Career outlook for a 38 y/o starting physics undergrad?

In summary: Age discrimination is not unheard of. I began only a few years after many of my academic peers, and I experienced a little bit of it myself. My closest friends who finished their degree in physics have not been able to achieve employment opportunities outside of entry-level technician...
  • #1
Mathyouforgot
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Hello everyone. A little bit on me..

I am 37, live in nyc, and have one more semester to catch up with calculus and other prerequisites. After that I will be starting a BS in Physics. I have an associates degree in radiologic technology, but found it very difficult to find work in my field. I loved the subject though and would like to concentrate in photonics to better understand interactions with matter. I also plan to get a minor in mathematics. Assuming all goes well I should be graduating at 42, from a very well known community college.

My question to you is obvious.. Do you think my age will be problem as far as getting hired? Even continuing on to graduate school, I still worry that my age will make people think twice about me. I've had a very rough life and was offered a sponsorship for the BS based on a very through evaluation.

My most realistic goals are to work for the city / state, perhaps with the DEP or something related to radiation such as in the department of health & human services, etc.

You're advice would be incredibly interesting and greatly respected. Please do not spare my feelings and be as blunt and direct as possible. Thank You!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For the sake of it, here are my favorite science books (non textbook):
Galileo Galilee - The dialogue concerning the two chief world systems
Issac Newton - Opticks
Lawrence Krauss - A universe from nothing
Neil D Tyson - Death by Black Hole
Richard Feyman - 6 easy peices
Albert Einstein - Evolution of Physics
Stephen Hawking - The universe in a nutshell
(I am leaving many out)..

Currently reading:
Richard Feyman - The character of Physical Law

Planned future reading during semester breaks:
Micho Kaku - Physics of the impossible
Stephen Hawking - The dreams that stuff is made of
etc..
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
After graduate school I went into Aerospace. There are always off ramps. If your goal is just to be employed, physics may not be the best choice. However, if you really like the subject matter independent of future job opportunities, why not? I never viewed studying physics as a career path and I never regretted the subsequent 15 years of schooling :smile:. Also, it's not just ability, there is a tremendous luck component as well.
 
  • #3
Mathyouforgot

You should expect that your age will be a problem. Age of 42 is a bit far along to have had a long history of difficulty finding work in your field. Did you do ANY work in Radiologic Technology? If so, and at least some of it was prolonged, then maybe you have the experience advantage. You would be assumed to have trained to work in hospitals or medical places, maybe or maybe not quite like what Medical Physics people do. Have you considered maybe Medical Physics as the area in Physics you want to focus - eventually?
 
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  • #4
symbolipoint said:
Mathyouforgot

You should expect that your age will be a problem. Age of 42 is a bit far along to have had a long history of difficulty finding work in your field. Did you do ANY work in Radiologic Technology? If so, and at least some of it was prolonged, then maybe you have the experience advantage. You would be assumed to have trained to work in hospitals or medical places, maybe or maybe not quite like what Medical Physics people do. Have you considered maybe Medical Physics as the area in Physics you want to focus - eventually?

I had a feeling, I do not have paid experience in x-ray, and volunteered for two years as a student at two different hospitals for my clinical rotations. As for a job, i am interested in research involving quantum theory, most specifically understanding how things react upon interaction. I think there is an entire world of science there waiting to be explored. Aside from that there are many jobs outside of science itself, such as the following that I managed to scrounge up:

https://www.indeed.com/viewjob?jk=8bda5943301df011&tk=1cgo3cn210g5t40k&from=serp&vjs=3

https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Bernard-Nickels-&-Associates/jobs/Legal-Assistant-2f2ed19df9c851b2?sjdu=QwrRXKrqZ3CNX5W-O9jEvcIg0N9Fq40V4VNl37SoGoZ1CrsYQCfu0U4n0VLshFhLEYZyy90_QXvYU2hqUOetQ7-9emeMRbYgw6YjahloZO6HphvcqBSPU1ruVNzYHOAW&tk=1cgo3cn210g5t40k&vjs=3

https://www.indeed.com/viewjob?jk=277ad7c3effcf3cc&tk=1cgo3nfma0g5t01n&from=serp&vjs=3

etc.. I feel there are many jobs for the BS, but to work mainly in a solid stem position requires a masters or phd. Do you think these types of jobs I've posted will also be selective in only considering my age?
 
  • #5
Age discrimination is not unheard of. I began only a few years after many of my academic peers, and I experienced a little bit of it myself. My closest friends who finished their degree in physics have not been able to achieve employment opportunities outside of entry-level technician work.
 
  • #6
It's unlikely to result in a particularly good job. Go look at some of the jobs threads around here. Many folks in academia and education seem downright proud how not useful the degree is in finding work.

But hey, if it isn't costing much, maybe it's not the worst way to spend your time.
 
  • #7
Mathyouforgot, you wrote:
I am 37, live in nyc, and have one more semester to catch up with calculus and other prerequisites. After that I will be starting a BS in Physics. I have an associates degree in radiologic technology, but found it very difficult to find work in my field. I loved the subject though and would like to concentrate in photonics to better understand interactions with matter. I also plan to get a minor in mathematics. Assuming all goes well I should be graduating at 42, from a very well known community college.
Be sure you are thinking clearly. You would be starting B.S. in Physics, but since you are starting at and plan to finish at age 42 from a "community college", you will/would have at that time an Associate Degree (assuming in Physics), but not a Bachelor of whatever Degree. The CC's do not award Bachelor degrees. So at the age of 42, if you finish the A.A. at that time, you would continue on for two or so years to a university for the Bachelor of Science/or/Arts degree.

Age discrimination, regardless of legality, will be a problem. Also, one may wonder if your past experience in Radiologic Technology has any current value for you. The questions to know at that time could be, what skills did you develope while your were earning B.S. degree, which an employer would believe useful for /from a 45+ year old candidate?

Career changes are tough. Think about how to make yourself employable!
 
  • #8
symbolipoint said:
Mathyouforgot, you wrote:

Be sure you are thinking clearly. You would be starting B.S. in Physics, but since you are starting at and plan to finish at age 42 from a "community college", you will/would have at that time an Associate Degree (assuming in Physics), but not a Bachelor of whatever Degree. The CC's do not award Bachelor degrees. So at the age of 42, if you finish the A.A. at that time, you would continue on for two or so years to a university for the Bachelor of Science/or/Arts degree.

Age discrimination, regardless of legality, will be a problem. Also, one may wonder if your past experience in Radiologic Technology has any current value for you. The questions to know at that time could be, what skills did you develope while your were earning B.S. degree, which an employer would believe useful for /from a 45+ year old candidate?

Career changes are tough. Think about how to make yourself employable!

I just wanted to chime in on there not being BS degrees in community college for physics.
Here are some:

http://ccny.smartcatalogiq.com/en/2017-2018/Undergraduate-Bulletin/The-College-of-Liberal-Arts-and-Science/Department-of-Physics/Physics-Bachelor-of-Science-B-S

http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/ac...r=085&div=U&dept_code=70&dept_id=93&mode=data

https://www.york.cuny.edu/produce-a...iences/earth-and-physical-sciences/physics-bs

I am certainly worried about the age gap, but I can't turn this down or I will live to regret not doing it.
 
  • #9
Mathyouforgot said:
I just wanted to chime in on there not being BS degrees in community college for physics.
Here are some:

http://ccny.smartcatalogiq.com/en/2017-2018/Undergraduate-Bulletin/The-College-of-Liberal-Arts-and-Science/Department-of-Physics/Physics-Bachelor-of-Science-B-S

http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/ac...r=085&div=U&dept_code=70&dept_id=93&mode=data

https://www.york.cuny.edu/produce-a...iences/earth-and-physical-sciences/physics-bs

I am certainly worried about the age gap, but I can't turn this down or I will live to regret not doing it.
Those are interesting. York CUNY seems to be more than just a typical community college. I have not been aware of too many colleges like that.
 
  • #10
Your age is unlikely to play a major role in graduate school admissions.

I wouldn't worry about it playing a role in the hiring process. That's not to say you won't encounter age discrimination, but when you do (I) it will be an obstacle not a road block, (II) you can spin your age and maturity as an advantage, and (III) you can't change your age anyway.
 
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  • #11
Mathyouforgot said:
I just wanted to chime in on there not being BS degrees in community college for physics.
Here are some:

http://ccny.smartcatalogiq.com/en/2017-2018/Undergraduate-Bulletin/The-College-of-Liberal-Arts-and-Science/Department-of-Physics/Physics-Bachelor-of-Science-B-S

http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/ac...r=085&div=U&dept_code=70&dept_id=93&mode=data

https://www.york.cuny.edu/produce-a...iences/earth-and-physical-sciences/physics-bs
None of these appears to be a community college in the usual sense of the term.
 
  • #12
vela said:
None of these appears to be a community college in the usual sense of the term.
Right. That's what I said. Most of us aren't accustomed to that. Mostly we know A.A. degree is from CC/JC. BS, MS, PhD from university. Interesting arrangement regardless.
 
  • #13
symbolipoint said:
Right. That's what I said. Most of us aren't accustomed to that. Mostly we know A.A. degree is from CC/JC. BS, MS, PhD from university. Interesting arrangement regardless.
The schools cited are all 4-yr colleges within the City University of New York (CUNY) system. They aren't community colleges. Note: There are some 2-yr community colleges within the CUNY system. See
https://cuny.edu/admissions/undergraduate/explore/the-colleges.html.
 
  • #14
You could improve your employability by coupling a BS in physics with an immediately useful skill like computer programming. Learning a couple languages that are most popular in industry, and doing summer internships each year that apply them in research or industry settings would make you a good hiring candidate. The physics degree is then icing on the cake.
 
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  • #15
CrysPhys said:
The schools cited are all 4-yr colleges within the City University of New York (CUNY) system. They aren't community colleges. Note: There are some 2-yr community colleges within the CUNY system. See
https://cuny.edu/admissions/undergraduate/explore/the-colleges.html.
I believe that I understand. City University of New York (CUNY) is like a district. The district contains both universities and community colleges. I have not finished checking that page or site, so not yet know if the idea of A.A. from C.C's and BS/BA/M/PhD from Universities still holds or not.
 

1. What job opportunities are available for a 38-year-old starting a physics undergraduate degree?

There are a variety of job opportunities available for individuals starting a physics undergraduate degree at any age. With a degree in physics, you can pursue careers in research, engineering, data analysis, teaching, and many other fields. Employers often value the critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are developed through a physics degree.

2. Will my age affect my ability to find employment after completing a physics undergraduate degree?

While age discrimination can unfortunately occur in any job market, it should not significantly impact your ability to find employment after completing a physics undergraduate degree. Many employers value the skills and knowledge gained through a physics degree, regardless of age. Additionally, many companies have diversity and inclusion initiatives that prioritize hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds, including age.

3. How long will it take to complete a physics undergraduate degree at 38 years old?

The length of time it takes to complete a physics undergraduate degree will vary depending on factors such as your course load, any transfer credits, and whether you are pursuing a full-time or part-time schedule. On average, it takes 4-5 years to complete a physics undergraduate degree, but this may be shorter or longer depending on your individual circumstances.

4. Can I still pursue a graduate degree in physics after completing a physics undergraduate degree at 38 years old?

Yes, it is possible to pursue a graduate degree in physics after completing a physics undergraduate degree at 38 years old. Many graduate programs value the diverse experiences and perspectives that older students bring to the classroom. It is important to research and speak with advisors to determine the best path for pursuing a graduate degree in physics.

5. Are there any scholarships or financial aid available for older students pursuing a physics undergraduate degree?

Yes, there are scholarships and financial aid options available for older students pursuing a physics undergraduate degree. Many universities offer scholarships specifically for non-traditional students, which may include those starting a degree later in life. Additionally, there are external scholarships and grants available for students of all ages pursuing degrees in STEM fields, including physics.

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