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Is Becoming a Physicist a Smart Thing to Do, How much Do they earn a year?

  1. Mar 28, 2009 #1
    Every time i try to Google information about physicist, i don't get what i'm looking for. So, i decided to ask you guys because i know i'll get a good answer.

    I need to know this; if someone is really interested in physics should they get a Ph.D in physics. I mean is worth it, do physicist get paid enough.

    Can someone tell me how much physicist earn annually, in their first year of experience, in 5 years of experience, in ten and 20,,,. Also, tell me places and companies wish hire physicist. how about NASA, what facilities & centers are the best to work in. And can someone also tell if living as a physicist in major states like New York and California a good lifestyle. Just tell me as much as information about being a physicist as you can, and try to avoid answering by saying it depends.

    I really want to become a physicist but i might start to change my mind. but i don't want to be like a surgeon or something else because i'd rather be happy about what i'm doing and get paid little then be miserable and get paid a lot. what i'd like to picture myself in the future is to have a nice house and cars, working with nasa as physicist in California. Can this happen or is way too far fetched. Can someone clear things up for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2009 #2
    The pay range will be all over the board.

    To earn a PhD in any field takes a considerable amount of time. Make sure you choose to do something where you enjoy the process of earning your degree....because it's a long road to get to the point of "being" instead of "becoming" a physicist.

    A lot of things change during that time too. So, if you enjoy physics now....go for it.
  4. Mar 28, 2009 #3


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    And in anticipation of other questions, may I suggest you go over the various statistics that are also available at the AIP webpage.

  5. Mar 28, 2009 #4
    well can somebody name a few places to work and salary info about that place
  6. Mar 28, 2009 #5
    You shouldn’t do something just for the money; if you are then physics probably isn’t for you. Let me ask you a question: If you could do physics and only make a comfortable living as in not wealthy but not poor, you would be middle class, would you do it?
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2009
  7. Mar 28, 2009 #6
    Chemical Engineering is where the money is at it seems. and you dont even need high grades to get in.
  8. Mar 28, 2009 #7
    Yeah, that would be perfect but i also need to know where i would live and where i would work because that also is a factor
  9. Mar 28, 2009 #8


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    Actually, you should check nuclear engineer's salaries... They are usually the highest.
  10. Mar 28, 2009 #9
    This is like asking whether being an artist is a smart thing to do. There are people out there who will basically go starving and live a vagabond lifestyle just so they can devote nearly all their time to their art. But for them it's a "smart" thing to do because they love it so much. Now a physicist is not quite as extreme - at least the salary is decent - but whether it is worth it depends highly on how much you love the subject. If you want to make a lot of money become an investment banker.
  11. Mar 28, 2009 #10
    how much do they get paid
  12. Mar 28, 2009 #11
    also how long does it take to receive a Ph.D in Physics
  13. Mar 28, 2009 #12
    7 years?
  14. Mar 28, 2009 #13
    You say you don't care abought money and yet you keep asking.
  15. Mar 28, 2009 #14


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    The average PhD in physics takes 6.5 years to earn (not counting undergrad) according to the APS a few years ago.

    TOE, once again I'm going to point out this thread https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=214959 which I suggest you read, because you are quickly falling into the same pattern this poster did.
  16. Mar 28, 2009 #15
    As far as I can tell, the main benefit of being a physicist is physics. You should think about what is important to you and find a way to factor it into the equation. Personally, I plan on continuing my formal physics education later in life. This isn't standard, but that's not how I roll :biggrin:
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2009
  17. Mar 29, 2009 #16
    don’t worry with your PhD in physics you will make enough money to live where you want and have a nice home and car. Get your B.S. in physics first then decide if you want to go to grad school. physicist get hired by place like 3M , Hewlett packard
    computer chip makers , almost any place that has engineering, Bell labs , and other gov. labs. But most of all you should major in physics cause you like it and not for the money I wanted to study engineering at first but I realized how much more interesting physics was so that’s what I am studying now and not for the money.
    They are getting computer chips so small that its not long before Quantum mechanics takes over. And based on your screen name i think physics is your best bet.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2009
  18. Mar 29, 2009 #17
    Thanks, i think this was the best answer i got so far. I would never become a physicist if i didn't enjoy physics. Also, i heard that a good physicist gets paid well, so that's also good. But again i'm not all over the money, i'd rather like what i'm doing. Though, i'm not going to actually start college for a long time so i'm afraid that by the time i graduate and then get a Ph.D, things might change, like there might not be much to do in the field of physics so less people will hire physicist and so forth. Could this happen?
  19. Mar 29, 2009 #18
    I second these comments. As for your last question, anything *can* happen. No one can predict the future. Find out what you like and do it.
  20. Mar 30, 2009 #19
    Check out Medical Physics. It is a good lifestyle and a rewarding career.
  21. Mar 30, 2009 #20


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  22. Mar 30, 2009 #21
    I'm just wondering... do these PhD graduates actually REMEMBER EVERYTHING after graduating?

    This is one thing I hate about the brain, learn something new, and forget it the next day. It's kind of like, forget about everything you want to do if you hate studying. It's not that you hate learning the material, is' the mind set of "oooh, here let me repeat this **** again so it stays fresh in my head for a few more weeks before I have to to review all over again..."
  23. Mar 30, 2009 #22
    Keep in mind that a Ph.D. student is typically only taking classes for a year or two. The remainder of the time is spent doing research, usually on a fairly narrow question. By the time you finish, you might forget things from the courses you took early on, but you are well-focused on your research interest and should remember most of what you have done there.
  24. Mar 30, 2009 #23


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    Yes and no.

    Earning a Ph.D. isn't about memorization. It's about learning and developing the skills necessary to conduct research. It's very likely you won't remember every little detail of your project, and it's very unlikely that you will ever need to. But there is a lot of rigor involved in a Ph.D. project and so you will usually remember the skills you've learned, or at least establish a conceptual base on which to build new skills.
  25. Mar 30, 2009 #24
    hmmm... neuroplasticity at it's finest.
  26. Apr 1, 2009 #25
    Here's the thing, "physicist" isn't really a job title. Most physicists are professors or researchers at universities, government labs, and a few private research labs.

    Its a difficult path: 4 years to do undergrad, 4-6 years to do your PhD, 2-4 years as a post-doctoral fellow, then 5-7 years as an assistant professor before you get your tenure.

    Salaries: PhD: ~20-30k Postdoc: ~40-60K, assistant prof: ~60-100K.

    If you want a job in private industry, you'll have to sell yourself as an engineer or just get an engineering degree. I know it sucks (I wanted to be a physicist too! Ended up as EE)

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