1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

High paid (PHD) programming positions?

  1. May 1, 2013 #1
    Ok so I am currently averaging 80-90% in my undergraduate course in theoretical physics in the UK, if all goes according to plan and my application gets accepted next year I would like to pursue my Msc/PHD in a programming heavy research field at Imperial College. So my question boils down to this, after getting my PHD I would like to work in a field that requires a substantial amount of programming. What are the highest paid salaries going around at the moment with said job description & what is going to be increasing in demand over the next few years (quantum computing?). I don't necessarily have to work in a Physics related field, I'm fairly open minded about how much Physics I will actually be utilizing within the job (I find equal amounts of satisfaction from generic programming as I do Physics/Maths). I have considered such fields as finance, actuary, software dev etc, I would like to know what other options are out there for me, also what industry has the potential for high ranking positions later on in ones career lifespan such as (CEO/Manager), that sort of thing. All input is welcomed and appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2013 #2
    Knowing the highest salaries isn't going to be much use to you. In the US at least, there are some programmers making over $200K per year *as programmers*, but they are very experienced in a niche that is in high demand. Most programmers make much less than that, and as a newly minted Ph.D., that will include you.

    As for becoming a CEO, you might be interested in http://bus.wisc.edu/~/media/bus/mba/why%20wisconsin/statistical_snapshot_of_leading_ceos_relb3.ashx [Broken] to get some idea of the typical educational qualifications of CEOs.

    Programmers certainly make a good living in general, and there is also definitely a possibility of advancing into management. But if you want to make a *lot* of money, to be honest, getting a Ph.D. in physics and becoming a programmer is probably the wrong way to do it.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. May 1, 2013 #3
    Well yes but its the same in almost every field, a doctor may end up having their own private practice and earning millions of dollars a year, on the contrary they may only be running a bunch of uninspired errands within some hospital cashing in on salaries similar to that of a highly experienced maths teacher. I want to narrow down professions with high career prospects that would require someone with a subset of skills such as myself. Also "programmers" as you say are a diverse bunch of people, its pretty generic. I don't necessarily aim to be a "programmer", I could set my goal to be a quant or actuary. The job description may require lots of maths or programming knowledge under ones belt and yes I may only ever earn the minimum salary possible within these professions but the odds are in my favor to expand on whatever I start out with and become successful at least later down the line.

    I would just like to know of some other professions which may require programming as a skill and are renowned to have great potential for success in the similar way banking or actuary might. As a contrast if I said that I want to become a game designer, then it becomes blindingly obvious after a quick Google search that this just isn't a viable option. I understand I have to start at the bottom in whatever I do but it certainly doesn't hurt to be ambitious, just need to narrow down my options.

    That's understandable, out of curiosity could you name some routes that you might consider to be more direct. At the end of the day I could have spent my time studying for a maths Bsc with the sole intention of becoming an investment banker or something similar, but the competition is just too fierce and the job description fairly lack luster to consider it a "better" route. A Physics PHD may not be the fastest route but at least physics is an enjoyable pursuit along the journey. I imagine that there are a lot of successful people earning lots of money with Physics doctorates. The question I now pose is, what do these people do??
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  5. May 1, 2013 #4
    There is always limited space at the top. That's the number one reason why it doesn't make much sense to focus on top salaries. I'm sure if you crunch the numbers, dropping out of Harvard would probably be high on the list of top-grossing career plans.

    I live in Silicon Valley, so perhaps my view of the world is slightly twisted. But it seems to me that the usual route to riches is to study/work in marketing, then hook up with some smart engineers and form a startup company. Marketing and sales are the key to riches.

    Studying physics is fun, but it's unlikely to help you achieve your goals. So I think you should either change your major or change your goals.
  6. May 1, 2013 #5
    My goals may have been a bit misconstrued, I may also have a slightly convoluted view of the real world but I have a feeling being successful outside of being a physicist is possible with a physics doctorate? I don't necessarily want "riches" if I JUST wanted money with zero job satisfaction I would be busting my gut to get banking internships right about now. I enjoy programming, I enjoy physics & would definitely like to dip my feet into real theoretical physics over the better part of the next half decade. I just want to know what my best options are in the long haul with a relatively sought after set of qualifications.

    Is there anyone about who has been fairly successful and established as a programmer with a PHD in theoretical Physics? If so I would much like to hear their insight, cheers.
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  7. May 3, 2013 #6


    User Avatar

    Let me turn the question around: how much money do you consider to be "a lot" for programming work?
    How much would it take to satisfy you?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook