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Physics How hard is it to become a physicist?

  1. Mar 28, 2016 #1
    Only possible job for me is to become a physicist because it's the only subject I enjoy every second of it. Can I know what the competition of a job will be and the process Ill need to complete to become one,
     
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  3. Mar 28, 2016 #2

    ZapperZ

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  4. Mar 28, 2016 #3
    Oh thank you
     
  5. Mar 30, 2016 #4
    There are hardships and uncertainties every step of the way. Me: getting rejected from all the grad schools.
     
  6. Mar 30, 2016 #5
    It's very hard to be a physicist. The vast majority of physics grads never become one. Of my undergraduate class none of us were able to do it.

    You really need to open your mind or you will never be happy.
     
  7. Mar 30, 2016 #6

    StatGuy2000

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    BTW ModusPwnd, do you know what happened to your undergraduate class after graduation? Do you know what career paths they have found themselves?
     
  8. Mar 31, 2016 #7
    What am I supposed to do then? Why should I even try? I won't get to do what I love.:frown:
     
  9. Mar 31, 2016 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    Felix, keep in mind where ModusPwnd is coming from. If you follow his posts here on PF, you'll realize that he had finished his BS in physics, was enrolled in a PhD program which he could not complete (and was awarded a MS due to this), and then ended up working as a pizza delivery man for years before completing some electrical engineering courses (not sure if he completed a second degree or not), and is now working as an engineer. So understand that there is some underlying bitterness regarding his university experiences.

    (ModusPwnd, feel free to step in if I'm being inaccurate or have misrepresented your posts).

    Now onto your original post. I'm not sure how far along you are in your studies, but how do you know that physics is the only subject that you enjoy? There are very many subject areas that are similar to physics (e.g. electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, mathematics, computer science, etc.) Are you sure you won't enjoy any of them?

    It's also worth keeping in mind that a physics degree have the potential to provide skill sets that can be used or applied in areas other than physics (e.g. programming/software development if you take CS classes along with physics). Many physics graduates have done precisely this and are happily employed in such fields. So don't be discouraged from pursuing physics -- just be smart and make sure you develop your skills more broadly.
     
  10. Mar 31, 2016 #9
    Felix, I say go for it, man. You don't need to be a genius to be a physicist. It's all about hard work and persistence. Most of my physics professors say that they struggled, and that they just kept pushing. They say that it's all about being very determined. It sounds like you already have that determination. Sadly, from what I've gathered, luck is a huge component in getting a research position. However, I agree with StatGuy2000; even if you don't get a job doing research in physics, there are still so many things you can do with a degree in physics. At the same time, however, explore other fields. Surely, you haven't looked into everything.
     
  11. Apr 1, 2016 #10

    jtbell

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    If you're good at your physics studies, you can probably get into graduate school somewhere, with funding, and have a good chance at finishing a Ph.D. in physics.

    After that, the chances of finding a research job as a university professor are rather small. Consider this: a professor probably supervises 10-20 Ph.D. students during the course of his career. It takes only one person to replace him when he retires. The number of physics professors is rather stable; if it's increasing, it's not very rapid. There are some research-related jobs in government labs, and more in private industry. Nevertheless, there's a good chance that you'll end up having to leave physics and use your skills (programming, etc.) elsewhere, e.g. in an engineering related job.

    If that happens, will you later in life consider your Ph.D. studies to have been a waste of time or a failure, or as an interesting but temporary period of your life? What is your general attitude towards careers and "success"?
     
  12. Apr 1, 2016 #11

    f95toli

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    The problem is that you also need luck. Hard work and persistence will get you a PhD, but to actually get a permanent position as a physicist you have have quite a bit of luck- you have to have the right set of skills and be at the right place at the right time and know the right people (i.e. have worked with someone who can recoomend you for the position).
    If the government/funding agencies decides that your chosen subject is a national priority then your chances of getting a job goes up dramatically, if you happen to have done all your work in an area which is no longer "hot" you might be out of luck irrespective of how good you are.
     
  13. Apr 1, 2016 #12
    Like I said in my post, luck is a huge component of it. But the way I see it is even if you don't get a permanent research position, you can still get many jobs outside of physics.
     
  14. Apr 1, 2016 #13
  15. Apr 1, 2016 #14

    f95toli

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    Agreed, the vast majority of people with PhDs in physics end up with good job, it is just that most of them do not work in academia.
     
  16. Apr 1, 2016 #15
    Teaching at elementry and high school is what many of my fellow undergrads ended up doing. A large minority, the most "popular" outcome. A couple went into the armed forces, a couple are doing radiation therapy, some are back on school for other things, some are doing menial work. Lots of different outcomes. I say none became physicists, but the people doing radiation treatment might actually have a job title of "medical physicist". I think they did the best in terms of career, pay and marketable skills.

    Wanting a physics education is reasonable. Expecting to be a professional physicist with no other interest is not a reasonable expectation.
     
  17. Apr 1, 2016 #16

    Choppy

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    Why would a medical physicist not count as a physicist?

    Perhaps for clarification, it's important to draw the distinction between radiation therapist and medical physicist. A radiation therapist is someone who actually delivers radiation to a patient for treatment. Medical physicists have a lot less direct patient contact and do a lot more work behind the scenes.
     
  18. Apr 1, 2016 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    This sounds like you are saying that the universe owes you the job you want. Not everyone gets their first choice.
     
  19. Apr 1, 2016 #18
    I understand what you guys are saying, thank you. Medical physicist could be a possibility with me, as for engineering, I'm not much of a fan. All this made me reflect what should I do with my life.
     
  20. Apr 1, 2016 #19

    Vanadium 50

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    A good plan. Deciding you will be happy doing exactly one thing is probably not the best plan.
     
  21. Apr 1, 2016 #20
    I'm saying they might indeed have a title of physicist. Usually I think of a physicist as somebody who has a PhD and does research for a living. But of course physicist is not a protected term in the US. I am sure some of my fellow grads consider themselves physicists just because they have a physics degree.

    In any case, I think my fellow grads who went on to medical physics or radiation therapy probably have the best career prospects and may use more of what we learned in school than the rest of us.
     
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