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Does University matter for research positions?

  1. Aug 8, 2015 #1
    Hi,

    I am approaching my A-levels in 1 time (currently in Year 11) , and so I would have to pick my A-level subjects which will then lead me on to my University (2 years later). I am practically obsessed with Theoretical Physics and I have already learnt high-level mathematics and so on, not to sound cheesy but I am practically in love with the subject.

    I want to pursue Theoretical Physics, however I am willing to only pursue it if I get accepted into Top-Tier universities, as I heard PHDs in Physics only find research positions if they graduate from Top Universities, is this true?

    If say I graduated from Cambridge University in Physics, then completed post-graduating in Caltech and then PHD in Harvard or Princeton? What is likelihood of being offered jobs in Research?

    note: Do not misunderstand, I do like physics but I do not want to end up pursuing it if I cannot do that for a living.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 8, 2015 #2

    Orodruin

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    This question is impossible to answer. It also depends significantly on yourself. Of course, having good contacts who can recommend you are important as it is for getting any kind of job, but it also depends on you and how well you can do physics (and advertise yourself).
     
  4. Aug 8, 2015 #3
    So is graduating from the top and best unviersities in itself not good enough indicator as to the future job prospects as a physicist?
     
  5. Aug 8, 2015 #4

    Orodruin

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    Yes and no. Yes in the sense that you have all of the necessary ingredients available to succeed in terms of availability of good teachers, a challenging study environment, etc. No in the sense that it is still up to you to benefit from it. You can still "succeed" from a smaller university and you can still "fail" from a top university. Of course, the demographics of students who attend top university also skews the distributions.
     
  6. Aug 8, 2015 #5
    Hi,

    Thanks for your good outlook and again helping me with my understand of the demographics of physics job market!
     
  7. Aug 13, 2015 #6

    radium

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    The job market for tenure track positions is extraordinarily competitive. Coming from Harvard or Princeton puts you at a considerable advantage but even then there are only so many spots.
     
  8. Aug 19, 2015 #7

    f95toli

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    The job market also depends on the field you are. The funding for different research areas varies from year to year (depending on politics, what is "hot" etc) and it doesn't matter how good you are if you are specialist in field X and there are only position available in fields Y and Z. Some years there is virtually no money around to hire new people.
    There is always going to be certain amount of luck involved since the likelihood of you finding a position will depends on a number of factors that are not under your control.

    Also, do not over-estimate the need to go to a "top" university. When we look for PhD students the university is only minor factor, there are many other factors that are more important (recommendations, if they have done e.g. a summer internship with us, the interview etc). We frequently end up hiring candidates from smaller universities.

    Also, you would be surprised by how many not-so-good students actually graduate from Russel group universities. I am under the distinct impression that the current educational system in the UK means that e.g. Cambridge end up accepting students who are very good at passing tests, but not necessarily well prepared for actually using the knowledge/skills they've been taught(in academia or elsewhere). The worsening quality of students is a frequent topic of discussion during coffee breaks at meeting here in the UK.
     
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