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Physics How much weight does working/school full time carry

  1. Aug 15, 2016 #1
    I am 29 with a wife and daughter, scheduled to graduate in 1 year with a B.S in physics. My GPA currently sits at a lowly 2.5, however I have been working full time(40 -52 hours a week) while being a full time student. I mostly have received B's in my core classes (2.79 GPA in major). Do employers take my other obligations into account or is my low GPA too overpowering?

    Side note: I have worked for the physics department as a tutor while working full time and full time student. Currently I have no research experience, but I plan to change that. I know C++, python and labview and have experience with FPGA's.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2016 #2


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    GPA is king when it comes to graduate school applications. (Other factors are important too, but unless you can drag your GPA over a 3.0, in most cases graduate schools won't look at you.)

    But you asked about employment. A lot depends on the particular employer, but generally speaking, work experience is a huge advantage when looking for a job, particularly when you're looking at entry-level positions. This is because a lot of the competition will have next to no experience at all and from an employers point of view that draws into question some very basic qualities.

    The ability to balance a family life with a full time job and successfully completing a demanding degree like physics are also factors that will be seen positively by employers.
  4. Aug 16, 2016 #3


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    I suppose that depends on the type of work you are looking for. If your current job is related to your prospective post-graduation work, then they will consider it as a benefit. If you are looking to get a position that requires a strong academic background in physics, or go to grad school, the GPA is a potential filter which might prevent them from looking further into you application.

    What sort of career are you looking for?
  5. Aug 16, 2016 #4
    Thank you for the responses. My current job is not related to anything I would like to do in the future but it pays the bills. As far as my career, I am interested in quantum physics, robotics, and space program careers in the private sector though I am not sure if a B.S will make the cut. I have yet to decide of the three I would enjoy most, but at this stage I would be content with getting my foot in the door with a decent paying job, then later set my sights on either graduate school or find a career in one of the three subjects mentioned. I've read many discussions, admittedly most are outdated, where people with a B.S in physics have a hard time finding a job in general. In regards to graduate school, this is something that holds interest in my eye. I have read that it can be and most likely will be very competitive and will require much better stats than i currently possess. I have read there is a there is a "way around" having a low GPA and getting accepted into a graduate program by working in a job related to physics(whether it be teaching or industry) for a few years then applying and doing well on the entrance exams. Has anyone heard of this method or is GPA still king?
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2016
  6. Aug 17, 2016 #5


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    I have always found it a bit surprising that in the US, people enter the job market with a BSc in a technical field. In Europe this is still not very common. It is my experience that people with an interest in pursuing a (public or private) research career in science almost always do an MSc (in the same field, or a directly adjacent one). After that they decide whether they want to try to go for a doctorate.

    It would probably be interesting to have someone from North-America comment sensibly on this, also for future readers.

    All this aside, my congratulations on succeeding to combine your education, your working life and your family life. This is certainly very non-trivial.
  7. Aug 17, 2016 #6


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    The scheme I have heard of is that you work in a job doing physics related work where you find a dissertation worthy topic. After doing some initial work on the topic, you present your findings to a dissertation committee who then decide whether to accept you as a candidate for PhD. If they do then you continue working the topic under a PhD mentor and take the required coursework recommended by the committee. Upon completion, you then defend your dissertation and if successful get awarded your PhD.

    This route is seldom (and I mean really seldom) taken and is primarily there for those who have worked many years in industry and who could never compete with the much younger crowd of graduate students on the GRE or in the subsequent PhD qualifying exams due to forgotten math and physics skills.
  8. Aug 17, 2016 #7
    Balancing school with family and work hasn't been easy. I miss most study groups and all SPS(society of Physics Students) meetings due to my lack of extra time. Luckily I have found a few of my peers that have been willing to meet up in the mornings to get in some good study time. Eventually I see myself pursuing a Masters or PhD, but as of right now I am more focused into getting into the private sector with a decent paying job. My wife and I plan to live in different countries throughout our lives, I would imagine if most people in Europe enter the industry with an MSc then my B.Sc would put me at a huge disadvantage.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
  9. Aug 17, 2016 #8
    That is very interesting, I have not heard of that particular path. A professor of mine had hinted that once you land your first job your GPA is no longer a way to judge your performance. Rather your job experience and GRE scores will determine entrance into graduate school. However, it has been more than a decade since he has been an undergrad so I am unsure if this information is still valid.
  10. Aug 18, 2016 #9


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    I'm no authority and have no experience whatsoever concerning jobs as a physicist, but I do know Elon Musk 'only' has a BSc in Physics.
  11. Aug 27, 2016 #10
    That does inspire me lol.
  12. Aug 28, 2016 #11
    Well, was Musk ever hired?

    This works best when you can do your thesis at your employee. But You don't have thesis work in US BSc?

    I guess if you want a BSc level job, your GPA won't matter and the employer will like that you know how it is to actually work in a for-profit company. If you want a PhD, that's a completely different career.
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