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Career advice for graduating phd in physics

  1. Jan 2, 2014 #1
    Hi All,

    I've been a long time PF member (since 2003) but haven't posted much since graduating high school and had to create a new account. :)

    I must say, I never read the career guidance section until now. I probably should have 10 years ago.

    Looking back, I would say I was a disillusioned high schooler fascinated with the fundamental constituents of matter. Yes, I went into physics thinking I could help contribute to something 'greater' and for the sake of knowledge. Yes, I worked with the LHC collaboration for 3 years during my undergrad. No, I did not do any "real" physics (just optimization and verification algorithms). Yes, I went into grad school thinking I would contribute to something 'greater', applying for high energy programs. I entered an ivy league phd program and had moment of clarity when I questioned what my career options would be after graduating, and switched to exp condensed matter.

    Well, I went through it all and plan to graduate in the summer. However, I am left with a sense of anxiety and panic as I desperately want to leave academia and start a normal 'life' with a job in industry, away from the politics of publications and impact factors (though reading the previous posts in this section, I realized should have majored in engineering...)

    I'm back on PF, hoping to ask the community on any advice regarding how to enter into industry. With my background, I assume that the semiconductor field would be a possible fit but haven't the slightest clue on how to approach getting an industry job (since who hires physics phds anyways?) I have only a few more months before I plan to defend. After reading previous posts, I'm somewhat frightened due to the poor economy and the resounding advice of "dont major in physics, major in engineering!". I was hoping to hear how other phd graduates obtained jobs outside of academia and any potential advice they may have for future graduates like me.

    Thank you for any comments/thoughts.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2014 #2
    What did you do specifically for your condensed matter research? Im sure you have a better idea of how its applicable to industry than we would. Where have the students from your lab gone too after graduation?

    In my group we did thin film stuff, synthesis and characterization. The semiconductor industry, specifically Intel, has soaked up a fair portion of my lab's PhD graduates. Some of them interned there while a graduate student and others just applied when graduation was close. Those that went to industry had an industry friendly skill set right off the bat.

    Besides industry using your skills gained in grad school, you could retrain a little or a lot for something else. Are there any ideas of what you would like to do besides industry with condensed matter skills?

    Note that I am not a PhD, so I am drawing on the experiences of my lab mates that I have seen graduate and start careers.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  4. Jan 2, 2014 #3


    Staff: Mentor

  5. Jan 2, 2014 #4


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