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Decline of Physics Should I Pursue it?

  1. Mar 30, 2010 #1

    FeDeX_LaTeX

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    Hello;

    My physics teacher told me that there is a huge decline in the number of physicists. He stated that, for every 100 people who graduate to become physicists, 700 retire. Is this true, and is this a reason for not pursuing the field? I don't want to study a degree in physics and then find out 20 years later I'm completely redundant and have to work in finance. I think my physics teacher is trying to start a 'revolution' and I want to make sure that, before I go to university to study physics and decide on my life, I am makng the right decision. I have already decided that physics is my favourite subject, but I am worried that it is my teacher that has 'inspired' me in a way, and that my choice to study physics at university has been very much influenced by him. For example, he even believes that one day one of us could win a Nobel Prize of some sort (which will likely never happen).

    My question is, is physics a truly horribly declining industry that, for a younger generation, it is pointless pursuing as you will be left without a job and in an industry that is struggling to keep itself alive?

    Thanks.

    EDIT: I would also be interested to know why, if you chose physics as a career path, why you chose it. Was it for the money? The interest? Or a combination of both? What do you like about what you do, what you study? Your lifestyle as a physicist?
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2010
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  3. Mar 30, 2010 #2

    thrill3rnit3

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    If your physics teacher claims that there are more people who retire than who are being taken in, shouldn't that imply that are going to be more open spots for jobs in the future? So in that case, you will have a good chance of landing a good job.

    What is bad is if no one is retiring, that means everyone would be struggling to land what little jobs are available. That would mean that your physics degree would be useless, as you would have to move on to something like programming to finance.
     
  4. Mar 30, 2010 #3
    Ask your teacher for the source of his statistics. They are, simply put, nonsense.

    Lest I be called on my own unsupported assertion, see http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/acad06/figure1.htm". While it's true that this covers academia only, industrial physics is small enough by comparison that you can't claim a downward trend of the magnitude he's talking about.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  5. Mar 30, 2010 #4

    dx

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    No, physics is not struggling to keep itself alive. If after you get a degree in physics, you find yourself working in finance, it will not be because there is no work for physicists, but because physics is such a competitive field that you may not make the cut.
     
  6. Mar 30, 2010 #5
    Isn't that exactly the same thing? The only reason jobs are competitive is because there isn't enough supply to meet the demand for them.

    If you are entering a competitive field, know that there isn't enough of a supply of jobs to meet the demand.
     
  7. Mar 30, 2010 #6
    And yeah, those stats are bogus. No one goes into physics for the money though. Entering physics for the money would be a terrible terrible idea. There are much easier ways to make money, the most obvious of which (to someone considering physics) would be engineering.
     
  8. Mar 30, 2010 #7
    Are you kidding? In my university, Science and Commerce are the most competitive fields. I remembered there were so many people in my old AP Chemistry class, 80% of them went onto Engineering. Yeah, that's what I had to compete with to get my entrance...
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2010
  9. Mar 30, 2010 #8

    thrill3rnit3

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    Yeah, but the OP was saying that there are more people retiring than being hired. If that were so, then we should have a huge opening of physics jobs available, which clearly isn't the case.
     
  10. Mar 30, 2010 #9
    Not if the jobs are disappearing, which is what he implied. But I think we've already determined that physics jobs aren't disappearing - there just aren't a ton to begin with.
     
  11. Mar 30, 2010 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Except that industry is where most physicists work.
     
  12. Mar 30, 2010 #11
    Really? I thought it was University.
     
  13. Mar 30, 2010 #12
    Citation, please? Note that what the OP is asking about is people actually doing physics research, not those with physics educations but completely unrelated jobs in programming, finance, or whatever.
     
  14. Apr 2, 2010 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Report of the APS Task Force for Industrial Physicists.
     
  15. Apr 2, 2010 #14
    Which says that present-day "industrial physicists" are not generally not doing physics.

    One can debate the use of the term "physicist" to describe someone who has a physics PhD but isn't doing physics research, but it's plain that that's not what the OP is asking about.
     
  16. Apr 2, 2010 #15
    700 do not retire. Check out the "so yuo want to be a physicist" article. It talks about how DIFFICULT it is to get a job since old people won't retire.
     
  17. Apr 3, 2010 #16

    Vanadium 50

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    Actually, you're the first person to use the word "research". Nevertheless, there certainly is a lot of research going on in industry. One of my office mates in grad school spends his days characterizing prospective scintillators for PET scanners. I used to spend some of my time characterizing prospective scintillators for HEP experiments. Surely you're not going to argue that what I do is research and what he does is not.

    Yes, industry has very little interest in theoretical HEP. But they have enormous interest in (among other things) electrical and optical properties of materials.
     
  18. Apr 3, 2010 #17
    Where did your teacher get those stats? They might be right. A lot of physics lecturers were taken on the 1960s and are about to retire. Many of those with physics degrees are now teaching in computing faculties, but still doing (some) research in physics (I know of many cases like this!) If you count them as 'retiring physicists' then the stats look plausible. Note, when they leave, computer researchers are, obviously, more likely to replace them than physics researchers. I moved from physics to computing early in my career...
     
  19. Jan 19, 2012 #18
    Max Planck was told not to pursue a career in physics, and look where that advice got him! Do what you love.
     
  20. Jan 19, 2012 #19
    That is what has been said for a very long time, but the statement hasn't really held true.
     
  21. Jan 21, 2012 #20
    You don't have to go into finance. I went into computer science research. There are many other options - physics teaching, any job that requires a degree, from retail management to airline pilot. Check out the book "What colour is your parachute". (Not just for airline pilots!)
     
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