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

  • Thread starter Kenny Bala
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  • #51
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I think the latter is more likely. If you stay in physics then you are more likely to be a poster on the physics forums. If somebody switches fields they are more likely to be at the forums for that field. Thats why this forum's regulars seem to be professional physicists and physics students.

I think this forum generally has the more optimism about physics grad prospects than anywhere else I frequent online or in real life. Even the pessimism about being a "physicist" in this thread is tempered by the claim that physics grads still do better than average. Considering my graduating class, they are not in science for the most part but they are doing better than average, career wise. They were smart hard working people before the physics degree, they still are smart hard working people and its not surprising they excel in their non-science careers.

People who left the field are probably not here but at Wilmott or some other fields forum or a some hobby forum like woodcrafting forum.

People here are supposed to have enough training in probability and expectation values to understand that given the AIP , BLS data and the poll by ZZ the highest likelihood outcome is to not end up working in physics (How many more data sets do people need to see before everyone agrees that the highest likelihood outcome is to not stay in physics).

I would also hope people have enough training in the sciences to understand their personal anecdotal experience doesnt over ride the much bigger data set of the AIP or BLS.

And no this does not mean if you do physics you will most likely end up homeless because that isnt the case for any major. Even if you didnt graduate high school you still dont have a greater than 50% of ending up homeless so everyone can hold back on the hyperbole.
 
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  • #52
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It seems like the general consensus would be to become an engineer and just get a secondary degree in physics, so Engineering physics seems to be a pretty good bet. Which engineering field uses the most math? I kind of have a crush on math, and find it relatively hard to imagine using nothing but wolfram alpha to solve my problems as I have heard most engineers do nowadays instead of using the pen and paper.
 
  • #53
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It seems like the general consensus would be to become an engineer and just get a secondary degree in physics, so Engineering physics seems to be a pretty good bet. Which engineering field uses the most math? I kind of have a crush on math, and find it relatively hard to imagine using nothing but wolfram alpha to solve my problems as I have heard most engineers do nowadays instead of using the pen and paper.
I have never heard of a particle theorist using mathematica






wink*
 
  • #54
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It seems like the general consensus would be to become an engineer and just get a secondary degree in physics, so Engineering physics seems to be a pretty good bet. Which engineering field uses the most math? I kind of have a crush on math, and find it relatively hard to imagine using nothing but wolfram alpha to solve my problems as I have heard most engineers do nowadays instead of using the pen and paper.

These days, for a theorist "pen and paper" theory really means mathematica or some other computer algebra system.
 
  • #55
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I personally believe selection bias plays a large part in the nature of responses here. Who do you think is more likely to post in these threads, someone who had incredible difficulty finding a position related to their field (and who later had to switch fields) or someone who got their PhD and immediately found a job as a staff scientist at Intel?

I don't think this is the point you are trying to make, but it seems obvious to me that the latter is significantly more likely to be posting here. I'm willing to bet the majority of regulars here are physicists and physics students.

The only reason I still post here is to fight that selection bias a bit, because I wish people had been there to give me realistic information when I asked years ago. The APS numbers suggest that many (perhaps most) physics phds transition out of physics- but how many voices are there on the forums that have made such a transition?
 
  • #56
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but how many voices are there on the forums that have made such a transition?
Off the top of my head, there's twofish (who allegedly went into finance willingly), yourself (which if I remember correctly, you passed up a post-doc position in your field willingly, for personal reasons which are obviously respectable but willingly nonetheless), and Locrian who didn't pursue physics grad school in favor of a good industry job, willingly.

I can't think of about as many "regulars" on this forum that studied physics but who were "forced" out of the field.

Also modus, you yourself contradict your claim about selection bias. You aren't in physics and are doing your best to transition into another field, yet are still posting here, right?

I think you're very unlikely to find an ambitious post-doc or unestablished/early career scientist in this forum. They're probably too busy applying for fellowships, jobs, or follow-up post-docs on top of their research in order to stay in the field to be spending time on this forum, where a bulk of the posts are centered around teenagers making up their mind about studying string theory or engineering, undergraduate-level homework assistance requests, and grad school application advice every fall-winter.

Also, it doesn't help that there isn't any quality control when it comes to more serious/mature career advice threads, where high school students feel entitled to advise late phd students on what they should do to get a job. Speaking for myself, if I made it into grad school, my participation in this forum would probably come to a grinding halt especially in the later part of a phd (unless, like many here, I really want to get out of academia and am looking for examples of how to do so). There's a lot to be learned in this forum from the more mature posters but that involves swimming through a lot of silly, uninformed posts that try to pass for advice, and I doubt a busy late phd student or early career scientist has the time or patience to put up with that.
 
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  • #57
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Are you planning on arguing into a substitute for a simply making a poll which figures out the selection bias? I dont think that it is possible to logic your way into this data is possible.

Why focus on that argument as if there isnt an organization that gathers statistics on the outcomes of physics graduates at least for a short time span away from graduation?

Wait. The AIP and BLS gathers such data and the data shows that most people leave the field in that data.
 
  • #58
Student100
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This argument has become nonsensical. It is no longer about the OP’s question but descending into another “Engineering i$ the sh!t, no physics jobs!” thread.

I mean really, the OP’s questions has become 2nd to banter about statistics and job markets. I do hope you realize that stats are pointless; seeing as how they can't account for every variable of why someone might leave academia—or succeed in it— and it’s stupid to believe otherwise.
 
  • #59
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Sure, but you have the engineering career to fall back on. I went all the way through the phd in physics, did extremely well (outside funding in grad school, decent publication record), and ended up doing statistical work for various insurance companies, after a long sting bartending- I'd be happy for a chance to do grunt engineering work, but getting the phd in physics closed that door.

In retrospect, would you have done a PhD in accelerator physics instead of particle physics? Or would you have just majored in engineering from the start? At least, I have the impression you would have done the latter instead of what you did.
 
  • #60
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I mean really, the OP’s questions has become 2nd to banter about statistics and job markets. I do hope you realize that stats are pointless; seeing as how they can't account for every variable of why someone might leave academia—or succeed in it— and it’s stupid to believe otherwise.

I cant be the only scientist that facepalms when slight corrections are taken to trump the general picture statistics give you.

Nothing in science accounts for every effect or variable but that doesnt mean Newtonian mechanics or Maxwells equations arent a decent model for day to day objects.
 
  • #61
Student100
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I cant be the only scientist that facepalms when slight corrections are taken to trump the general picture statistics give you.

Nothing in science accounts for every effect or variable but that doesnt mean Newtonian mechanics or Maxwells equations arent a decent model for day to day objects.

Apples, meet oranges.
 
  • #62
nri
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I'd be happy for a chance to do grunt engineering work, but getting the phd in physics closed that door.

Why don't you get BSc in chosen engineering field via online/evening/part time classes then? You are still young, not poor so you can afford it and you don't need to study whole 4 years (2 maybe?).
 
  • #63
esuna
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Because I assume one with a PhD would be overqualified for entry level engineering positions whether they have a BS in engineering or not ?
 
  • #64
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Apples, meet oranges.

Analogies for illustrating relationships are a common way of explaining things.
 
  • #65
Student100
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Analogies for illustrating relationships are a common way of explaining things.

Even when they're so obviously flawed? That sounds like a poor rhetorical device to me.

Edit: http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i3/air-1-3-apples.html

I just read this paper, your analogy makes perfect sense now. End sarcasm.

Really though, you should probably analyze the difference in what is said, and the differences in job statistics and classical mechanics.
 
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  • #66
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Even when they're so obviously flawed? That sounds like a poor rhetorical device to me.

Edit: http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i3/air-1-3-apples.html

I just read this paper, your analogy makes perfect sense now. End sarcasm.

Really though, you should probably analyze the difference in what is said, and the differences in job statistics and classical mechanics.

The analogy is not flawed if you parse it properly.

Newtonian mechanics is a model for the physical world which does not account for every single detail especially at very small length scale but still captures trends like friction will cause an object to decelerate .

The statistical picture given by the AIP and BLS data gives you general model that doesnt account for every single detail especially in the individual person level but still gives you the general trends like most grads wont stay in the field.

To OP:
I would consider that the insight from ZapperZ and ParticleGrl comes from people who have gone through the PhD process.

I would also consider that people applying to grad school or starting grad school obviously are biased by their expectations whereas people who have gone through the process will be biased by their experience.
 
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