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Do I have any hope of escaping physics after my bachelor's?

  1. Mar 15, 2015 #1
    I am having a rather inconveniently timed crisis/realization. Halfway through my Physics bachelor's, everything is going well. 4.0 GPA, member of a great research group, an REU already under my belt - but I am coming to the realization of how insurmountably difficult it will be to actually get a job in the field.

    I feel like a fool, I could have been an incredible engineer, but I threw all that away chasing this stupid dream. All of my scholarships are tied up in me being a physics major and I will lose them if I switch. I cannot afford to continue to go to the school I am at without these scholarships.

    I am really interested in materials science and am going to graduate with a minor in electronic materials with an undergraduate thesis based on my research in a materials related field (topological insulators). Would it be crazy to apply to grad school in materials science after my undergrad? That is sort of my ideal situation right now.

    I know there is always the option of switching majors, but the inconvenience to both me and my parents is just incredible. Are there other options I am not considering?

    I have heard that Physics PhDs often work in finance or as consultants in DC - I wouldn't mind doing that at all. Are these viable backups if I fail to succeed in research?

    I know there are a ton of threads like this and, believe me, I have read them all, I just wanted some perspectives on my particular predicament.

    Thank you in advance for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2015 #2
    I believe it's quite common to go from a physics bachelors degree to an engineering masters degree, if you want to go to grad school. I'm sure if you have decent exposure to materials science, then you'll be able to get into a program in it.
  4. Mar 16, 2015 #3


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    Indeed. That's what most of our graduating physics majors do, at the small college where I work. Most of them actually come here figuring on ending up in engineering, but they prefer the small-college experience for undergraduate, and they (and/or their parents) can afford the extra expense.
  5. Mar 16, 2015 #4
    Do you have any idea if the Physics degree counts against them at all? For instance, would I be able to get into a top program with good financial support? Or is it more of a scenario that they tolerate it and it is not preferred?
  6. Mar 16, 2015 #5

    Quantum Defect

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    I agree with @jtbell. There are lots of smaller schools that are very good where the physics undergrad degree is the closest thing to the graduate program that they ultimately join. Physics provides a really good background to study any number of other fields. I was not a physicist as an undergraduate, I did chemistry instead. But as I went through school, I realized that I really liked physics a lot. I ended up doing graduate study in physical chemistry. In the program that I was in we had a number of people who recieved undergraduate degrees in physics. I had many physics friends in undergrad, many of them are doing engineering work these days.

    Many, many undergraduate schools do not have a materials science program. Many graduate schools do. Where do they get their students? From schools that have BS programs in physics, chemistry and engineering.

    I would say that you should continue with the program you are in. It sounds like a really good deal, and you are doing great! Tweak your program, as much as you are able, to take additional classes that will help you in your "later life." If your GPA is really good, you can probably take a course overload. As an undergrad, I was able to take 20 credits per semester (18 was the norm) because I kept my grades up. By doing this, I was able to explore things that interested me, but were not required for a degree. The tuition cost was the same, so I think that I got a good deal.

    If you keep up the good work, and continue the way that you have been, I think that you would be a very attractive candidate for very good graduate programs. In most STEM areas in the US, if you get into a good program, you will not have to worry about financial support.
  7. Mar 16, 2015 #6
    Move somewhere where physics graduates are appriciated, and hired.
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