Going back to school for physics

  • Thread starter NetMage
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  • #1
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Hello, I am going to be going back to school for physics hopefully in the fall. There are obstacles though. Physics is what I really want to study, however, based on my geographical location I am a bit worried there will be poor job prospects. I live in east Texas...its pretty blue collar here. I've even searched indeed for engineering jobs and software jobs around here and there are some yes, but I feel like I will have too much competition with people completing cs and engineering degrees. Would it be ill advised to pursue physics in a job market like east Texas?
 

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  • #2
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If you eventually want to get an engineering/IT job then you shouldn't waste your time doing physics. But if you want to do Physics (i.e Grad School and beyond) then you should do physics. Find out what your end goals are first.
 
  • #3
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I want to study physics for the intellectual masturbation. However, I know I will need to pay bills. And I know some people in physics end up in IT and engineering, hence why I brought those two careers up in my post. Im re-thinking physics though because of my location. :(
 
  • #4
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If you eventually want to get an engineering/IT job then you shouldn't waste your time doing physics. But if you want to do Physics (i.e Grad School and beyond) then you should do physics. Find out what your end goals are first.
I second this. Physics undergrad prepares you for physics graduate school. Its also a good way to be a high school physics teacher. Otherwise, major in something relevant to your career goals. Maybe minor in physics.

Jobs for physics PhDs generally require a high degree of geographic mobility.
 
  • #5
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I want to study physics for the intellectual masturbation.
This is a very poor reason to spend all that money and time on an education. Do intellectual masturbation on your own time, it's cheaper.

Now if you were just joking/exaggerating and really want to study physics just for the sake it and have some chance at getting a related job, then it isn't a terrible idea if you're willing to go all the way with graduate studies.

What constrains you to working in East Texas? Also, I would think the oil industry in that area would have some opportunities for a physics graduate or at least masters graduate with a background in geophysics, there is a forumer here who worked in the oil industry in Texas after his phd in something totally unrelated, if I am not mistaken. You will probably want to pick a school with strong industry contacts that'll enable you to do a coop of sorts and possibly consider a relevant graduate degree later.
 
  • #6
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Ideally I would like to pursue a graduate program in photonics. I will have to leave for those years of graduate school but i would like to return to east Texas as my entire family is here (family > everything imo). Ideally and optimistically I would like to start my own business doing something in computing or battery tech, but I think it is notable that these are dreams of grandure and may not be possible given the variables of life and time. I have been trading the foreign exchange market for the last five years and am "successful", if there is such a thing (I can live off of my earnings but that's about it with my win loss ratio). Im losing motivation though with the poor job prospects here :/ but who knows, maybe a solid physics background is just what I need to bolster my win loss ratio...but I digress.
 
  • #7
Choppy
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You'll have a really hard time finding a job if your priority is geographic location - particularly if you want to remain in academia.

However, I would also add that you have to remember that studying physics doesn't give you necessarily vocational training, rather, it gives you an education in physics. Then you are free to use that education however you chose.
 
  • #8
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You'll have a really hard time finding a job if your priority is geographic location - particularly if you want to remain in academia.
I wouldn't say just academia, I'd say it would be for almost any given specific job that requires a technical university degree like engineering or science. You have to go where the industrial centers are. If you want to be a process engineer and there are no manufacturing centers in a 300-mile radius of where you live, you will have to move. If you want to be a medical physicist and there aren't several hospitals/clinics nearby with radiation therapy or MRI around, you also probably need to move (I happen to live in a really isolated area where this is the case). Etc.

If you want to do your own thing then I guess what you do in college is not so important, do what you feel best prepares you for your long term goals. If you choose physics, you will want to get as much lab experience as possible given your interests. An engineering discipline might give you more direct contact with the type of work you want to do, but if you're more interested in the fundamentals rather than immediate commercial applications, then training as a physicist up to the graduate level might be what you want.
 
  • #9
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Well, I will say this, the physics program where I live is basically engineering physics. It has a dual degree option in engineering. I'm hoping this will help my job prospects if I stay in etx.
 
  • #10
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What do you guys think about photonics? I don't mean to ramble and I have really appreciated the insight thus far. Do you think a graduate photonics degree with a BS in physics would offer good ee prospects? I really am interested in school for my own sake of learning and enlightenment, but I also don't want to flip burgers.
 
  • #11
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It would offer good photonics prospects, but it isn't a substitute for EE. Neither is EE a substitute for a photonics degree, unless the EE has a lot of relevant experience in that area.

If you go to a decent university, make good contacts, and get valuable experience during your undergrad degree I don't think you'll have a lot of problems getting a job. But if you want to stay in the same place, you'll have to adapt to what is available in your region (I really don't know the details).

I think a lot of the people who study physics and have time trouble getting jobs are mostly people who don't have a grad degree or don't a whole deal of contacts that can get them hired. I think the 4-5 active forumers here in this situation (including myself) fall into one or the other category, or both. YMMV.

But make no mistake, the employment prospects of physics is incomparable to that of a regulated profession like engineering. You will have to look a lot harder for jobs, and most likely have to get education beyond an undergrad to be considered competitive for STEM jobs.
 
  • #12
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Do you think a MS in physics will be fruitful for employment? I've heard an MS in physics merritts little value in the job market. Is this true?
 
  • #13
lisab
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It's good that you realize your priorities, i.e. family > everything, because that means you know that you are geographically constrained. And if you're geographically constrained, physics is a less desirable degree than most engineering degrees.

Photonics....hard to say, is anyone in your area looking for people with those skills right now? If not, I would not bet that there will be a good market there in 4 or 5 years.
 
  • #14
I would agree with everyone above, realize your priorities and figure out how to achieve them. If you are looking for a little more employability from your degree, you are right to consider engineering physics or an Applied Physics route or something where you work with lab equipment. The other option is a coding/simulation route that can give skills that are more employable and may be a little more geographically independent since you are working from a computer. I recently started a blog http://astroschooled.com about going back to school as a non traditional student. Most of my early posts are about the application process. If you have any questions, just ask.
 
  • #15
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I don't believe there will be a good market there for a long time. However, with photonics being a rather new discipline of study (the academic program, not the science) and emerging technology, would it be unreasonable to venture into my own business here in etx? I ask, what appears to be a seemingly redundant question, because I'm not sure how someone with no capital could start a business. With the economy being poor I'm not sure a bank is going to lend a loan appropriate for a start up. Perhaps this is a better question for a business forum. All this being said, I am on the presumption that I will gain the adequate knowledge and experience in a graduate photonics program necessary to start a venture capital. After all, isnt photonics technically an engineering science?
 
  • #16
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I would agree with everyone above, realize your priorities and figure out how to achieve them. If you are looking for a little more employability from your degree, you are right to consider engineering physics or an Applied Physics route or something where you work with lab equipment. The other option is a coding/simulation route that can give skills that are more employable and may be a little more geographically independent since you are working from a computer. I recently started a blog http://astroschooled.com about going back to school as a non traditional student. Most of my early posts are about the application process. If you have any questions, just ask.
Thank you for this, I will surely keep you in mind.
 

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