• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

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

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

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..
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Paul Colby
Gold Member
1,034
230
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
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
5,849
1,035
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?
 
  • #4
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
Joshy
Gold Member
184
74
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
1,806
168
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
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
5,849
1,035
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
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/academics/schools/naturalsciences/undergraduate/physics/majors_details.php?major=085&div=U&dept_code=70&dept_id=93&mode=data

https://www.york.cuny.edu/produce-and-print/contents/bulletin/school-of-arts-and-sciences/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
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
5,849
1,035
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
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,565
1,650
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.
 
  • #11
vela
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
14,580
1,200
 
  • #12
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
5,849
1,035
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
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
660
343
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
marcusl
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,714
377
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.
 
  • #15
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
5,849
1,035
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.
 

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

Replies
13
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
11
Views
4K
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
6
Views
10K
Replies
23
Views
4K
Replies
1
Views
4K
Replies
5
Views
7K
Top