1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Career Guidence Needed: Physics and Business

  1. Feb 29, 2008 #1
    Would a Physics BS, and an MBA give me a positive job outlook, or would the two look completely unrelated and useless to prospective employers?

    I'm afraid of what getting a Physics BS might do to my future. I will have a Associates Degree in Science at the end of this semester from a local community collage, and need to make a final decision on my transfer major now.

    The job outlook on this forum a Physics BS seems pretty bleak. Very Bleak. But my plan is not to work in physics. I don't want to be a lifetime student, nor teach. I wonder what opportunities would be available in industry.

    I never really had a plan for my occupation, but I have a few ideas of what I'd like to do.

    1. I want to work in some manufacturingish type industry, and I want to make decisions.
    (Analyzing and solving problems is one of the reasons I enjoy physics.)
    2. My great plan is to get a BS in Physics, and get into some sort of industry setting.
    3. From there I hope to get my company to pay for me to get an MBA.

    The reason I am studying physics is because the area really interests me. Reading about things I will be learning, like the spin of a nucleus, gets me excited. I don't know why this is; I know this information is useless in the real world. I have considered pursuing an engineering degree, but am afraid I won't enjoy the curriculum as much as I do with physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2008 #2
    More research shows that industrial engineering may be what I want to do as a career, but it has almost nothing to do with physics...
  4. Mar 1, 2008 #3

    People, do what you wanna do, don't be looking at job opportunities when you start studying ! Just make sure you have attained some marketable abilities when you graduate ! Nobody will hire a theoretical physicist just because of the QFT knowledge ! I know what i am talking about : i majored in theoretical physics, did some research in applied physics and finally went off to work in a bank. So....

  5. Mar 1, 2008 #4
    I see where your coming from, but I really don't know what I want to do. I enjoy studying physics, but I want to get into a career after my BS so I can establish myself.

    As long as I have to be in school, I want to study physics because it interests me the most. After that I want a career that interests me, gives me responsibility and satisfaction.

    I know this isn't the best philosophy in life, but I like expensive things...

    I'm looking for an option that will make me money while being satisfied with my job.
  6. Nov 19, 2008 #5
    When I went through graduate school in Physics, I learned of only two examples of Physicists that were very financially successful... for causes other than inherited wealth.

    1) Income through invention and patents.
    2) Re-use of Physics mathematics in support of quantitative stock market investing.

    What becomes of non-PhD physics types? We do what Physicists always do when faced with a frontier; invent and prove out solutions to the unknown; the stuff that puckers the belly button of Engineers.

    So, what career did I invent for myself? I did work in Physics until the end of the cold war. I did nationally secure work in Satellites and Propulsion. Then, since 500,000 Aerospace types were looking for work -- being laid off in mass, because we won the cold war -- the computin g side of my resume looked very good. (For you may guess that to analyze the snot out of rocket telemetry, one needs computing skills, programming skills and an willingness to work in secured computing environments.

    Thus, I transitioned to IT Staff that supported Engineering efforts. I have a thriving career in Information Security for Finance, Manufacturing, Civic governments, and Hospitals -- all with a need to keep confidential data private.

    I know several Chief Technology Officers who have degrees in Physics. Also, a few managers who became very interested in managing the human angle of technology efforts, or Project Managers who care for the Time and Resource estimation of technology efforts.

    All of these people still with that gentile passion to understand the real world.

    Right now, I am pursuing an MBA, on my own dime. One reason for this is that I want to better understand how to pitch a technology idea to business leadership. For it is one thing to know that an idea will succeed; but quite another to collect business strategists and huge sums of investment cash to make an new idea a profitable fact.

    The sad truth is that Human Resource Departments do not know what a Physicist is.

    To defeat this, get an industry certification:

    Project Management: PMP
    Risk Management: CISA/CISM
    Information Security: CISSP
    IT Technology: CCNA, MCSE, ... etc...

    It barely matters what the Certification is in. Go to Monster.com, and search for a job you like and look for the certifications. Then, use that same smarts that drew you to Physics in the first place and get that certification.

    Build a resume that says three things.
    I know how to work with a can do attitude.
    I have a useful Certification in what they need.
    I have a degree to show I am a flexible and smart person.

    Now this plan does not require a Physics degree to make it work. But, with it, you may give yourself the permission needed to express your technical curiosity.

    As for me, I took a top "A" in a graduate Physical Chaos course and it affected me. The most chaotic environment one is likely to find in ordinary life, is business decision logic. Thus, I transition from the Conservation of Energy to the Conservation of Money while knowing a whole lot more about forecasting issues that many PhDs in business or Engineering do, even to this very hour.

    I am going to like the business presentation boost my MBA gets me.

    Under the conservation of Energy, the big bang strongly suggests that Moses is not unreasonable after all when he penned, Genesis 1:1, after all.

    Rocks obey the law of gravity but they do not network very well; Begin your career network early. Drop by and say "Hi".


    Don Turnblade
    MS Physics
    MBA (Candidate)

  7. Nov 19, 2008 #6
    "I know this isn't the best philosophy in life, but I like expensive things..."

    Well, that is one way to start it. You seem to be aware of the difficulties of this yourself, I will therefore not berate you in this one.

    Well, you want to get into physics, because you like manufacturing things and solve reallife problems?

    You should get your engineering-degree instead and take extra physics credits. Electrical engineering is full of physics, and most chemical engineering is as well.

    If you want to be a leader in industry, you need the industrial know-how and experience. I say that a real leader is one who gets his stuff together and does what he needs to do to attain his goals. Like for example, get an engineering degree despite being more inclined to pure science. Happens all the time, and I really recommend it, because it will give you discpline and the ability to succeed against foul odds.
  8. Nov 19, 2008 #7
    Engineering degrees are not a royal path to wealth any more than Physics degrees are.
    Yet, Engineering degrees are a bit simpler to market in the work place and this is an advantage not to be discounted, and career network societies are of some help.

    Thinking strategically about the needs of the paying clients who hire Physics graduates, as well as engineers for that matter, some on-shore influences have begun to appear.

    Project life-cycles need timely responses to technical changes. Remote, "differring timezones" teams are at a disadvantage in giving timely responses: late nights, sleep cycles etc. Thus, technical specification and design change tasks benefit more from local "in timezone" talent than "out of timezone" talent. (We are looking at who your job competition truly is in a global market place.)

    Technical manufacturing where responsiveness is not critical can be displaced in other corners of the globe, for cost advantage reasons.

    So what does this mean. The technical major is less of a factor to success than team work factors. It is the timely, innovative team work that makes the difference to an "on-shore" employer. Thus, I would not switch between Physics and Engineering; I would take a Korean, Cantonese, or Spanish language minor. A global technical career with cross cultural communication skills would rock and roll.

    I would advise that technically gifted student ignore the petty rivalry between university schools. I would advise a bit of "Think Global and Act Local"; think about global competition and make local semi-custom changes to your minor. Major in Physics or Engineering, Minor in skills sets that benefit technical design integration and teamwork.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2008
  9. Nov 20, 2008 #8
    Whether they appear related entirely depends on what kind of job you are applying for and what your real work experience is. I think for the kind of job you talk about later they would appear related, at least in some industries. Personally, I think of an MBA as a degree that has value leveraged by your work experience, so an MBA with no work experience, in my opinion, has very little value.

    To be honest, the above question seems odd given your statement later that its your employer who will be paying - or at least allowing - you to get your MBA. If you'd like to manage in an industry environment, a physics BS and an MBA might be on the right track. I really feel there's a better BS to go for though, unless you have a very specific industry in mind (which poses dangers of its own).

    Well, it could be worse. You could have a psychology degree, a history degree. . . heck, 99% of the degrees in the book are worse off than a physics degree. But then most of them are barely worth the paper they're printed on.

    If you aren't planning on getting a masters, or you don't have a good idea where you'll work after you get it, I wouldn't consider a physics B.S. particularly valuable, and would push you towards engineering. Not that that's a whole lot better either but. . .

    Sure, but what % of physics students who graduate, get a good job and work every day spend time on the career forum? This is a good conditional probability problem in the making. . .

    Okay. Get a (more?) useful degree and read cutesy books about physics on the side.

    Problem solved.
  10. Nov 20, 2008 #9
    As a consultant, I have taken time out of my day to give my direct experience. I can hope that some could show simple respect for that.

    As a conditional probability, there may be another reason these odds are low. I never pursued my Physics degree as an act of hopelessness. Neither did self defeated or biting words ever lead me to the strategic and creative approaches that have always done my career good. Did respect for my time lead you to speak this way?

    A Physics degree and an MBA are a hugely effective combination. I know a product manager highered by Apple sole because of his dual technical and MBA skill sets. The combined technical background completely eclypsed an entire stack of "technology limited" MBA competitors. In business parlance, a Physics degree and an MBA represents market differentiation. This is a good thing that leads to commanding a higher price for one's product. In this case, a better salary.

    Stop thinking inside the box. If one is half as bright as one needs to be to succeed in Physics, using the brain God gave us is a good idea. Realize that not everyone can or even does have the technical merit that a Physicst does. Market this. For we know that the Engineering disciplines market their skill sets. Physics does not need to be "Dain Bramaged" in this area. A translation from a Japanese school of management, "What you make with the sweat of your brow, you must sell with the sweat of your brow."
  11. Nov 20, 2008 #10
    I like Arctific's suggestion of learning chinese, spanish, etc. I do believe those communication skills would be extremely valuable. As for having a B.S. in Physics, it's not a bad degree by any means. But I would agree that an EE degree is more marketable. Most engineers stop at the bachelors or masters level, whereas it's often perceived in the pure sciences that stopping short of a Ph.D. leaves something to be desired.

    As for an MBA, it seems to me like they're a dime a dozen these days. Everywhere you look, there are MBA programs offered; they're at local schools, online, it's almost like the new catch phrase of the millenium: "Get your MBA". And not to be insulting to anyone, but I don't know how else to put this... it seems like almost any idiot can get one. So in my mind I don't see them as the most valuable thing.

    Personally, I believe you'd have better opportunities for management positions with two undergraduate degrees: one in EE and another in a foreign language. That's my two cents.
  12. Nov 20, 2008 #11
    "As a consultant, I have taken time out of my day to give my direct experience. I can hope that some could show simple respect for that."

    And you say whatnow? Lol'd, and hard.

    Yesh, languages and technology = instant win.
  13. Nov 20, 2008 #12

    Physics degrees benefit from the standing of the school that grants them. Such standing is earned from the programs effectiveness and rigor.

    The same is true of MBA programs. The advertisements exist because the need in business is great but the supply is not. Thus, MBA programs, tend to see advertising as an approach to attracting clients. At least such a school might possess a useful knowlege of marketing, which is covered during MBA instruction.

    It is true that MBA uses of designed experiments and statistical modeling have politely charming momments compared to full rigor Physics, graduate level marketing used a whole lot more background in Designed Experiments and statistical significance testing that my undergraduate Physics courses ever did. I personally found the work on human bias detection using calibrated surveys kind of interesting.

    Atoms are not fully forthcomming in their uncertanly quantum ways, and humans can falsly answers on marketing surveys. Yet, atoms seldom buy $1B in inventory at a 35% profit margin. An money is not as simply conserved as Energy or Momentum but a 1% efficiency improvement in the motion of money can make a man a fortune. Even Einstein humoristly lists, "Compound Interest" as one of the truly greatest forces.

    I enjoyed Physics and helped win the cold war by using it. My MBA effort is about 3/4 complete at this point. I am not seeking advice in Physics and business, I am offering it from direct exprience.

    And should you seek career statistics for Physics majors, even the American Physical Society does not know what all the BS and MS Physics degrees in the USA are up to. Yet, I continue to meet impressive examples of such persons. May I know what your industry experience in Physics is?
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2008
  14. Nov 20, 2008 #13
    I heard before everything you said: your entire post, individual sentences, ordering of the words, and event the words themselves. Also, I know someone who works at the bank.

    Hence, I thought this deserves a post.

  15. Nov 20, 2008 #14
    I would say that even PhD professors at a university spend precious little time doing direct Physics.

    EE engineers spend less time than one images actually touching a single electrical component.

    As a proverb, no one works directly in their college discipline. Because industry will only pay for what adds value to them. A college degree is a ticket to play rather than a path of strategic excellence. An 4.0 GPA is a marketing feature to a buyer, "the employer".

    In the world we live in, a PhD is certification, not an identity. The view that work for a bank must be boring by definition is extremely naive.

    I have client banks who pay me to identify their computing security vulnerabilities and give them strategies to control their risks. Nothing about it is boring. I never found that having electronic control of more than $540 Million in electronic money boring. Especially as it took time and effort to help the Director of IT realize the empiric truths involved. I found the puzzle rather entertaining to solve both in a technical and organizational behavior sense. While I did not need QFT to solve such a problem, I am very glad to have an effective problem solving skill set that is substantially larger than my competition.

    I have a degree in Theoretical Physics also. Still the classes I took in Physical Chaos and Abstract Algebra actually have a lot of real world applications... I just do not tell my clients why it is so easy to solve some of their vexing problems. For this polite silence, they pay me a mint.
  16. Nov 21, 2008 #15
    Was this directed at me? It appeared to be, but I couldn't make any sense of it. If so, you grossly misunderstood me, or at the least made some very strange assumptions.
  17. Nov 21, 2008 #16
    I'm baffled by this post as well. My best guess is that you thought I was talking to you or quoting you, when in fact I wasn't.

    I worked in what I would describe as materials science for an engineering firm. Then I went back to grad school, and now I'm in the business world.

    I never got the chance to help win the cold war, but I'm fairly happy with my journey at the moment.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Career Guidence Needed: Physics and Business
  1. Career guidence (Replies: 5)