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How difficult is it to get a research job in industry?

  1. Jun 18, 2012 #1
    I realize it's very hard to get a job in research at a university with a PHD in physics, but are there many jobs at private company for physicists? If I really wanted to do research in physics would it even be possible? Could i do research in a field like medical physics if a pure physics research job is so difficult to obtain?

    Thanks for any replies I really value the opinions of the people on this forum.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    There are many research jobs in industry. They are fundamentally different from research jobs in academia, though, in that the researcher has less control over the research topic.

    They may be interested in building a better battery, not string theory.
  4. Jun 18, 2012 #3
    How difficult is it to obtain a research job in industry? Do they pay enough to support a family, say a wife and 3 kids?
  5. Jun 18, 2012 #4


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    The level of difficulty really depends on the skills you have. It seems to me these days, industry is less willing to develop its own talent. Rather, it wants to hire people who already have the skills needed.

    So, if you have desirable skills finding a job should not be difficult.

    And what are desirable skills? Well, you could look at what industry wants right now and then take a few years to develop those skills. But the problem is, those skills may not be as desirable in a few years.

    One skill that seems like a good bet is programming.

    Typically, industry pays solid middle-class wages.
  6. Jun 18, 2012 #5
    I was massively disappointed by my research job in industry. I worked as a supposed mathematical modeller. My supervisor had a BS in engineering and didn't know how to take a basic limit of the kind you learn as a first year undergrad, yet called himself a mathematical modeller. The job involved putting data into spreadsheets and doing a series of random types of analysis until one gave the answer that they wanted to have. They then gave these fabricated numbers to funding bodies in order to get research grants (it was a renewable energy company).

    Sorry if this comes across as a rant. My point is that you may be seriously disappointed if you expect industrial research to be anything like academic research. Then again this was just one company, there may be better companies out there.
  7. Jun 18, 2012 #6
    What sort of programming languages would be best to learn? I am currently teaching myself Java, but I think maybe C++ could be more helpful? Or possibly something like python?
  8. Jun 18, 2012 #7
    Madness what sort of degree do you have if you don't mind me asking?
  9. Jun 18, 2012 #8
    A masters degree in mathematical physics. There were a few PhDs at the company, but they entered at the same level as someone with a BS. I think I was the only non-engineer at the company.
  10. Jun 18, 2012 #9
    Well so far everything i have found has been a little disheartening. I really want to do some sort of original research, but i guess industry doesn't sound so bad. Maybe i could work for the computer industry and help with the physics of making more efficient transistors or a similar job.
  11. Jun 20, 2012 #10
    Yes, yes, and yes. Those three are a good start ;) C++ and Java are very close in structure and syntax, so not a big deal to know both. Python is just, well, awesome. Ok, not in all aspects, but for certain things (fast prototyping of an idea) it is. Plus it's really easy to learn.
  12. Jun 20, 2012 #11

    Would you recommend taking classes or just self learning the material? I took AP programming AB & BC in high school so I think I would have a decent base in java to teach myself?
  13. Jun 20, 2012 #12
    I suppose that depends. Are you still an undergrad? In grad school? If an undergrad, taking classes certainly wouldn't hurt. Full disclosure: I have degrees in both comp sci and physics so I'm biased. I have found the comp sci background to be extremely useful since I encounter multiple languages and large software structures daily, and I plan to leverage that when I finish my Ph.D. in the next year or so.

    Of course the reality is programming in any language can be self tough if you have good resources and the dedication (or just really enjoy it). The drawback is that you might learn bad habits or not get exposed to large scale thinking.
  14. Jun 20, 2012 #13
    I am actually an incoming freshman so I can easily squeeze in some comp sci classes
  15. Jun 21, 2012 #14
    Some people learn better with self-learning. One thing about employers is that they don't care where and how you learned programming. I've taken exactly one formal college course on computer programming in my entire life, and it's something that you can take for free on the web now.
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