• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Concerns about my career stability in academia

  • Physics
  • Thread starter TechieDork
  • Start date
  • #1
47
20

Main Question or Discussion Point

Not sure if this off-topic ,but I think it would fit in Stem Career guidance.

I'm currently a 2nd year physics major in Thailand and have been losing sleep thinking about my future in academia for days.
Yeah just like many of you guys here,
I was inspired to pursue physics by many of great minds like A.Einstein ,R.P.Feynman and Stephen Hawking.

I love learning new things everytime, I enjoy questioning and doing research
But when I get exposed to the harsh cold reality of academia in my country, I've began to question wether it is worth going for a phd and finding a place in academia at all.

And here there are some dishearting truths

-Enormous workload contray to income.
Piled up to 80+ hours/week in some weeks and get paid only $800-$900/month,seriously. Even it's in Thailand,this is not too much and not too low. but if one want to start a family,you will have a hard time.

-No job security, unless you become atleast an Associate Professor.
Publish or Perish ,Period.

Some assistant profs might get fired easily because they can't produce enough "good and outstanding" works in time. Imagine you try everything to get things right but failed then get fired in your 50s-60s. Kind of a rat race.

-little to non healthcare , education benefits for your children ever.
Imagine yourself or your kids get seriously ill and have to see medical bills.

I have heard many professors complain about this when we were on a summer trip. My closed professor , in his 30s, have to live with his parents in his hometown because he couldn't afford a house near the campus and might have to put his marriage off.

After days of surfing on google ,I've learned that jobs in Royal Thai Government (Ministry of Science and Technologies ) have greater benefits despite getting a bit lower paid and have little to no freedom working on what I love.

-Healthcare benefits your kids and parents.
-Tuition payment benefits for your kids until they've turned 20.

My conclusion:
-I want to pursue a phd and work in Physics.
-Thai Academia is not a good idea if one wants to build and raise a family,seriously.
-I have to find a new career path for job security but it will cost my freedom of working on what I love.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
55
13
Hello,
I am sorry for your sad feelings. I hope that you find the right path that will bring you great joy in life.

Maybe a few notes to hopefully make you feel better:
1. You could always do the work you love on your own time. Many of the "great minds" have done this. If i remember correctly, Albert Einstein was an accountant while he worked thru many of his theory.
2. maybe you could finish your degree and move to another country where there are more opportunities? Im sure this would be difficult but maybe an option?
3. Unfortunately the things we love are not always profitable. It is mostly the case that what you want is not necessarily what the public needs. Im thinking that the government job probably focuses more on the hot topics at hand. Maybe it will springboard you into a new passion!

jeff
 
  • Like
Likes TechieDork
  • #3
47
20
Hello,
I am sorry for your sad feelings. I hope that you find the right path that will bring you great joy in life.

Maybe a few notes to hopefully make you feel better:
1. You could always do the work you love on your own time. Many of the "great minds" have done this. If i remember correctly, Albert Einstein was an accountant while he worked thru many of his theory.
2. maybe you could finish your degree and move to another country where there are more opportunities? Im sure this would be difficult but maybe an option?
3. Unfortunately the things we love are not always profitable. It is mostly the case that what you want is not necessarily what the public needs. Im thinking that the government job probably focuses more on the hot topics at hand. Maybe it will springboard you into a new passion!

jeff
1.) Yes I agreed,the theoretical works suit well with a government bureaucractic lifestyle.
The best part is fixed work hours, always work on Mon to Fri 8-5, whenever I finished the work I would go striaght to my house to dive deep in my theoretical world. :)

2.) I can go study abroad but I'm not allowed to work abroad because I've been recieving scholarship from a government since I was in high school ,It's called DPST (พสวท.) scholarship, the goal of this scholarship is to finiancially support passionated young minds to become a research scientist until they finished a Phd in their chosen fields.
After that I have to work in Thai government sectors like public universities (A big No-No for me now) and some government facilities (goodluck if they accept me, The authorities said I will have an upper-hand applying for a government job ). :)

3.They're definitely focus on more applicable works , some works may be repetitive and boring like calibrating measurement standards , pushing papers but if I'm lucky I may get to work on Qauntum Communications (very few positions there) or some defense tech.
 
Last edited:
  • #4
47
20
The opportunities might be much more better in the US ,I guess But after long and long studying biographies of great scientific minds ,I have come to a frightening conclusion that the situation is pretty grim not just in my country even in the states or UK unless you're at the top 1% of your field and working for top schools like Stanford or MIT.

-Einstein have a hard time finding a secured job , he went to get his teaching diploma and have to work as a patent clerk.

-Stephen Hawking had a hard time finding a faculty job, his dad had adviced him to study medicine instead.
 
  • #5
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,575
1,666
I can't speak to the situation in Thailand specifically, but keep in mind that pure academia is only one avenue that's available to you with a PhD in physics. You could consider something like medical physics. Medical Physicists often work in radiation therapy centres making sure that treatment are safe and accurate. And there are other branches that have strong industrial connections: accelerator physics, geophysics, optics, etc.

One of the real tricks is figuring out how you can come out of a PhD with a skill set that you can market outside of academia. The great thing is that you're thinking about this now. I think a lot of people either don't think about it or avoid thinking about it until they're about to graduate.
 
  • Like
Likes WWGD and TechieDork
  • #6
47
20
-Biggest red flag for me is Thai University Professors are just "university staffs" which aren't protected by any of Thailand's employment laws.

This means
-The university authorities can fire you with an ease without any lawsuit consequences.

(Disposable job,without any healthcare benefits)

-They can demand you to do anything,just do as we told or lose your job.
(This is real I'm serious)

Imagine you've worked hard for many years to earn a Phd , do your best to inspire your students and contribute to your peers and get sacked by fearsome politics.
 
  • #7
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
5,319
3,124
It seems clear the situation is not likely to change in the short run. Sorry to tell you but you need to acknowledge that now and plan around it. Lamenting yourself wont help you.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters and TechieDork
  • #8
47
20
It seems clear the situation is not likely to change in the short run. Sorry to tell you but you need to acknowledge that now and plan around it. Lamenting yourself wont help you.
Maybe I was worrying too much, it might actually be better than I thought...

I've made a plan to make myself more marketable by learning transferable skills as much as I could.

I think working on what you love is one of the best job ,it's more than just six digits in a bank account or a flashy car.

Thanks for your valuable advice :)
 
  • Like
Likes WWGD
  • #9
47
20
Here ,these are main challenges to academia employments.

-AI Disruption
-Quantum Disruption
-Online Education
-Birth Rate Declination
 
  • #10
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,209
2,302
Here ,these are main challenges to academia employments.

-AI Disruption
-Quantum Disruption
-Online Education
-Birth Rate Declination
I disagree. These have the potential to reduce demand for teachers, but I'm not seeing it in the US. Immigration is more than compensating for birth rate declines, so the number of enrolled students continues upward in most of the US. In most of the online education I've seen, teacher to student ratios are comparable with brick and mortar classrooms, so just as many teachers need to be employed. There is usually significant savings in facilities and transportation costs, but I have not seen many situations where staffing accredited online courses with teachers is significantly less expensive. But the key word in that sentence is "accredited." Once online courses are accredited at much lower levels of teacher oversight and labor, there could be rapid declines in demand for teachers. My hope is that this will enable a selection process where better teachers are retained and worse teachers move into other professions.
 
  • #11
analogdesign
Science Advisor
1,140
354
Once online courses are accredited at much lower levels of teacher oversight and labor, there could be rapid declines in demand for teachers. My hope is that this will enable a selection process where better teachers are retained and worse teachers move into other professions.
I agree. One would hope that the selection process would select for good teachers but I suspect it will in practice select for cheap teachers. Quality could take a nosedive (on average) because the metrics pursued are maximizing profitability, not quality.

The quality of teaching has always been all over the map (at least at top-tier research institutions) because Professors are either not evaluated for teaching, or teaching is only a minor part of their evaluation. When I was in school I had a few wonderful teachers (as well as lots of poor-to-mediocre teachers) and that was because of the personal integrity of the teacher, not any kind of incentive.
 
  • #12
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
5,319
3,124
I agree. One would hope that the selection process would select for good teachers but I suspect it will in practice select for cheap teachers. Quality could take a nosedive (on average) because the metrics pursued are maximizing profitability, not quality.

The quality of teaching has always been all over the map (at least at top-tier research institutions) because Professors are either not evaluated for teaching, or teaching is only a minor part of their evaluation. When I was in school I had a few wonderful teachers (as well as lots of poor-to-mediocre teachers) and that was because of the personal integrity of the teacher, not any kind of incentive.
And tenure does not help incentivize towards improved teaching. Not knocking tenure as a whole but it doesn't help much. And then, at least in undergrad, you havecsome classes taught by T.As who just took the class themselves a few semesters prior. I too had some good ones and some that should have been put away or have them not teach. Edit: And any online company that hires excellent teachers may pose a Real challenge.
 
  • #13
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,209
2,302
I agree. One would hope that the selection process would select for good teachers but I suspect it will in practice select for cheap teachers. Quality could take a nosedive (on average) because the metrics pursued are maximizing profitability, not quality.
The challenge isn't mostly between quality and cost, at least not in short term decision making, since salary scales are often fixed in the short term and related to experience and education rather than a more true quality metric.

The biggest challenge is defining and measuring quality in any manner that can be accurately applied at the institutional level. Student evaluations measure more likability than quality and can be inversely related to quality since in the short term, likability is more correlated with ease of passing. Other metrics such as "student success rates" are also more correlated with easiness since a high level of student success in a given class often reflects easy grading than good teaching if the teacher sets the bar for passing. I've often advocated for downstream success rates as a measure of teacher quality, but other than the Air Force Academy, I don't know of any institutions who are using downstream student success as a metric of teacher quality. In the absence of using downstream success rates, standardized testing seems to be the best objective way to assess teaching quality. Though before and after testing would be much better than the current approach of using only after testing.
 
  • Like
Likes PAllen and WWGD

Related Threads on Concerns about my career stability in academia

  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
3K
Replies
39
Views
12K
Replies
6
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
758
Replies
1
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
3K
Top