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Disputing college paths

  1. Feb 10, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone. I am a junior in high school right now, and I have been fascinated by physics & astronomy for a few years now. I love math and science in general. I haven't taken a course in physics quite yet (I am taking AP Physics next year). I am considering getting my BS in physics and then going on to pursue a PhD but I am having some internal conflict regarding a few things.

    My mom is worried that a physics degree is not safe because if I do not do well enough in college to get accepted to grad school I'd be stuck with a major that is essentially useless as a BS. I have been considering engineering careers (mainly mechanical/aerospace) that make use of a lot of physics but reading research done in physics and theoretical junk, fusion, string theory, always brings me back to the theoretical side of physics. I also am very turned off by the 'business' and 'economic' aspect of what seems to be associated with a lot of engineering careers. I just want to do what I love to do without having to worry about "pleasing the higher-ups". The idea of working for an "engineering firm" disgusts me, I do not want to be involved in business or that sort of atrocious capitalist jiggle-jaggle.

    What GPA would I need for my undergrad to have near-certain acceptance from a university for a phd program?

    What kind of jobs are there for physics majors who do not go to grad school, outside of teaching high school?

    What is the job outlook like for physics PhDs? From what I have heard, the physics PhD and generally science PhDs are having much trouble finding faculty jobs because a ton more PhDs are entering the market than are faculty positions opening. On average, how many postdocs does a PhD go through before gaining tenure at a university? Also, where else do they work that is NOT in academia, and how widespread are these jobs? If I am to get a PhD in physics will I be able to get a sustainable salary in a physics-related career? (I do not intend on having any kids as of now).

    I am also under the impression that most grad students are funded through TA or RA and stuff like that, as well as a stipend. Is it unusual for a student to NOT have funding? Is it based on merit or need or anything like that or is it expected that a college will fund your PhD?

    Thank you in advance for all the answers. I have been having a lot of trouble finding unbiased answers from people I know as well as finding accurate, concrete information online.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2014 #2


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    1. I would suggest reading my "So You Want To Be A Physicist". A lot of your question on the "process" is covered in there.

    2. Job prospect: There are numerous threads already on this. Read this thread, for example:


    and read my response in Msg. #24.

    3. Pay attention to the fact that in the poll that I linked to in my message, there is an extremely high probability that what you think you want to do now, at your stage, will not be what you will end up in by the time you enter the job market. Think about that while you consider the area of physics you want to go into. Is it worthwhile to narrow your choices down right now, or should you try to explore other areas as well considering that you haven't really seen ALL of physics yet?!

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