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Career choice!

  1. May 21, 2013 #1


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    Hi, Iam currently 18 years old. I've always craved knowledge, and as a 12 year old I discovered physics in the light that I see it today. Iam taking courses in math and physics because I really want to work as a scientist.
    But Iam not sure if that's what I want in the end, Iam really interested in genetic biology too.
    So, my question is: How do you feel about your career choice and why?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2013 #2
    Career choice? Man, I'd take any STEM career I could get. Unfortunately, after years of searching and applying, I have not been able to land anything of the sort. My problem is that I washed out of a PhD program so my masters degree is a lame non-terminal masters degree. I flirt with the idea of going back to school for engineering and I probably should, but money is certainly an issue at this point.

    Have you read the "So you want to be a physicist?" post?
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
  4. May 21, 2013 #3
    Which career choice? How about this one:

    The smartest career move I ever made was leaving physics.
  5. May 23, 2013 #4
    At 18 I was also interested in physics and "genetic biology". I mean, who are cooler than Newton, Einstein and Darwin? It might be best just taking a BSc in genetics, but you can keep your options open by taking a course like the Natural Science Tripos at Cambridge:

    http://www.natsci.tripos.cam.ac.uk/subject-information/part-ia [Broken]

    If you do mostly physics at BSc, you could take a conversion course at MSc level, in bioinformatics & genetics, IF YOU ARE STILL FASCINATED BY THE SUBJECT. That there is a such a course indicates that it's a really hot area at the moment, so you might even get a job in it! Check out courses like:


    Whatever you do at BSc, make sure you choose what you are *really* interested in. Both physics and "genetic biology" are great to take if you eventually want to get a "real job" (programming, finance...), so study either, or both if you remain interested in both.

    There are enough options out there to allow you study what you really want to study, just check the promising university sites carefully to see that you get to study what you are really interested in... for instance if you are interested in General Relativity, make sure you can take a course in GR in your final year. If you are interested in mathematical models of evolution & genetics, make sure you can actually take courses in these. Flexible universities should allow you study genetics and GR, if that floats your boat. (It certainly would have floated my boat, but I had to study them in my spare time my University as they didn't enable such flexibility of study!)

    In summary, follow your passion, and choose carefully.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. May 24, 2013 #5
    What I wish people had told me when I was 18: the option to choose your career is a rare privilege.

    Quite a bit of my career "choices" were made for me by economic factors and random luck. But you don't have to be completely helpless - you can exert some influence over your options. My strategy was, roughly, to make three lists: things I think are worth doing, things someone might pay me to do, and things I have a reasonable chance of actually doing. Then find the intersection of those lists. If it is empty, then make the lists bigger.

    For example, quantum mechanics is on one or maybe two of those lists. It's unlikely I'll ever have a career in quantum mechanics, but I don't regret spending years learning it. It was worth doing, it taught me a lot about probability/statistics, and probability/statistics is on all three lists.
  7. May 28, 2013 #6


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    Thank you all for such great answers! I really need to think about this, it appears that a physicist doesn't have a great deal of space in the "viable job"-market. I don't want to be some guy that people call for mathquestions when I've studied physics for 5 years.
  8. May 28, 2013 #7


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    This sums up my pathway pretty well. Upon finishing high school, my university application preference list contained medicine, engineering, pharmacy and actuarial science (You can already tell that I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do). I wasn't accepted into the one medical school I applied to, so I ended up studying chemical engineering and finance, with plans of becoming a chemical engineer in either the pharmaceutical or mining industry. It turned out that I did quite well in my first few years of study, but wasn't convinced that chemical engineering was for me--I decided that I was going to be an investment banker! I continued to do well at university and was fortunate enough to win a few scholarships and internships with Supermajor oil and gas companies (O&G is a big thing at my university). At this stage I rediscovered chemical engineering, and decided that I'd work for a Supermajor when I graduated. Now, with 6 months before I graduate, I have secured a graduate job with a top management consulting firm.

    Had you asked me 6 years ago whether I'd be working in consulting in 6 years time, I would have said "What is consulting?"

    So, as you can see, my path was never really clearly defined and was very strongly influenced by external factors. Sure, some people have an idea from the start and do stick to it (I sometimes wish that I was like this), however my path is full of twists and turns because of unexpected opportunities that arose along the way, discovery of new interests, and the external environment.

    I guess my point is: pick a starting point that you're interested in, and then be proactive as you move along that path, making any twists and turns as required.
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