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How useless is a physics bachelors?

  1. Dec 13, 2006 #1
    I am poised to get my physics bachelors, I just need to get enough credits to graduate. I lost credits in transferring even though I will fulfill all the physics requirements this spring :/

    I feel extremely burnt out at the moment and the prospect of more school doesnt bode that well for me, yet I know in the job place a physics bachelors is almost worthless.

    I know I could be instantly employed as a physics high school teacher, perhaps this is the only worthwhile option compared to what else would be subjected to a physics bachelors.

    Maybe I am wrong, but everyone and their uncle tells me this is so. Are there any physics bachelors out there doing anything worthwhile?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2006 #2
    It can be tough to find physics related jobs with a physics bachelors unless you've done really well. For example, MIT Lincoln labs hires people with a bachelors degree, but your grades have to be high (3.5 I believe). Johns Hopkins has an applied physics lab with similar standards. A friend of mine works at Fermilab as an accerlator operator with only a bachelors. When I'm looking for jobs I usually find that usajobs.com (assuming you're in the US) is the best place to look for physics related jobs. They're all government jobs and you can find things ranging from the Armed Forces (civilian) and NASA to the FAA and the US Patent Office.

    If you're not looking for physics related I can't be of too much help since I don't look in that area. I do know that you can get analytical jobs in most anything though.... you may just have to sell your skills a little harder since many people don't know what a physics major can do.

    Good luck!
  4. Dec 13, 2006 #3


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    I've worked with many physics bachelors in industry. They are usually not doing physics but engineering (digital or RF design, for instance) or computer programming and algorithms. In general they do quite well because of their physics background, and are respected.
  5. Dec 13, 2006 #4
    You know, do you? Then why bother asking?
  6. Dec 13, 2006 #5
    I do not know.
  7. Dec 13, 2006 #6
  8. Dec 13, 2006 #7
    I don't think it's worthless at all, though if you do not go back to school I think it may be disappointing.

    You should not get too disenchanted by this. With any luck, your story will go about like mine - get a job for a few years, learn more than you could have in a dozen bachelors degrees, then walk into a graduate program of your choice.

    I look around me at the other grad students - many of which have little drive, no idea what they really want to do, and almost none of which have any understanding of physics as a discipline - and I do not feel behind. For the low-low price of three years between under grad and grad I bought myself the discipline to succeed and a perspective that has allowed me to choose an area of physics that is both philosophically interesting and highly employable.

    If you are not excited about something in grad school - and you obviously aren't, or you'd be signed up! - then take some time and go work. Choose a job that will teach you about science in general, and try to make sure you learn quite a lot. Even being a lab-tech can be a helpful experience. I spent about half my time doing interesting, fun work, and the other half being lab janitor. I wouldn't trade either, because they both taught me something about working in a laboratory.

    Pick your employment wisely, then enjoy yourself. Make some money, do a lot of research, and go back to school invigorated.

    That's my two cents.
  9. Dec 13, 2006 #8
    what sort of job did you have that you were able to do research? I'm guessing that made you a better candidate for graduate schools? I'm graduating with a physics bachelor's this year and was going to apply to graduate school but my grades aren't perfect (about 3.8 physics/math) and i probably got around 700-750 on the gre's. so i won't be getting into harvard or anything. i was thinking of doing work for awhile and then reapplying to see if i could get into a top program.
  10. Dec 14, 2006 #9
    What is wrong exactly with a 3.8 GPA? Unless it's from a really crummy school, that actually sounds pretty good.
  11. Dec 14, 2006 #10
    yeah its from a crummy school
  12. Dec 14, 2006 #11
    My BS is in math and physics from UCLA (graduated 2003) I work as a health physicist for a radiopharmaceutical company. So, yes, there are jobs that are physics related. You just have to look for them.
  13. Dec 14, 2006 #12
    What exactly entitles a school to be "crummy?" It seems like quite a bold statement to reduce a college/university/poly-tech to a single blurb. I would argue no school is really crummy.


    As for the thread's orignal topic. I have friends graduating with physics degrees this year that are by no means the top of the class and getting jobs working for IBM from what some would call a "crummy" school.
  14. Dec 14, 2006 #13
    I don't know, how about a school without regional accreditation or accreditation of any sort? Maybe their actual programs are not bad, but they're still going to be viewed as lower-tier.

    Regardless, my point was that a 3.8 anywhere, including local State Poly U, isn't too shabby.
  15. Dec 14, 2006 #14
    Don't you believe them. A BS in Physics is a good engineering or programming degree.

    Aerospace companies hire a lot of BSs in Physics. We use them for algorthm design and programming and other jobs. I work with a lot of people with BSs in Physics. Of course if all you have is a BS, you are not going to be doing Physics. That is reserved for the PhDs. That is the way it is.
  16. Dec 15, 2006 #15
    Undoubtedly. It also made me a better candidate for research assistantships. Of course, if you're just doing data entry at the job then it is not going to be any help.

    Your recommendation from your employer will be a huge benefit. However, keep in touch with your old school teachers and advisors, as you'll need their references as well.
  17. Dec 15, 2006 #16
    As good for what? Unless you mean that its as good for getting lab-tech jobs or low grade programming jobs, I can't see how this could possibly be defensible.

    The biggest difference is that engineers are certified. This makes a huge difference for their job prospects not only because it standardizes their education, but because it has legal value to the employer. A BS in physics restricts your ability to manage a huge number of operations, because not having someone certified in the area running it represents a liability to the employer.

    I'm willing to bet right now that the reason physicists are being hired for those algorithm designs is because they are cheaper than electrical or software engineers capable of doing the same thing. Having job options because you are inexpensive seems to me to bode poorly for one's career.
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