Career Poll 1

  • Thread starter ZapperZ
  • Start date

Career Poll 1

  • 1. I am working in EXACTLY the area and specialization I imagned in high school

    Votes: 13 17.6%
  • 2. I am working in the same field of study, but not exactly

    Votes: 12 16.2%
  • 3. I am working in generally the same field of study, but not the exact field of study

    Votes: 20 27.0%
  • 4. I am working in a completely different field

    Votes: 20 27.0%
  • 5. I had no clear idea what I wanted to become.

    Votes: 15 20.3%
  • 6. I am working in exactly the same field of study/specialization as my degree

    Votes: 17 23.0%
  • 7. I am working in the same field of study that I received my degree, but not same specialization

    Votes: 12 16.2%
  • 8. I am not working the the same field of study as my degree

    Votes: 19 25.7%

  • Total voters
    74
  • Poll closed .
  • #1
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
Hi Everyone,

I've always wanted to do this career poll of people in here, but this is the first chance I have to formulate something a bit more coherent. I hope all of you who "qualify" will participate because it will help me with my next installment of "So You Want To Be A Physicist" series.

This poll is only for those who have left school, and already embarking on a career, be it something they want to do for a long time, or something temporary. I will need to know your honest opinion based on the options that I have given. I will elaborate each of the choices in this post so that you will have a better idea what I had in mind. Please feel free to add comments, or if you don't think the options you selected is accurate, or if you think I've left out something.

Note that (i) you can check more than one (although there are option that will be inconsistent with each other), and (ii) you can change your selection at any time while the poll is on-going.

Here are the options for you to pick and the explanation for each of them. The options are actually divided into 2 groups. The first group is option 1-5, and the second group is option 6-8. I can see everyone selecting one from each group, but I don't see the situation where someone would pick more than one from within a group, but I could be wrong.

Edit: I had to shorten the options listed in the poll because of the 100 character limit. But please read the full options here in this post before making the selection.

1. I am working in EXACTLY the area and specialization that I had in mind back when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

Example: you wanted to be an astronaut working for NASA, and voila, you ARE an astronaut working for NASA. Another example: you wanted to be a civil engineer and build tall skyscrapers, and you are. So in both cases, you would choose this option.

2. I am working in the same field of study, but not exactly in the area of specialization that I had in mind when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

Example: you wanted to be a civil engineer and build tall skyscrapers, but you end up still a civil engineer, but urban planning instead, or building roadways.

3. I am working in generally the same field of study, but not the exact field of study that I had in mind when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

Example: wanted to be a civil engineer. You end up still as an engineer, but a mechanical engineer instead of a civil engineer. Or you wanted to be a physicist working in string theory, but you end up as a physicist working in condensed matter.

4. I am working in a completely different field than what I had in mind when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

Example: You wanted to be a civil engineer, but you are now working in the financial sector.

5. When I was in elementary/high school, or just started university, I had no clear idea what I wanted to become.

This should be clear enough. If you had several ideas of what you want to become, you should also choose this option.

6. I am working in exactly the same field of study and the same area of specialization (if any) that I received my degree in.

Example: you received a Ph.D in physics specializing in experimental condensed matter physics, and this is what you are working in right now.

7. I am working in the same field of study that I received my degree in, but not the same area of specialization (if any).

You received a Ph.D in physics specializing in experimental condensed matter physics, but you are now working in accelerator physics.

8. I am not working the the same field of study that I received my degree in.

You received a degree in physics, and am now working as a bartender.

Please contact me if you are not sure which one to select, or if any of the explanations aren't clear.

Thank you for your participation.

Edit: If you currently are retired, or no longer working full time, you can still participate in the survey, using your previous employment as a reference to make your selection.

Zz.
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
894
2
I voted 2 and 6.

When I entered university I was a physics major with interests in cosmology and all the sexy things in the popular science books I read. Life conspired against me and I began doing research in theoretical nuclear physics as an undergrad and loved it. Went on to get my PhD in theoretical nuclear physics and applied nuclear physics and now have a postdoc in the field. I assumed that you did not consider a postdoc as a continuation of education but rather the beginning of my career since that is what I view it as.
 
  • #3
mgb_phys
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
7,819
13
3 and 8, did physics then astronomy now working mostly in software.
 
  • #4
117
2
Voted 4 and 6.

I wanted to work in physics. Then I realised I actually had to compute integrals for that (and I hated electrodynamics). I turned my attention to developmental economics. Now suddenly my world was unclear and let's say - unscientific. I liked doing analysis though. Then I realised analysis wasn't for me. Then I went to logic. I realised it wasn't really my thing. Then I wanted to become an algebraist, but what? so I went to algebraic geometry. Then I became interested in homological algebra and then algebraic topology.

After going through some more intense process. I settled with my current specialisation in mathematics. (yes I don't want to reveal what it is) After getting my degree - voila. I never looked back. Now I barely remember what a scheme is.
 
  • Like
Likes rick_thiavarpam
  • #5
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
It's still early in the poll, but already I have few queries. I am rather fascinated by those who selected option #1:

I am working in EXACTLY the area and specialization that I had in mind back when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

I have never encountered, in all my years as a physicist, someone who actually could say that. The closest that I've found was a friend who wanted to be a theorist, but he just didn't have a clue on what area of physics he wanted to do. He ended up being an elementary particle/high energy theorist. But I have never met anyone who had that clear of a vision way back in either high school or when they entered college to know what they want to do and actually ended up doing exactly just that!

So if you are one of those who selected this option (there are 5 of you when I wrote this post), and especially if you end up with a Ph.D, can you please write something to describe how you knew for certain at that early stage what you wanted to be, and how you went about to pursue it? If you think that it is something that is too personal that you do not want it known to the public, you are more than welcome to PM me. All information you convey will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Thanks!

Zz.
 
Last edited:
  • #6
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
ADDENDUM:

If you currently are retired, or no longer working full time, you can still participate in the survey, using your previous employment as a reference to make your selection. I will include this information in the first post.

Zz.
 
  • #7
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
19,608
2,978
1,6 I am working in the area and one of the specializations I had in mind. In fact, my career is pretty much consistent to my interest going back as far as 5th or 6th grade.

I had several interests/specializations in university. I was very fortunate that a certain professor had similar and compatible interests.
 
  • #8
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
So you knew exactly want you wanted to be even that far back? How were you made aware of the nature of the job?

Zz.
 
  • #9
berkeman
Mentor
59,986
10,189
It's still early in the poll, but already I have few queries. I am rather fascinated by those who selected option #1:

I am working in EXACTLY the area and specialization that I had in mind back when I was in elementary/high school or when I just started university.

Oops. Gotta change my answer. I didn't see the highschool part in the poll, and of course didn't read the detailed instructions. I assumed college as the baseline. I knew I wanted to be an engineer or physicist by the end of highschool, but decided on my current specialty at the end of my 2nd year of college. Guess I go from 1 & 6 to 2 & 6.
 
  • #10
berkeman
Mentor
59,986
10,189
Note that (i) you can check more than one (although there are option that will be inconsistent with each other), and (ii) you can change your selection at any time while the poll is on-going.

How do I change my 1 to a 2? I'm not seeing the option to edit my choices...
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
That's OK. I'll take that into consideration when I compile the final result.

I made a mistake. The software doesn't allow for a continuous changing of option in the poll.

Zz.
 
  • #13
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
19,608
2,978
So you knew exactly want you wanted to be even that far back? How were you made aware of the nature of the job?

Zz.
I developed an interest in math and science by the time I was in grade 4. I started reading about the elements, chemistry and physics, and by 5th grade I was reading about nuclear physics and subatomic particles. I became interested in the nuclear energy and space travel. In grade 6, I designed a nuclear power aircraft as part of a science project. In parallel, I read some science fiction and military history, so forms of nuclear energy were popping up in various books.

I had maintained an interest in nuclear energy, but I was also interested in physics. I initially studied physics with options in nuclear and astrophysics, but then switched to nuclear engineering in university.

My research was in nuclear fuel with some reactor physics. In addition, I participated in a program devoted to nuclear propulsion for aerospace applications, or in some cases dual use technology - basically there is broad interest in high power density systems. Part of the research involved nuclear propulsion for manned missions to Mars. Since there is no serious effort at the moment, I'm do more conventional research in nuclear fuel and reactor technology, but I keep involved in aerospace nuclear science and technology.
 
  • #14
Dale
Mentor
Insights Author
2020 Award
31,517
8,273
I chose 1 and 6. I went to a SBME conference when I was a senior in high school and knew that is what I wanted to do (biomedical engineering). It fit my personality perfectly, it is creative, technical, important, and beneficial.
 
  • #15
robphy
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
5,911
1,226
I chose 1.
I've been interested in my field since I was in 7th grade, after watching something on PBS. I read all of the pop-books on the subject that I could find in my local libraries... but got tired of them. I wanted to know more. So, as a senior in high school, I plotted out a rough course of study that I dreamed I would take in college [based on course catalogs that I found]. Although I started as an EE-major, I always had an interest in going on in physics after the BS. When I saw that EE wasn't working out for me [and that some courses listed in catalogs might not have been taught in many years], I transferred into a Physics program elsewhere. While there were some rough roads along the way, I persisted in my field of interest... for now. Hopefully, something more permanent can come along.

EDIT:
Re-reading the instructions... I also select 6.
 
Last edited:
  • #16
vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,092
17
I picked 3. My 6th grade teacher composed a song for me, entitled "our nuclear physicist", and sang it for the class, so I guess that's what I wanted to do. Although I somehow work in the nuclear sector, I'm more involved with instrumentation and electronics than with actual nuclear stuff. I got there through a long convolved path, through electromechanical engineering and experimental particle physics.
 
  • #17
Fra
3,343
224
I don't know butr I picked 3.

I think my first interest in science was chemistry, then as I always tended to see principles for everything, in elementary school I wanted to study physical chemistry and thermodynamics. When I started to do that, I realised that the real stuff was physics, so at the university I abandoned by chemisty ambitions and went into physics, and I quickly realised that it was theoretical physics and the foundations of natural law I was interested in. But then I faced the reality of politics in the academic world, and that convinced my that going that way would have me compromise with my ambitions. So in order to save my passion, I am now working with measurement technology in general. I help companies mostly R&D to measure things. Everything from physiological data acquisition to mechanical measurements on vehicles and construction. We supply the knowhow and all the hardware & software needed to get from transducer to data on the screen.

I obviously still have use for all "trouble solving skills" programming skills and physics skills but conceptually it's very down to earth compare to the ponderings about the nature of physical law and structure of matter that is still my hobby and passion. I am pretty happy with this. It's actually stimulating to do very down to earth things too, to constrast the very abstract and mindboggling things. I've got a very free work too, one day I may visit a hospital and hook up a setup for measuring bioimpedance setup for cardia output, and the next day I can visit a car manufacturer and mount strain gages on a drive shaft.

So even though I don't work with what I thought, when I was younger, I am totally happy and still have use for everything I studied although somewhat indirectly. The most important thing when youstudy is the skill you acquire to solve problems on your own. That is somewhat field independnet I htink.

/Fredrik
 
  • #18
Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,083
18
Why are people not also making a selection among the {6,7,8} choices? I notice that only about 60% of the number of people that picked a choice in {1,2,3,4,5} have picked among {6,7,8}. And I think it's unlikely that nearly 40% did not get an undergraduate degree (judging based on my familiarity with the demographics here).

PS: I'm just starting a first postdoc, so could likely see further changes in career path, but I assumed that still counts as "working". I think 2 and 6 come closest for me. My college degree was in metallurgical and materials engineering, but I did much of my research (including my undergrad dissertation) with the Physics department on experimental cond mat physics. MY PhD was also in exp CMP, specifically in low temperature transport measurements (studying quantum Hall and 2DEG physics). My postdoc is in materials science, studying metal-insulator transitions in correlated electron oxides. I guess that still counts as belonging in the cond mat family, and I will still be presenting in the APS March meeting, and presumably submitting to PRB (but the focus has shifted significantly from fundamental physics to applied physics).
 
Last edited:
  • #19
vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,092
17
Why are people not also making a selection among the {6,7,8} choices?

Because most of them, like me, realized too late that they had check two things...
 
  • #20
Doc Al
Mentor
45,140
1,439
5. When I was in elementary/high school, or just started university, I had no clear idea what I wanted to become.
I found this choice a bit vague. What do you mean by "clear idea"?

For myself, I "knew" I wanted to do physics since about 9th grade, if not before. But of course I didn't have a clue then about what a real physicist does. And my idea of what kind of physics I wanted to do changed several times along the way.
 
  • #21
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
I found this choice a bit vague. What do you mean by "clear idea"?

For myself, I "knew" I wanted to do physics since about 9th grade, if not before. But of course I didn't have a clue then about what a real physicist does. And my idea of what kind of physics I wanted to do changed several times along the way.

It means exactly what you described. If you wanted to be a "physicist", but you really didn't have a very clear picture of what a physicist does, or the exact field of physics that you want to specialize in, then you didn't have a clear idea of what you want to become. The same thing with being an engineer. You just know that you like to build something, but no clear idea on the exact field of engineering that you want to go into.

Zz.
 
  • #22
vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,092
17
For myself, I "knew" I wanted to do physics since about 9th grade, if not before. But of course I didn't have a clue then about what a real physicist does.

I *still* don't know what a real physicist does :tongue2:
 
  • #23
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,977
4,679
I am still very much interested in hearing from all the people who chose Option 1. (I'll "interrogate" people who chose the other options later) :)

In particular, please let me know how you were able to know about the exact career and specialization while you were still that "young". I'm very much interested on how you were able to gather that much specific information. If you were influenced by a particular source, be it TV, a role model, a particular event, etc., that would be very helpful and informative to know.

Zz.
 
  • #24
1,865
219
It's always interesting to see what people infer from these types of surveys. If you'd be kind enough to let us know when you've written up the piece based on this Zz, I'd be interested in reading it.
 
  • #25
berkeman
Mentor
59,986
10,189
I am still very much interested in hearing from all the people who chose Option 1. (I'll "interrogate" people who chose the other options later) :)

In particular, please let me know how you were able to know about the exact career and specialization while you were still that "young". I'm very much interested on how you were able to gather that much specific information. If you were influenced by a particular source, be it TV, a role model, a particular event, etc., that would be very helpful and informative to know.

Zz.

Okay, I'm DQ'ed from #1, and a runner-up in #2 now.

Not sure what you're looking for Zz, but I'll ramble a bit in case it helps.

My father was interested in technical things (I guess you'd list him as technician level), and he spent a lot of time at the dinner table explaining things to me as best as he could. His explanations of mechanical things were extraordinary and very intuitive, and his electrical explanations were the best that he could give, and still helpful.

The overall thing that I learned from these dinner table, napkin drawing sessions, was that the world was knowable, if you were willing to put in the effort to learn. Even on the subjects that he did not understand, he would emphasize that I could learn it, if I had the interest and put in the effort.

So coming out of highschool, I knew pretty well that I wanted to study technical subjects. At the time, ME and EE were the main choices, based on my father's background and the growth paths that he was familiar with (he was mainly mechanical, but he saw and told me accurately that electrical was growing in the near future). When I got to undergrad, I found very soon that I had a love and a connection with Physics, and it was a very hard decision at the 2-year mark to choose between EE and Physics. I ended up choosing EE for economic reasons, but Physics will always be my first and best love from undergrad.

So I'm not sure that helps, but my main role model was my father. His background as a tool and die maker, and then his career in the US Army, gave him a strong mechanical background, and an appreciation of the world of science. He passed that along to me, and paid for my undergrad education (and set very high expectations of me, which I met and exceeded).
 

Related Threads on Career Poll 1

  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Poll
  • Last Post
2
Replies
44
Views
13K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
11K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
0
Views
139
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
845
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
Top