 27, 2012 #16


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    If you're looking at graduate schools in America and you have:

    A GPA over 3.33 (equivalent to American System)
    A PGRE score > 40 percentile
    Research experience of any sort
    and solid letters of recommendation corroborating you're not a complete moron

    Look forward to getting a fully funded PhD somewhere.

    (Your experiences may vary)

    (Don't commit felonies: this seriously hurts your chances)
  18. Nov 27, 2012 #17
    This is wrong. If money is all that people want to think about these days, I honestly don't stand for it. I'm planning to double major in math and physics, neither of which may get me much money in life, but it's passion and an enjoyment for the subject that move me. Money invested in education is not money wasted. I'll give you an idea what's wasted money: big mansion, racing cars, wine, beer etc...
  19. Nov 27, 2012 #18
    Easy to say... But if you don't get a career out of it and make no more after than you did before that is easily seen as money, and time, wasted. Its fun and fulfilling to know some relativity and quantum. But without a career to pay for it most people would not attempt it. Money isn't everything, but it is something.
  20. Nov 27, 2012 #19
    Which is fair, but for many of us school was all about pleasure, if only because of our ignorance (my ignorance) of any real world concerns.
  21. Nov 27, 2012 #20
    The view to college should be a balance of both financial and personal considerations. This will be different for each person, but eventually once must draw a line between money and the other things if one is to make a decision consistent with one's beliefs.

    For instance, if you are an international student looking to eventually immigrate to a developed country, you need a job and sponsorship in that country. This is much easier to do with engineering than with a subject like Archaeology. All the int'l students I know have moved back to their country if their major was not in engineering/mathematics/computer science/economics. The math degree becomes heavily employable when combned with either economics or computer science (idk about physics).

    This is certainly true of the US and Japan; to my knowledge the immigration laws in these countries are much more lenient towards workers in high-skill occupations, i.e. engineering/CS/financial analyst. My guess extrapolates this to other developed countries.

    Another example, I have a friend who is doing computer engineering. He does not even like studying; if he could do what he spontaneously wanted to do, it would be video games, but those really don't earn you anything He was hardworking enough to scrape through the graduation and secure a modest entry level job. Why did he pick engineering?

    One of the reasons was that his little brother had a passion of being a doctor. Becoming a doctor is very expensive in the US. The older brother took the decision of majoring in engineering so he could pay (at least in part) for his younger brother's expenses in medical school. The younger brother, unlike the older, is deeply passionate about medicine. To be frank the older brother doesn't care what he majored in, as long as it payed enough for his younger brother's needs.

    You don't have to major in the subject you spontaneously love the most. It just's that you need to make the decision so that you don't regret it afterwards, and since few people can advice others on the future, the gut feeling is also important in these matters, since few people know you better than yourself.

    This is all coming from someone who *almost* majored in math, but ended up majoring in EE. In my free time I read books on stuff like real analysis and cryptography, so I still *love* math, but have decided *not* to make it a part of my career, in much the same was Einstein did not consider violin to be a part of his career.

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