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Career Without Grad School

  1. Jan 3, 2009 #1
    I'm a thesis away from completing a B.S. in astrophysics. I'm considering being involved in some sort of research (I'm thinking maybe plasma or fusion-related), and there's a good chance I won't be going to grad school for several reasons:

    a)I'm not crazy about school, having had a less-than-awesome undergrad experience, and find that I learn best on my own
    b)I have zero dollars to contribute to it, and I'm already $30,000 in debt from my first degree. Another 30-50 thousand isn't looking so nice.
    c)grades. I earned a number of C's in my upper div courses. My gpa is 2.94 right now.

    So, my question is, is it at all realistic to expect to be able to forge some sort of research career by amassing a good deal of experience with internships, and other, somewhat related jobs? I don't want to be involved in academia, I was thinking of something like working for the Dept. of Energy perhaps. I'm not picky about where it is, I just don't want to have to teach.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2009 #2
    ur prolly gonna get jobs that wont be very research intensive. You might end up accrepting a job as a programmer cuz there aint anyhtign else out there.

    you can try and keep loooking for research jobs, but what i think will happen is as you go through job search engines, you will just end up applying to whatever job u find an opening for, depdending on how desparate the situation becomes. Not much demand for ppl with a physics degree for a specific career. So it's not realistic to expect to forge some sort of research career.

    I think going for PhD in sciences is free.
  4. Jan 3, 2009 #3
    Not in the U.S. it isn't.
  5. Jan 3, 2009 #4
    I was talking about the US. hmm well my TAs told me they're goign to school for free, but you have to teach, which isn't up your alley. i got my info wrong then
  6. Jan 3, 2009 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    It depends on what you mean by "some sort of research career". Can you be involved in research? Sure. Will you be directing anybody's research (even your own)? Probably not.

    It will help if you are good with your hands, as a technician is a typical entry-level position for this track. Alternatively, it will help if you have some engineering coursework as engineering associate is another possibility.
  7. Jan 3, 2009 #6


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    Just for clarification on the cost issue: most graduate students are supported financially by some sort of teaching or research assistanceship. It's a freugal lifestyle for sure, but I found there was no need to go into further debt as if offered enough money to cover tuition, rent and groceries.

    However, if you're not keen on it from the outset, grad school probably isn't for you. You may want to consider taking a break from school for a while and see if, after a few years, it still seems like an option. (Contrary to what people might tell you, there's no need to finish a PhD before you're 30).

    As for career options, you likely won't get to do too much research with just a B.Sc. level education. However, there are all sorts of avenues open for you - although you may have to look a little harder than some since many employers won't look to specifically hire a physicist.
  8. Oct 25, 2011 #7
    Im in the same boat I enjoy the experimental part of physics, and a job at a national lab sounds interesting. I would consider a ms in engineering but at this point it would probably require 2 yrs of post bacc work plus the masters program. My adviser pointed me towards potentially a Professional Science Masters, never heard of it, looking at it now here: http://sciencemasters.com/ScienceMastersHome/tabid/36/Default.aspx
    I have the same qualms about grad school, which leads me to believe a PhD is not really in the cards for me which leads me to the "what am I going to do with my life" questions, basically I like lots of things but love none of them; therefore the idea of working for scraps, and having no stable job sucks, when you don't LOVE what your doing

    Also, to all you employed, experienced not student people out there, what are your thoughts on the professional science masters, like I said I just started looking at the website and haven't really been able to think on it much myself
  9. Oct 25, 2011 #8
    Its worth noting that most phds won't find jobs doing research. Going to grad school solely to get a job doing research is probably a bad idea, as probability suggests you won't land that research job anyway.
  10. Oct 25, 2011 #9
    Most physics Ph.D. programs pay you, so you don't end up with any additional debt. Also, depending on the type of loan, you can get a deferment. While I was in graduate school, I didn't have to pay the loan, and the government took care of the interest.

    It depends on what you mean by a research career. There are jobs for lab technicians and lots of jobs for system administrators.
  11. Oct 31, 2011 #10
    move to Norway...college is free even if you aren't a norweigan citizen and the classes are taught in english at master's level and up
  12. Oct 31, 2011 #11
    To the OP: Most graduate programs in the USA offer complete tuition wavier AND give a teaching assistant ship which means you teach recitations for lower-level undergraduate classes, but in turn, get paid enough to pay rent and eat (and have some extra left over even...).

    However, I share your pain. I just learned today that I will be getting 'fired' from my graduate program at the end of the term because of my grades. Unfortunately, it is not because I didn't work hard enough, but because of a medical problem I have and the side effects of the medications I need to live. It really sucks since I worked so hard in my classes.

    So I will be also looking for work with 'only' a Bachelor's degree (mine is in Mathematics). I really don't want to have to 'settle' for a job that I am not going to like just because of my bad luck that I have a serious medical problem. So I don't know what type of job I could get. I would look into working for the government, but I cannot obtain a security clearance for various reasons that I don't want to discuss.

    So I want to hear more responses to this topic since they will pertain to me as well.
  13. Aug 13, 2012 #12
    i think Germany is free too..
  14. Aug 13, 2012 #13

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    Take a look at when this thread started.
  15. Aug 13, 2012 #14
    yes, i didn't see it, my bad.
  16. Aug 13, 2012 #15
    Actually, feel free to keep posting suggestions. I still get email alerts when things are posted here so I check it. I am still unemployed with no real hope in the future. I was able to get my antipsychotic switched from Zyprexa (the most sedating one commonly used) to Abilify (aripiprazole) which is not sedating but has other nasty side effects.

    BUT at least I am not sleeping 15 hours a day anymore. I have been heavily involved in producing my own music album in the past two months (with the assistance of my one good friend). I have a real knack for complex music theory (it is very mathematical - group theory type stuff really) and can come up with literally tons of very nice chord progressions and melodies. So perhaps that will be my "way out" to normalcy? Who knows. But I am hoping to get the album out by November and promote it heavily in the local (Lancaster PA) underground music scene, which is actually quite famous. I even have a few connections due to being a jazz musician as well.
  17. Aug 13, 2012 #16


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    I went over the guidelines, but did not see anything about necro-posting. Usually

    posts are locked when PF (thru its admin) does not want these posts to go on, no?
  18. Aug 13, 2012 #17
    It is not free in Germany. Nor is it free in the US or Norway.

    It may be paid for by someone else - usually through taxes - but it most certainly isn't free.
  19. Aug 13, 2012 #18
    There's one important distinction: in undergrad you're fed materials to learn, in PhD programs you need to learn on your own. There are classes, yeah, but they're not the focus anymore.

    So a) you might find that grad school is very different and you get to/have to learn on your own. b) As said, if you're in a Physics graduate program you're paid and can even save money if you're frugal. The TA employment can be teaching or grading or something else. c) That will not get you into a top program, but will get you into some not so top programs.

    The other thing is, if your heart's still not in it after understanding how grad school really works, maybe try to understand how a "research career" works. Chances are, it may be very close to how grad school works, and your heart's not in it.

    To TheEigenvalue: Congrats on making progress!
  20. Aug 13, 2012 #19
    Yes, because it's feasible not only for an administrator to read through every single thread on this website, but also for them to take the time to return to threads years after they have been posted in, only to lock them because they don't want people posting in them anymore.

    Thinking is fun, and rational thinking even more so.
  21. Jan 18, 2013 #20
    Nothing is free anywhere if you are increasing the scope to not just be the student in question.
    For the student its free.
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