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!

How realistic is it for me to become a physicist?

  1. Oct 25, 2012 #1

    Jow

    User Avatar

    Recently I have been a tad depressed. Whenever I look up how to become a professor if physics I come across discouraging things. Everyone seems to say that my dream of getting a job in academia is like a dream of playing in the olympics. Unfortunately, I cannot see myself being anything but a physicist, or some sort of scientist. Are my dreams realistic? Also, I keep hearing that there are few jobs in the area of physics, is this likely to change in the next decade? I am afraid of wasting my time in graduate school if this is really unlikely.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2012 #2

    Nabeshin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    As your posts alludes to, you seem to know that 'banking' on becoming a professor is a bad bet. Fortunately for you, though, you don't really have to decide about this for a while. I'll elaborate...

    You're still in high school. The most immediate decision is where to go to college and what to study there. Since you're interested in physics, the decision (at least on what to study) is obvious. Towards graduation, you have a much better idea of if you like physics, your aptitude as a researcher, and whether or not you want to continue on to graduate school. If you choose not to, there are plenty of excellent jobs you can get with a physics B.{S,A}.

    Once you get a PhD, then you have another big decision which is whether to stay in academia with postdocs and hope for a faculty appointment a few years down the road, or just alltogether transition out of academia.

    My point is that along the way to becoming a physics professor, there are plenty of 'stopping off' points, where you can go do something else (which in general will pay more and have more stability!). My only other advice, which should be obvious, is to be aware of this branching and not march blindly through the steps with your sights fixed solely on an academic position.
     
  4. Oct 28, 2012 #3

    ZombieFeynman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Grad school is the most fun I've had so far in life. Even if I don't get to become an academic scientist (or even any kind of scientist), I will always treasure this time. The pay is not the best, but to just get to learn all day....and get paid for it. You really can't beat it.
     
  5. Oct 28, 2012 #4

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    There is a serious disconnect here.

    Being a physicist does NOT automatically mean being a professor in physics.

    If all you care about is being a physics professor, then YES, your job scope will be extremely limited.

    Zz.
     
  6. Oct 28, 2012 #5

    Jow

    User Avatar

    You mistake my meaning. Yes, my ultimate goal is being a professor, but all I really care about is getting into academia and doing research of my own. Sorry for the confusion.
     
  7. Oct 28, 2012 #6

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Er... that is what I meant! Being a physicist does NOT just mean working in Academia! You are too restrictive in what you see as the job of a physicist! There are physicists working at INTEL, Motorola, Applied Materials, Lucent Technologies, Varian Medical Systems, etc... etc. And yes, they do research there as well.

    Because of that, as I've stated, if all you care about is " ... getting into academia and doing research of my own ... " then yes, your job opportunity will be severely limited. That should address your first post.

    Zz.
     
  8. Oct 28, 2012 #7

    Jow

    User Avatar

    By your definition I would have many opportunities to become a physicist, and though I do consider the jobs you listed as definite options, my ideal would be to enter academia. Perhaps I should rephrase my original statement as to how realistic is it for me to want to get into academia. However, thank you for your comments. For some reason, I did not even consider the fact that I would still be doing research in positions other than those offered in academia.
     
  9. Oct 28, 2012 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    A typical professor will graduate maybe 10 students. On average, one of them will replace him. Those are the odds.
     
  10. Oct 29, 2012 #9
    How many jobs like this would you estimate exist, compared to the number of physicist jobs in academia?
     
  11. Oct 29, 2012 #10

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    The APS has said that the number of their members (and they cater to the academic/government sector) in industry exceeds that it academia and government (national labs, NIST, etc.).

    Assuming government is 20% of academia, and industry APS members are just barely a majority, you get 2.4 industrial or government jobs per academic job. That's the floor. The professorial argument gives a ceiling around 10. It's somewhere in that range, and the exact numbers probably depends strongly on definitions. Is someone who worked for 20 years at Boeing as a physicist and now manages them a physicist? What about a university dean?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: How realistic is it for me to become a physicist?
Loading...