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Chances of getting decent job in private sector with physics bachelor vs. engineering

  1. Aug 3, 2012 #1
    I'm currently entering my sophomore year, and am having doubts about my decision to major in physics. Technically I'm undecided science, and I'm really thinking of switching to engineering before I take any more physics courses.

    The main reason is the money. My parents own a small business which is basically going down the tubes due to the recession. They can't provide very much for me anymore beyond a place to stay (and they put a lot of stress on me at home!). I'm not sure I can afford to work internships anymore, and I'm facing the cold fact that I might have to work in the private sector, even though I like university-based research, unless I want to live at the poverty level.

    I enjoy my free time, and I don't want to be working more than 60 hours per week after I graduate. Currently 40 hours is a lot. One advantage to engineering is I would probably have a 9-5 job, whereas with physics research, I'm starting to see that I'll be working at home on my laptop evenings and weekends. I'm sure I'll still have some free time as a physicist, but it's depressing me that in order to get tenured and get more awards and honors, my hobbies and free time will have to be sacrificed in proportion to how much more successful I want to be. Basically I don't like the idea of working myself to death. I have food allergies and a few other health issues that require somewhat close monitoring, so traveling a lot also doesn't work too well for me.

    Problem is, I enjoy physics and I enjoy doing research...it's just the job isn't very compatible with my other wants and needs.

    I'm concerned about the short-term as well as the long-term. I don't like the idea of working 80 hours per week as a post-grad then assistant professor on the tenure-track just to get tenured and sit down and think what the heck I just spent my whole life doing. I also don't want to be unsure of whether or not I'll have be able to land a decent paying job out of my undergrad program. Looking at this graph, I'm fearful that I might earn less than $20,000 per year fresh out of college. That also leaves me uncertain with what to do now. I've been interning with professors doing some research on magnetism, but now that my parents are starting to pull financial support out from under me, I feel insecure doing this, as I get paid less than $10,000 per year. Student loans I can pay off obviously later in life, but I need money now to pay for food, gas, insurance, etc. I would rather not apply for food stamps and aid, because they watch you closely, and it's a hassle. So it would be nice to know if I have any other options I can explore while working on my bachelor's degree, or if earning meager salaries as a undergrad intern is my best option. I know the private sector tends to pay more, so that's why I made that part of the topic...looking at my budget, I need to make around $15,000 to $20,000 starting like next January, and if I want to keep up my fast pace at school, I don't have energy more than to work 35-40 hours weekly. My current professors can't even really provide me more than 30 hours of work weekly, and I get a few months off between semesters that I don't really want...I want to work round the year.

    Obviously it's my decision in the end, but with this semester drawing near, I'm looking for any outside advice I can get. What are the best options open to me? Sorry for the wall of text :frown:

    Thanks in advance for any help!
     
  2. jcsd
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