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Can't find a job with a PhD

  • Thread starter EJen
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Graduated in April with my physics PhD, and been looking since February, but still can't find a job. I've been using Monster, LinkedIn, APS, Career Builder, etc., but I never seem to be able to find the right job title for my skill set, so most of the search results are worthless. For example, when I look for jobs in programming, almost everything I find wants dedicated web developers (all my experience is in hardware integration and data analysis for my experiments). Is there someplace I should be looking where I can actually find openings that are right for me?
 
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Vanadium 50

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What is your skill set?
 
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Of course I did the usual theoretical work, data analysis (python, Matlab, mathematica) technical writing, management of undergraduates in our lab, and paper writing.I was principle on the project, so I had to do everything from sample fabrication (chemical, electrical, machining, photolithography) to equipment design (pro-E, Solidworks) to diagnostics (optical microscopy, SEM) to equipment programming and integration (python). The main experiment was also my design, and I had to branch out to several sub-disciplines for some parts (such as when I had to learn how to engineer air bearings for when we needed a custom one).
 

phyzguy

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How many jobs have you actually applied for? I would expect it to take somewhere between 25-200 applications to find a position. I think you shouldn't expect to find a perfect fit to your skill set - go ahead and apply for things that are close. There are probably many engineering jobs where your skill set would be valuable.
 

Vanadium 50

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Of course I did the usual
That describes what you did. What can you do?

Your prospective employer isn't so much interested in what you did as what you can do. For him.
 

StatGuy2000

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Graduated in April with my physics PhD, and been looking since February, but still can't find a job. I've been using Monster, LinkedIn, APS, Career Builder, etc., but I never seem to be able to find the right job title for my skill set, so most of the search results are worthless. For example, when I look for jobs in programming, almost everything I find wants dedicated web developers (all my experience is in hardware integration and data analysis for my experiments). Is there someplace I should be looking where I can actually find openings that are right for me?
In your quote above, you stated that you were involved in data analysis for your experiments. Have you applied for any data science positions? Many physics PhDs were able to land jobs in that area due to their experience with analyzing large datasets. Python experience is a common requirement for many types of data science jobs (along with the use of data science tools and SQL -- my suggestion would be to study these on your own, particularly through online courses via Coursera or EdX).

Beyond that, I don't have much more advice beyond what phyzguy and Vanadium 50 have already posted.
 

Choppy

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Having been on the hiring end of the job search many times over now, I can't emphasize enough how critical it is to know as much as you can about the job you're applying for. If all you know is the little write up about the position, your chances of actually getting the position are very low. Remember, that by the time a position is advertised on one of the larger job sites, the employer has already exhausted (a) internal applicants, and (b) the those in the first degree of separation (people who have held intern positions, done volunteer work, previous applicants that were liked, but didn't quite beat out a better candidate, people who've met with the department director at confernces and informally expressed interest in a position, etc.) They're onto the (c) group - investing in a large scale search for an ideal candidate.

So the problem (and I don't mean to imply that it's an easy one to solve) is to figure out how to get from the (c) group to the (b) group, and even the (a) group if necessary.

One of the first helpful tips is to pick an industry that you want to get into and a position (or set of positions) that you want to have. Then start learning everything you can about the industry. This includes both online research and whenever possible, talking to people who are in it (not just those who are immediately recruiting either). If you can, try to attend the major conferences in that industry. Try to arrange a job shadow. Exhaust your own personal network for connections - even multiple degrees of separation. Offer to take someone to lunch to learn about the field.

Another tip is to figure out what qualifications you need and get those. I think one of the major issues with PhDs who are trying to transition into the workplace is that they are highly educated, highly ambitious and have a highly specialized skill set, but they have little by way of formal qualifications. Sometimes this means more "school" which in most cases is not an attractive option for someone who's already done that for far too long, but once you remove the "sunken cost" factor, coupling a PhD with a professional qualification can be huge in terms of opening up options and earning potential moving forward. As much as possible try to avoid the mindset of "I could have been doing X five years ago had I made different choices" and instead try to look at your situation as "the best place I can get to from where I am now is Y."

Good luck!
 
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Took me almost 2 years 2012-2014. I think the job situation for physics PhD's is a little better now.
 

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