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Choosing one field over another

  • #1
125
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I've just finished up my undergraduate degree and I have been looking at graduate schools for an MSc. Unfortunately, due to my B average, I'm down to basically one choice, which is the institution that I'm presently attending.

I've gotten experience in two fields in my undergraduate years:
-I spent two summers working in particle physics for EXO
-I did an undergraduate thesis in medical physics, specifically bone densitometry

As for choosing which field I prefer, I am very interested in both and can't really say that I prefer one over the other.

If I were to choose medical physics, I would be in piles of debt down the road because these professors don't have very much grant money. However, down the line I believe there would be many career opportunities.

If I were to choose particle physics, I would be much better off financially. However, I've heard that as far as careers go, particle physics is a much narrower field. I've heard stories of post-docs working in particle physics making the same wages as summer students.

So I'm stuck with having two different fields that I'm equally interested in, each with pros and cons.

One person suggested that I pursue an MSc. in particle physics, and then when it comes time for a PhD., I can pursue a different field. Is this even heard of?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions/advice.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
231
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I think you should hunt around a little more for grad school options. There are definitely schools that would accept students with a 3.0 GPA for graduate work in physics. EDIT: although since you are graduating this year getting into another school will be harder.... but it can be done.

I'm very surprised that the professors in medical physics don't have funding.... There's generally a lot of money out there for medical physics and you certainly won't be unemployed with training in this area. Overall, the job prospects for someone with a medical physics background are probably better than for particle physics.

As for doing a particle M.Sc and then switching to something else - that depends a little on where you're from. If you're in the US there's not a very natural break between an MSc and a PhD, while in most other places there's a clearly defined break. It's definitely possible to change fields, but it would probably be better to decide on something before you start digging in to your graduate work.

Do you have a professor/professors in mind who you would like to work for?
 
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  • #3
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I'm very surprised that the professors in medical physics don't have funding.... There's generally a lot of money out there for medical physics and you certainly won't be unemployed with training in this area. Overall, the job prospects for someone with a medical physics background are probably better than for particle physics.
Strangely almost all of the professors I talked to when I was considering medical physics for graduate school said the same thing. Everyone I talked to was also at CAMPEP approved programs, so they were some of the best. Also, I know that for many schools when admission offers were made, most of them did not include information on funding either. People that were graduating (and job hunting) that I spoke with at these schools generally told me that finding jobs was extremely competitive as well.
 

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