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Do physicists need retraining/keeping up-to-date with their jobs?

  1. Feb 3, 2010 #1
    My economics professor pointed out that in the modern age, with rapidly progressing technology, people from many professions need to keep up with the times (e.g., a lawyer needs to keep up with current laws, a surgeon with newer methods in surgery or equipment, and the most obvious example, computer programmers and the like with improvements in computer technology). He recommended that we go back to college every 10 years or so.

    So I was wondering what being a physicist after graduate school would be like. Do you guys have to go back to school sometimes or read a lot of recently-published papers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2010 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    I spend a reasonable amount of time (5-10 hrs/week) reading papers. Then there's going to meetings, seminars, colloquia, etc.. to hear what other people are doing. The act of writing papers and grant applications also forces me to stay current- I have to place my work in the context of current ideas and experiments.
  4. Feb 3, 2010 #3


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    Of course! What else would a physicist do with his day? In order to do relevant research, physicists need to know their field inside and out, including the new papers that are coming out each day. This is a fundamental part of their jobs.
  5. Feb 3, 2010 #4
    It depends what your job is. A lot of physicists will move into other areas - but, of course, if they wish to remain well versed in current physics then they'll need to find various ways of keeping up-to-date - reading journals is one, becoming a member of an institute and attenting conferences etc is also an option.

    In acaedmica or industry, however, you'll be expected in that position to be an expert in whatever area you're working in. To become an expert, you need to become part of the field. To keep your job, you need to keep up to date with everything thats happening - otherwise you'll potentially waste time researching this that have already been done.

    Going back to college to study physics again? I can't see that ever happening for me, or anyone else I know that has the degree, actually. All you need to do is look at the material you actually cover in the undergraduate degree to realise that almost everything you're doing is 50-300 years old. There are very few explorations into cutting edge physics for an undergraduate, so when you graduate you're unlikely to have a good grasp of what things are like just now anyway.
  6. Feb 3, 2010 #5
    Thanks for the informative replies!
  7. Feb 4, 2010 #6
    In my job, every day is like being in school. You don't really have to go back to school because you never really leave.
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