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I can't choose a career

  1. Dec 3, 2013 #1
    It may be my first post here, but I have been reading in these forums for quite a long time. Considerable amounts of thinking concerning what I should do as a career have engulfed me in an almost unstoppable paralysis (ironic, isn't it?). Finally, I've decided to look for help in the form of advice. I'll begin by telling a bit of my background.

    I have a big interest in Science. Not just Physics or Chemistry, but Science as a whole. Obviously, there is in it what gives me more pleasure: Physics. I don't know if Math enters as a type of Science, but let me put it as one of greatest interests as well.

    So these interests may, clearly, direct me towards some Science-related field such as Engineering, Physics, Mathematics etcetera. Now I need to use a bit of country-related background: I live in Brazil. If any Brazilian reads this thread, may he agree with me that Science isn't valuable in the eyes of our government. Therefore, we have very few research-related jobs, those we have have a lot of problems with infrastructure, equipment and grants. Clearly, we have a bunch of exceptions, but I can say that for 97% of cases: degree in Math, Physics, Chemistry etc. equals teaching this subject in High School.

    Now, there is Engineering. Not for research, but working for a company or starting one. This is the path I've had in mind for my first two High School years. In the last one, I've started to question whether this was correct or not. I've said I have a lot of interest in Science, but this interest manifests itself in a very different form of what an engineer would do.

    Let me explain: I would like to study the most abstract and theoretical parts of Math and Physics. Differential Geometry, Complex Analysis, General Relativity, Quantum Electrodynamics and so on. I would like to read the papers of the most famous scientists and work through their ideas. I have even studied Latin and Greek to understand their papers, especially Euler. I believe there is a lot of what I call "thinking principles" in their papers: It's not what they proved, but the way they proved. The way Newton wrote the Principia in a geometric language may give you an example, or the way Euler proved the Basel problem. Clearly, I would also read the modern authors especially Griffths book about E&M, Spivak, Serge Lang, Landau and so on.

    This is the way I want to flourish my interests in these subjects, this I would like to do for pure fun. An engineer doesn't do it. He may use principles of some fields of these subjects to build something. But it is very unlikely that an engineer would need to know General Relativity or the Standard Model.

    The first thing you may say is that I can become an engineer and do what I said above. There's just one thing. I fear the job market. Many of the engineers that graduated here don't become engineers. Just to give you an example, almost all my math and science teachers are engineers. Even in the most prestigious schools of Engineering you can see a lot of them going to fields such as entrepreneurship or some bank-related job. Think about what is happening PhDs going to other fields. That's what kind of happens to engineers here.

    I would choose as an alternative career becoming a physician. I have some interest in Oncology, Psychiatry and Neurology. I can't stand contagious diseases and get bored rather quickly if my routine is fixed, that's why I would choose one of these specialities. Here, one doesn't go to pre-med, one enters medicine once one finishes high school. The positive part is that it can be very stable, so I wouldn't have something to disturb my free time. The negative side would be that maybe I wouldn't have a lot of free time to pursue my interests, which doesn't bother me since I have the rest of my life to learn these subjects. There is also some uncertainty due to some recent government plans for healthcare, but I won't discuss this here.

    So this is it. I've told what I like to do. There isn't a career that does what I said. So I'm between Engineering that has some similarities but whose job market I do not trust and there is Medicine that has stability and though it has less free time, I have no rush to learn what interests me. I would like some advice about what I should do. Please, don't tell me about passion and to follow my heart. My passion is to learn, but we don't value this so much here.

    I would like to thank for any sort of advice. Sorry if the post is bothersome, but as I've said, I'm almost paralyzed and can only start working again once this is settled.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Well my brother was once in this situation. He liked a lot of different things like flying model planes... When he asked me about it, I said why not physics and his remark was rather snide "why because you majored in it?".

    My response was simply that everything he was interested in had a basis in physics and so it made sense to major in it.

    He did and got a PhD in Applied Physics. His job is doing software design for technical projects with lots of physics.

    My suggestion is to major in physics and see where it leads you. Computational physics in particular would give you a secondary skill that may prove useful in getting a good job which would then allow you to continue doing research in physics with access to larger computing power.

    Checkout Open Source Physics at www.compadre.org/osp for a java-based framework and examples for exploring physics through computer simulation and see if it appeals to you.
  4. Dec 4, 2013 #3
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