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Graduating in Physics in a year ; looking to make a career change

  1. Jun 6, 2014 #1

    I will be graduating with a B.Sc in Physics in about a year from now (3 year degree). Recently, I've seen myself falling out of love with Physics - I'm not sure about the reasons, but it's pretty clear to me that I do not see a career in academia in a Physics related area. So I'm looking for some ideas on what subjects to explore so that I may find a new interest. I was thinking about reading some Economics to see what its like. I know that many Physicists end up in Economics, but that seems to be only after they finish their PhDs. Is it possible to enroll in a Masters program in a different subject when my undergrad is in Physics?

    So my question is ; what subjects should I explore that I can pursue as a Masters, so that my Physics degree will not go entirely to waste? Right now I have no idea what I like, so I really need to do some reading.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2014 #2


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    You could apply for many engineering fields and computer science in grad school. There are also fields like Biomedical Imaging that takes Physics grads. Other options include doing an MBA, taking MCAT and going to Medical School and applying for Mathematics, Economics, Finance and other related fields.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  4. Jun 7, 2014 #3
    I guess I have to ask why you don't think you can handle physics any more.

    Is it because you don't get to do the lab work you thought you'd get? Is it because of the bureaucracy of getting grants and all that? Is it because the technical aspects just weren't what you thought it would be like?

    Or is it because you just realized that it is rare for a physicist to make an upper middle class wage?

    I ask these things because it has bearing as to what you might decide to pursue instead.
  5. Jun 7, 2014 #4
    @Jake : Nope none of those. I simply don't find it very interesting anymore. One of my teachers said that to make it in Physics, you have to live and breathe it, and constantly be thinking about it. I cannot do that with something that it is a chore to me. And perhaps the wage bit, but that is not that big an issue.

    @interhacker : Thanks, I am looking into computer science and MBA.
  6. Jun 8, 2014 #5
    I've heard not to do an MBA straight out of undergrad; in fact, the very top programs don't allow students to do so. Some MFE/MFin programs do take students out of undergrad though.

    What part of economics are you interested in? If you're interested in macroeconomics, something in the securities business might be interesting (I'm doing an internship in this at the moment and I love it so far, but it's still early days).
  7. Jun 9, 2014 #6
    At the moment I know almost next to nothing about Economics. I didn't have any Eco courses. I'm just considering exploring it, that's all. Are there any books I could read or should I just jump into a standard textbook?
  8. Jun 9, 2014 #7
    Do they really? Maybe a few.

    If I were to make a list that was roughly in order from most common to least common it would look like:

    Business Consulting
    Actuarial Work

    There's lots I've left out, but I think that hits most of the high points.

    To answer your question, if I were going to get into an economics graduate program I would do the following:

    Purchase some economics textbooks (1-2 years old, at deep discount) and read them.
    Get copies of graduate economics comp exams and begin to study for them.
    Identify what area of economics I was interested in.
    Seek out colleges with studies in that area and begin the process of applying.
  9. Jun 10, 2014 #8
    Thanks for the advice Locrian. At the moment I'm not sure about anything. I only mentioned Economics because it seems like a subject that I could transition into without having much problems regarding degrees and courses. You mentioned Business Consulting - what is that like? What is the procedure for getting into that line of work?
  10. Jun 11, 2014 #9
    Business Consulting most often means you work with clients onsite, as an external member of a project team while are employed by a consulting company. Projects may be e.g. in technology, often in IT or management / business processes, and there are trainee programs to onboard freshly minted STEM graduates (whatever field). I think consulting is one of the few industries that still value those infamous 'analytical thinking' and 'problem solving' skills.

    Here are some informations by one of the major consulting companies:

    I have worked as an IT consultant for some years (as a physicist, no formal education in IT). A great experience that gives you interesting connections and experiences and you can build a reputation. But after some years I dreaded the travelling and the stressful life-style. As a consultant you specialize in a field of technology or management and/or in an industry sector, so clients are typically situated 'all over the world'.

    Take all that talk about challenging environment etc. literally!
  11. Jun 11, 2014 #10
    I think elkement did a great job describing the external business consulting role and am glad we have their experience to draw on.

    I also want to note that there can be internal business consultants within a company, and this post will discuss those. My feeling is that there are fewer of these internal positions than external ones, but I don’t have any hard stats. They can either be in a business consulting department, or can be sprinkled throughout other departments (or both, I assume). Internal consultants tend to lack the stress and travel issues of external ones working at consulting shops, but their pay is almost certainly lower as well.

    At my former job there was a business consulting area. They appeared to work on interdepartmental projects that required significant coordination, and I didn’t have much contact with them. This was partly due to the kind of functions I performed at the time.

    At my current job my department is maybe 60% actuaries/actuarial analysts, 20% metricians and 20% business consultants. Rough numbers. The business consultants have several roles. One is to maintain departmental operations that are required for us to do our work, but require skills not relevant to our job (or for which we are overqualified to perform). This includes maintaining a department webpage, database infrastructure, etc. Another is to facilitate operations between our department and others. Finally, I’ve found business consultants planning and organizational skills helpful.

    Most business consultants have some sort of graduate degree – lots of MBA, other business related masters, etc. Not all do, though.

    In my experience, these business consultants tend to leverage soft skills, business knowledge and corporate knowledge to get things done. In my younger days I thought little of their value, since they tended to lack the hard skills I valued. These days my thinking has changed dramatically. There are a handful of business consultants I work with that I am very much in awe of, and I work very hard to learn from them.

    One way to think of my long-term career plan is that I want to be a business consultant in all but name.
  12. Jun 11, 2014 #11


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    The fundamental difference between external and internal business consultants could be that external ones get paid by the hour, and internal ones get paid by delivering results. That may also explain why junior external ones tend to work 100-hour weeks.

    On the other hand, calling a web site maintainer a business consultant sounds like job grade inflation. But at least the "business consultant" job title isn't as bad as "electronic communications ambassador" or "information sharing evangelist". (I hope I made those up, but a google search might prove me wrong....)
  13. Jun 11, 2014 #12
    Well, I suppose that depends on what they’re doing on the web, and how highly you think of the “business consultant” term! If they’re updating the page once a month that may be different than if they’re designing online workflow tools (maybe I shouldn't have used the word "maintain").But that’s definitely one issue with the term “business consultant” and its ilk – there’s a tremendous variation in performance, responsibility and pay between different people with very similar titles - at least at the couple of companies I've worked.

    What's wrong with those?

    I wear a robe and staff to work and have and introduce myself as a "Data Warlock".

    I assume you disapprove. . .
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