1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min 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!

Is it worth going for a BS and a PhD in physics?

  1. Dec 14, 2013 #1
    Hey guys, I'm a gr. 11 student, and like all others my age, I'm now seriously considering what I want to do for the rest of my life. I keep wanting to do a physics BS, and the a physics Master's or PhD, along with minors in conmpsci, but literally all I hear is negative things about choosing this direction(ie I wont be able to ever get a research job, no professorship jobs, no jobs in industry, with only oppurtunities being low paying postdoc positions). I really want to know, is it worth going for a physics PhD, and will it give me a high chance of employment? What topic would I want to do to increase my chances. I should also point out that the uni near me has both an engineering physics and physics/mathematics dual degree, could that also help me out?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2013 #2

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you want to listen to negativity and job fear mongering by people who 9 times out of ten aren't even physicists than be my guest. Why are you worried about employment at this stage in life, I understand our cultural influences place gainful employment by some employer above all else in life, but it's quite retarded.

    If you want to study physics, and would regret not doing it for possibly the rest of your life~do it. There are others here who can point you to areas that need researchers at this time, but still, considering if you actually follow through you have elevenish years before finishing your phd, it's likely things will change by then.
     
  4. Dec 14, 2013 #3

    WannabeNewton

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

  5. Dec 14, 2013 #4

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    After reading your thread WBN I can't believe you almost considered getting out of physics. :devil:
     
  6. Dec 14, 2013 #5

    esuna

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That thread needs to be stickied.
     
  7. Dec 14, 2013 #6

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    At least an MS in physics, if not a PhD.

    Also, one wish to look at engineering, applied physics and/or engineering physics courses.

    I don't understand the negativity toward physics. It's about problem solving.

    If one is interested in computational physics or computational science, then physics and math is the way to go.

    I started in physics (astro and nuclear), but migrated in nuclear engineering. If I knew then what I learned later or know now, I would have double majored in physics and nuclear engineering as an undergrad. As it is, it's worked out well for me.
     
  8. Dec 14, 2013 #7
    So do you think an engineering physics degree would be best? Right now I'm considering CarletonU, where engineering physics is offered, but I am also considering just going to UWaterloo or Carleton for a physics undergrad.
     
  9. Dec 14, 2013 #8
    Its far more than 9 out of 10. Thats the point...

    I'm not a physicist. I have a BS and an MS in physics. They have proved completely useless after years of job searching. I am now back in school for engineering.

    If you want to be a physicist and think you can get the PhD and land the research positions, then go for it. Otherwise, there are better majors out there if you want more career prospects in a technical field.

    I think that 9 times out of 10 the people championing physics degrees are tenure track PhDs or people/students with no physics degree.
     
  10. Dec 14, 2013 #9

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I think the important thing to remember is that if you decide to pursue physics, generally, what you are doing is giving yourself an education in the subject. That education is not job-specific training and doesn't directly translate into a profession in most cases.

    The data on employment of physics majors seems to suggest that in aggregate, they do okay in the job market - for example, commanding salaries that are roughly middle of the pack amongst engineers (although with a wider standard deviation), but better that many other majors. I think the biggest complaint isn't so much that they don't end up with a decent career - instead, it's that they spend a lot of time in the field as a student and then end up doing something different with the rest of their lives.
     
  11. Dec 14, 2013 #10

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Obviously physics is useless to study then, we should all covert to engineering.
     
  12. Dec 14, 2013 #11
    Unless you want to be a physicist and think you can get the PhD and land the research positions, of course. Do you have any useful addition to make, or just sarcastic dismissal? That's what the students and tenure track PhDs usually do to advise about physics degrees they don't want said - they dismiss it out of hand.

    Please, share you success story with us. I certainly don't want my experience and the experience of my classmates to be the only example given.
     
  13. Dec 14, 2013 #12

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    I've already made my submission to this discussion. If you really want to study physics study physics. I just responded to your jab/ anecdotal/ other comment, which was off no value.

    You shouldn't study something and commit a serious part of your. life to a subject matter on the basis of who's going to hire you afterwards.
     
  14. Dec 14, 2013 #13
    That's the worst advise I have seen here in a while. You absolutely should be considering job and career prospects from your education. Only the very wealthy can afford to do otherwise. Regardless of what you or I think, the original poster explicitly stated that job prospects are important. Its rude of you to tell him that they shouldn't be.

    You claim that my advise is worthless because its an anecdote, yet you refuse to offer up your own success story to balance the advise. This happens often and is why I suspect the champions of physics degrees are often not even physics graduates. Those that are have made it all the way and actually are professional physicists, a large minority like your guess at the proportions implies.
     
  15. Dec 14, 2013 #14

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Of course, because we can all look into the OPs future and judge the job markets in 5 to 11 years.
    Man, yeah, a 9 to 5 is the only reason to go to college. Let's shut down all the philosophy or history majors now. It isn't getting people ready for gainful employment. The op is in highschool. None of what we tell them will be in vouge necessarily when they complete their degree .in whatever. So the question itself its a silly one.

    I'm not basing my advice on the number of physics majors who make it, i'm basing my advice on, what college its for, to study a subject indepth.
     
  16. Dec 14, 2013 #15
    I think the point to be made here is rather simple: it entirely depends upon your personal aspirations and goals and no one here in this thread can effectively answer which will work for you.

    If you feel you must study physics, for whatever reason then do study physics, it ultimately can enrich your life if this is the case. However, be aware that you may have a hard time finding a job, but this is true for almost any major. One thing to consider though is physics is very exclusive. You really need to be one of the best and flexible to find a job doing exactly what you want in physics.

    This however should not be a deterrent from studying physics, if you feel you are cut out for it.

    On the other hand a degree in something more geared towards a job, such as a engineering, typically prepares you for a career, it is more likely you will find a job if its something your being trained to do. Where as physics prepares you to master a subject.

    US Department of labor statistics says expected new jobs from 2010-20 to be only at 2,800 for physics and astronomy jobs. On the other hand, new electrical engineering jobs are expected to be approximately 17,600. (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/)

    This is just one subset of engineering, and indeed one area where physics can be used so this is not necessarily an accurate assumption of what you would find but it provides some common ground to compare. You may in fact find physicists working as engineers and vice versa.

    However, it is logical to assume someone who studied electrical engineering specifically is more likely to get a job in electrical engineering over someone who studied physics and say got a minor in electrical engineering.
     
  17. Dec 15, 2013 #16

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Okay, so I'm somewhat sober now, I'll try to type my thoughts in a more lucid manner.

    So here is how I see it:

    You get your PhD in physics:
    1. You land your dream job doing exactly what you want to do.
    2. You land a job in physics doing some remotely like your interests.
    3 you land a job in physics doing something completely different to your interest.
    4. You land a technical or science job related to applied physics.
    5. You land a technical job not all that scientific oriented.
    6. You land a job outside technical or scientific work.
    7 you become homeless

    These are all possibilities, we can't say which one the OP will end up in by studying physics. It's impossible.

    Now if we steer the OP away from physics to engineering, 1 through 3 will no longer be possibilities. They will never do physics proper, and basically all we've accomplished is removing one more potentially qualified physics major from the pool. 4 becomes more likely, but why trade your desire and your shot at the roulette wheel to basically do something you see as a fall back. Physics PhD will open up the door to do physics, an engineering major won't. A physics PhD will keep the door cracked to do something related to engineering while a engineering degree will open it. Both degrees keep the door open to do something completely non technical, and you can always become self employed.

    Not trying to do what you want to do is giving up. Not studying what you want to study is giving up. I'll never agree with someone who sloughs through something they don't really care for in life simply because it will lead to making money. Those types of people take up jobs in hot markets like engineering, lawyering, and the medical profession but have no core interest for the subject, and often averagely or underperform their duties.
     
  18. Dec 15, 2013 #17

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Do you really want to do physics, I can't answer that, but you can. If yes, do it. Have you read the sticky "so you want to be physicist" in this sub forum?
     
  19. Dec 15, 2013 #18
    Student100, nobody is actually saying that. You need to stop taking things so personal.
    No matter what the job markets are going to be, stuff like engineering will always be more marketable than pure physics or pure math majors. That's just a fact. Does that mean that we should discourage people from studying physics or math? No, of course not. But we need to talk realistically. The chance that somebody will actually land a professorship in physics or math is extremely small. A good estimate is that about 1 in 10 PhD-holders actually succeeds in academia. No matter what the job market is going to be, this number is highly unlikely to change!

    If the OP says that he finds getting a well-paying job important, then we need to be honest and say that engineering is much better in job prospects.

    I get that you would rather do something you love than to worry about the job prospects. I'm the same as you. But other people do not think that way. It's not right to judge people for thinking that living a bit comfortable with money is more important than finding out the mysteries of the universe. It's their life, so it's their choice to make.
     
  20. Dec 15, 2013 #19

    Student100

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    I still disagree R136a1, it is basically what is being said, to quote ModusPwned "I have a bs and an ms in physics. They have proved completely useless after years of job searching."

    You could say that for any of the other majors that aren't as employable as engineering. The OP is reflecting on his overheard conversations of no jobs existing for physics-which is incorrect. He's worried about being highly employable after a PhD in physics, which is silly. We can't answer that, but I doubt you'll end up homeless studying physics. He didn't suggest he's worried about living comfortably or making lots of money after a BS. He's specifically asking about job outlooks 11 years from now when he completes his phd.
     
  21. Dec 15, 2013 #20

    WannabeNewton

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Well I gotta put food on my table you know what I'm saying :wink:
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Is it worth going for a BS and a PhD in physics?
Loading...