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Job Skills I finally got my bachelor's degree in physics, now what?

Zap

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Maybe that's the thing to do if you are running out of time before graduating. You did, I thought, say you were good at making programs. Continuing to give yourself your own personal projects would keep yourself in good practice. You might later return to school for maybe some course which uses your already taken courses as prerequisite, so you might learn from some intermediate course not-yet taken.

My own path was to do only one introductory programming course, became scared for doing poorly (but earned grade of C), and not enrolling in any more computer programming courses - but several years later, started back just as a hobby; this way, I was able to learn to do some of what was so difficult when I had been student. Any actual programming "experience" came from the hobby. Even the many useful programs I made were done AFTER I could have used any when no longer in the kind of work/jobs in which I might have wanted those programs. If I had such skills in that earlier employment, things might have gone differently (like maybe better) for me.
I took one introductory programming course and got an A. Then, I took two graduate level programming courses and another introductory programming course. The intro class was really easy, and actually the grad level courses weren't really that hard, either. I just have a bad habit of turning stuff in late and not studying for tests. This is common place in the physics department, but in the computer science department, they nail you for it. They took off 20% for turning a homework in one hour late. I got negative like 66% on a homework for being two days late. Meanwhile, in the physics department, I turn homework in a week late and no points are taken off. I don't know if that only happens in my physics department. The physics professors here are extremely lenient when it comes to due dates. The CS professors apparently are not. I messed up that one programming project because of a combination of starting it late, turning it in late, all my team members dropping and not having the prerequisites, but I got it done, for the most part, and the professor was a little bit lenient and passed me with a C. The class is database management in SQL, so I think it will still help me, despite getting a C.
 
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symbolipoint

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Zap, at least you now know how to administer yourself better.

Different departments at various schools will have their own more or less related policies. Physics department where I attended especially for the Phys 1 students (Physics series for scientist & engineer students) were REQUIRED on homework, to use specified style of paper; fully write every problem description, write all numbers as assigned variables, draw figure picture or diagram and label all its parts, show all relevant principle equations, solve the problem numerically, (also show all steps), show the formula for the solution, and only then to substitute the given known values, and evaluate the or compute the result. Students were required to follow that outline in order to receive credit. Even more - students were required to do a certain quantity of their homework assignments or would not be permitted to take course examinations. Still more - homework counted as , I forgot exactly, between 10% or 20% of the course grade.

Beginner programming students? They learned about variables, making variable tables, and creating flowcharts for the development of programming exercises (including those for homework exercises). All homework assignment exercises were required to show variables list, variable-data table, flow chart, and the finished program code, otherwise no credit. If student had a question asking for help, then teacher asked to see variable table & flowchart, otherwise no give help.

These guys were not fooling around!
 
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Zap

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That sounds horrible.
 

symbolipoint

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(I have been trying to make this posted response but forum not let me stay logged-in...)

They had good reasons.

Too many students with ask-for-help questions, and the need for students to work hard to learn, operate in an organized way to learn to study&work reliably; learn to analyze and think(students responsibilities for their study and any possible later work/employment).
 

Zap

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I just want to throw this in here: Since I've graduated like three days ago with an MS in physics, my job hunting pursuits have gained a lot more attention. I've not had any offers yet, but I've been getting a lot of emails and second step requests, which I didn't previously. The reason for this I think is that I am applying to different kinds of jobs than I had in the past, and a lot more of them.

For example, when I applied to R&D positions with the DOD, I would spend sometimes days on my resume, and applied to only a few positions, because only a few positions were available, and waited like 3 months to hear back, only to find out the position was closed or that I wasn't selected. Now, I am applying to hundreds of jobs at a time that are hiring immediately. Some are science related, some are not science related. At this point, I am kind of interested in trying something that is not science related.

I am beginning to think that it is definitely possible to get a job with a physics degree. You just have to be a little bit creative and decide one, two or three specific things that you want as a career. I think many grads, like myself, graduate and do not know what they want to do and therefore end up aimlessly applying to jobs in which they probably don't make a notable impression. I would recommend not focusing purely on R&D and DOD jobs, because they are never immediately hiring. So, the question, "what do I do now?" is not ours to answer. You have a lot of options, and you have to figure that out. I don't think the world is holding us back. I'll report back of my success or failure.
 
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Zap

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We need to find areas in which people are impressed or value our mathematical skills and potential to learn technical tasks easily.

One position that seems like a pretty easy transition is something like business analyst. They frequently are looking for math and physics majors, and seem to like us just because we have a physics degree. Areas in R&D may also value mathematical skills, but it seems as though the bar is set higher there, so they are usually asking for a lot more than just a degree in physics.

You can potentially get into either of these fields. So far I’ve had some people reaching out to me in both areas. Obviously no offers yet, so this may be premature, but I’m getting a lot more attention than I did previously, and I’m also pumping out like ten to twenty apps a day.

However, I tailored my resume for something like a data analyst and there are so many of these jobs out there that it’s pretty easy to apply to like 50 of them in one day. I’m still applying to jobs in materials science and more physics related stuff as well. There are so many jobs out there. We aught to land one eventually.
 

Zap

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I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of all of the jobs I am applying for, because it already happened that someone from HR called me and I had no idea what job they were talking about.

In this day and age, you can actually apply to 100 jobs in one day. What if you could create an algorithm to do it for you, and apply to 1,000,000 per day?
 

Choppy

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What if you could create an algorithm to do it for you, and apply to 1,000,000 per day?
Then perhaps you shouldn't be applying for jobs at all. Instead, tweak your algorithm to intelligently identify potential customers for a given product or service and start an online marketing business.
 

Zap

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Check this out. How many jobs do you think are created around the world every day? Probably more than 1,000. I obviously have no idea what the number is. However, we can make an app that connects you to key roles by a well defined list of attributes and constraints matched with a well defined list of requirements that exist across the entire planet. This way, you are guaranteed to be matched with the job that is perfect for you, automatically.

We will no longer search for job titles or even have to think what we should apply to. We just list our attributes and constraints and are automatically matched and applied.
 

symbolipoint

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I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of all of the jobs I am applying for, because it already happened that someone from HR called me and I had no idea what job they were talking about.

In this day and age, you can actually apply to 100 jobs in one day. What if you could create an algorithm to do it for you, and apply to 1,000,000 per day?
Then perhaps you shouldn't be applying for jobs at all. Instead, tweak your algorithm to intelligently identify potential customers for a given product or service and start an online marketing business.
The spreadsheet idea is a good one. One should keep good records of job-seek application attempts and any resulting interviews and principal people

If applying to ~ 50 to 100 jobs per day, this is too unfocused, showing lack of care about details and qualifications. At least some of what you apply for may be fine, but not all of it.
 

Zap

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I applied to roughly 20 today. I was just stating that it is possible to do 100.
 

symbolipoint

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I applied to roughly 20 today. I was just stating that it is possible to do 100.
If using a couple of online job boards and come classified ad's system like craigslist, maybe about 20 per day is not outrageous. Just keep your focus on the job descriptions, listed qualifications, and how you match the data.
 

Zap

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So far I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from this method. I think worst case, I will land some lower level data analyst job. Many of these data analyst jobs don't require any programming experience and still offer pretty good salaries. These would be more related to business and using Microsoft Excel. I am being considered for one in New York, NY for 60-65k, which I think is a decent start. All they’re asking for is math skills and some Excel knowledge, and of course a degree in math, physics, stats, business, etcetera. Pretty easy stuff. As long as it’s not just data entry, it should be a good enough start. I am avoiding data entry and probably wouldn’t accept the job if that was all it was. Data entry is minimum wage territory, and if it’s minimum wage territory, I have no incentive to relocate and might as well continue to enjoy my vacation of unemployment. I actually have a part time job right now working in a lab, but since school is over it feels like I’m on vacation.

I actually have a phone interview for a legit data scientist position, but I don’t know very much about machine learning. So, I might get slammed. I would rather get the hot data scientist job than a business analyst or market research, but the latter sound easier and fun.
 
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Zap

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I am finding a lot of jobs that are not requiring experience and looking for simple things like math aptitude and a degree. I don't know why this is happening now when I was having so much trouble before. Maybe the machine learning connected to my job board profiles took two years to train. Or, maybe, the master's degree has become the new bachelor's degree, but I'm hardly applying to any jobs that require a master's degree. Who knows?
 
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symbolipoint

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I am finding a lot of jobs that are not requiring experience and looking for simple things like math aptitude and a degree. I don't know why this is happening now when I was having so much trouble before. Maybe the machine learning connected to my job board profiles took two years to train. Or, maybe, the master's degree has become the new bachelor's degree. I don't know. I'm hardly applying to any jobs that require a master's degree.
Did you say you just recently earned Masters' degree a few days ago? The recent advanced degree could be making a bigger impact on potential employers. Just a guess.
 

Zap

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I think it might be due to the fact that I am now looking for careers outside of science and no longer in school.
I remember when I graduated with my BS, I did nothing but apply to science and engineering jobs.
We can use our degree, which is essentially applied math, for a bunch of different stuff.
I even see chemistry as a degree requirement for totally unrelated jobs.
I tend not to search for chemistry, though.
 
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I would rather get the hot data scientist job than a business analyst or market research, but the latter sound easier and fun.
Business analyst and market researching jobs that require no other technical skills beyond math and excel are unlikely to be fun (though it is possible!).

This does not mean they're a bad investment, as the job experience and skills you learn (especially the soft skills) will be invaluable. I just think it might help to set expectations. Be prepared for a boring grind until you move up to something better (2 - 3 years), and if it turns out you got lucky and found a fun BA job, it's a bonus.
 
You have to go where the jobs are.
Maybe stay on and become expert in the "hands on" aspect by working in the labs
 

Zap

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Feel it.
There's no way I'm going to stay on. I already rented out a place in LA for the month of July. I live in a boring desert town in the middle of nowhere, and I've been working in this lab for about 4 to 5 years. I'm not really going to get much else out of it. I need to go and find something better, and if not better, at least different.
The best thing I can do is continue to apply and work on more interesting and skill based projects in my free time.
 

Zap

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Business analyst and market researching jobs that require no other technical skills beyond math and excel are unlikely to be fun (though it is possible!).

This does not mean they're a bad investment, as the job experience and skills you learn (especially the soft skills) will be invaluable. I just think it might help to set expectations. Be prepared for a boring grind until you move up to something better (2 - 3 years), and if it turns out you got lucky and found a fun BA job, it's a bonus.
The main thing I do in my lab is analyze data in Excel or Python. I have more fun doing that than conducting experiments.

The data I get is extracted and already pretty organized. I might have to average three trials of data or something and plot a spectra of averages and error bars, but it doesn’t get very complicated. So, it’s usually pretty boring.

If I get really lucky, I might get to fit a model or two.

My favorite thing about chem and phys, apart from math and just tripping my head off about some really bizarre concept like molecular orbitals or an electric field, was analyzing data.
 
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George Jones

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I live in a boring desert town in the middle of nowhere
What is the population of the town in which you live?
 

Zap

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What is the population of the town in which you live?
Population is almost 100 thousand, so there are definitely other places that are smaller. However, I just don't particularly like it here, and despite not being a rural village, there really isn't anything to do here, except go to a few bars or climb a mountain. There are a few local companies that I've applied to (about 2 or 3), but they didn't want me. There are two national labs in this state, as well, which I've already applied to several times. I don't feel like reapplying to these places, because I really would rather relocate. I'm also not as interested as I once was to work at a national lab or in something science related after comparing salaries with non science careers and after being totally ignored by science related agencies for over two years now. My dream now is to move to the big city and do data analytics or something business or IT related. There are a lot of jobs out there, though, once you move out of the constraints of science and engineering. So many jobs that who knows where I'll end up. I'm in the final stages for a position as a digital marketing strategist. I don't really know what that is, but it sounds really cool, and the pay is damn good, too. I would rather get this job in digital marketing than continue with a career in science.

It's really funny. I first went to school to be an artist. I majored in painting for a semester or two and then changed my major to graphic design for about a semester before switching to science. Majoring in art completely sucks, because it's one of the most expensive things to study. You have to buy a bunch of art supplies. I felt like my grade was dependent on the materials I could afford. I also thought majoring in art at a university would be like an apprenticeship, but it's not. So, I quit. My main reason for switching to science was to try and learn something while I was in school. I remember as an art student realizing that I had no idea what an atom was. I had no idea how to do math, either. I didn't even know that I liked math. I felt like I should learn about these things. I still have artistic ability, though. It will be pretty funny if the career I land actually utilizes that.

For me, the most valuable thing I got from physics is learning math, and if you have a physics degree, math is your most valuable asset. Everything else is ... well, stamp collecting.
 
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as much as i love the physics department where i graduated, they didn't do a very good job at preparing us for what to do after getting our BS. i don't remember anyone talking to us about graduate school or the work field. I understand that at that age you should be able to get some stuff done on your own, but the fact is you still need some guidance. the only reason i was fortunate enough to involved in undergrad research as early as i did is because a TA i got close to told me about how important it is.

for the people that i graduated with, they either were going straight to grad school or had no idea what they were doing.
 

symbolipoint

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as much as i love the physics department where i graduated, they didn't do a very good job at preparing us for what to do after getting our BS. i don't remember anyone talking to us about graduate school or the work field. I understand that at that age you should be able to get some stuff done on your own, but the fact is you still need some guidance. the only reason i was fortunate enough to involved in undergrad research as early as i did is because a TA i got close to told me about how important it is.

for the people that i graduated with, they either were going straight to grad school or had no idea what they were doing.
While guidance and counseling from the department people might be missing, a student should listen to conversations that Physics students have among each other. Student will hear of other courses which those other students are also studying, often being of Computer Science and Engineering courses, which are often also practical courses; and which help them later in job-searching and job-doing. Is or was there a lounge area where Physics ( and also some Engineering & C.S.) students hang-out casually between or after classes? Go there and sit and do some of you homework and some of your reading; and also listen to what they are talking about.
 

Zap

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I think this is a fundamental problem with universities and not limited to any particular physics department. I don't think taking extra classes will "save you," so to speak, because as long as you're taking university classes, chances are they won't be very practical. For example, I took a class in artificial intelligence, and we ended up spending three months writing logic with a pencil and paper, which nobody cares about. Even in my SQL class, we spent a lot of time studying the theory behind data bases and writing equations using relational algebra, which nobody cares about. After taking that class, I still failed a basic SQL assessment test an employer gave me. They didn't ask about functional dependencies or decomposition of databases, or any of that crazy stuff.

There's no easy fix, or simple path one can take to ensure success. I think a physics degree is pretty good in and of itself, but we need to take extra time to figure out what it is useful for and what exactly we want to do with it. Good math skills and spatial reasoning will forever be good to have and easy to apply to many different things. Not everyone has even basic mathematical reasoning abilities. I think of my physics degree as an applied math degree, which is applicable to just about everything, but unlike an engineering degree. There are a lot of other careers out there other than engineering, anyway.

I forgot where I heard this from, but there was some youtube video in which some guy was talking about whether or not college was worth it. He mentioned that people with high IQ tend to earn more and that going to college does not increase your IQ. Therefore, someone with a high IQ and a college degree will most likely be more successful than someone without a high IQ with the same college degree.

I don't know if I buy that, but it's something to think about.
 
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