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Physics Careers outside of Physics for Physics Majors?

  1. Mar 2, 2008 #1
    What does on do in an industry setting with a BS in physics? I really do no think I want to work IN physics.

    I suppose if I took some business classes I could end up alright. But what would a Physics BS look like to prospective employers?

    My goal is to be in a management position in some sort of industry that makes something. What can I do in the next couple of years to make me a viable applicant?

    Does anyone have have any familiarity with Drexel University's Co-op program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2008 #2
    This topic has been discussed to death. Please use the search tool. Also, if you do not want to work in physics...maybe you should do a different major.
  4. Mar 2, 2008 #3
    I've actually probably spent about 10 hours over the last week searching this topic (in fact, utilizing the search tool). Yes it has been discussed before, but most other threads concentrate on people who want to work in a "physics" field, whatever that may be. These threads are all pretty discouraging.

    I want to study physics because the subject matter fascinates me. I studying a subject that doesn't interest me at all for years doesn't sound to appealing to me. I just have no interest in being a scientist as a career.
  5. Mar 2, 2008 #4


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    Here is the way to think:

    Do you want to be a scientist? You are expressing, "no".
    If not be a scientist, do you want to be a technician? This means, do you want to learn and
    perform procedures, operate or repair equipment, or problem-solve? Some courses of science
    and technology would be necessary.
    Do you want to invent or design equipment, tools, techniques, processes? If yes, then maybe you
    might be interested in Engineering. This still means you must study physical sciences and Engineering,
    and some Mathematics. Actually, engineers and scientists must solve problems; their goals are usually
    somewhat different in that a scientist wants to understand and the engineer wants to create or improve or
    design something, often using scientific knowledge.

    Some other questions you should ponder: Are you interested in Biology, or behavioral sciences, or
    physical sciences? Are you interested in managing information or data?

    If you have not figured out any of this yet, at least study Mathematics, and explore (possibly) by
    enrolling in coursework of many different subjects to help sort your possible talents and interests.
    The Mathematics will almost always serve you one way or another although you may not believe so.

    One more thing: Have you considered vocational training?
  6. Mar 3, 2008 #5
    you could be a video game designer
  7. Mar 3, 2008 #6
    Perhaps you should figure out what it is you actually want to do as a career and work towards that. You could always double major, or simply take the physics courses that interest you in particular. Anyhow, the threads I hinted that you should look at would still be useful, because there is much information on the types of jobs that you might be able to get with a physics B.S. Incidentally, most of these jobs are not in physics.
  8. Mar 3, 2008 #7
    Well he said he read them and he said they weren't helpful. Why repeat yourself?
  9. Mar 3, 2008 #8
    I see you've restricted yourself to an industry setting. Working in industry with a physics BS will mean you will be judged based on your skills - your major will tell them very little about you. You'll be looking at various technician jobs to start.

    The technician jobs I see most often in industry are related to semiconductor fabrication, manufacturing and lab maintenance. Having some experience in semiconductor fab really helps, but note that 95% of those jobs are in cali. There are also a smattering of jobs maintaining labs; employers sometimes find it hard to get organized, dedicated individuals who will take care of their laboratories. Finally, if you have any experience at sales, you could do very well in that, as good salespeople are always needed.

    While many of those entry level jobs seem very menial (and the pay is likely to be, as well), they actually can open up a lot of doors. You mention some business classes; you could theoretically move up from technician jobs to ones of greater responsibility. There's not a lot of guarantee there, though.

    You could also look into government jobs as well. If you're in the US, try going to usajobs.gov and searching for "physics technician" and take a look at what you get. Note that the pay scales they show can be misleading, and a little research will go a long way to understanding what you see there.

    I may write a bit more later in the day.
  10. Mar 3, 2008 #9
    Some other jobs your physics major may prepare you for that are outside physics:

    Actuary. There are a series of tests one takes to be an actuary. Some colleges have classes that help you take them, but a physics BS should be able to teach themselves to pass the first two tests using only internet sources and possibly a few study aids. Actuary jobs are supposed to be very good, but it is a long process to become one. Being able to work along the way is a great deal.

    Registered patent examiner. Here there is a test you'll need to pass as well - the PTO exam. To take it one must have a science or engineering degree, so you are already working towards one of the requirements to become a patent clerk. From there your career could vary between the patent office to law. It can be lucrative, but from my experience looking into the profession, there appears to be a very low retention rate, suggesting people's satisfaction with it may not be that high. Research it for yourself and make sure I'm still right.

    Let me say that some skill in C programming or statistical software such as SAS or SPSS will greatly improve your employability. Labview or something similar could help too.
  11. Mar 3, 2008 #10
    why not teach?

    from what I hear the demand for high school physics teachers is huge.
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