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Is job of physicist even a "realistic" expectation?

  1. Apr 19, 2015 #1

    I am really really stuck on my life-decision (look at my previous posts). I do REALLY LOVE PHYSICS A LOT. I want to be able to work in the next big thing - Quantum Computation, Theory Of Everything and so on. I am passionate about physics it grabs my interest straight away.

    I am only 15, I program (even made money out of it..:D) in various languages: C, C++, Assembly, Python. I understand differential calculus pretty well (trying to learn integral calculus right now though) and read a lot of physics books & listen to lectures of physics and I made few simulation Cellular Automata game (like powder toy...). I am not boasting my own trumpets here but just showing how much LOVE for physics I have. I also regularly read cellular automata papers on Arxiv. I am even planning on writing one.

    I have also just few days back emailed few professors, about taking me for in for helping or to join out-reach programs and also have sent mails to sign up for physics talks. As you see I am dead interested in Physics and research in general.

    I do want to follow my dream of being a top-physicist of the generation and so on, but I am concerned about the future for me. I have heard not only from parent (who graduated in Geochemistry but are in radically different field to it, finance.) that doing physics and other sciences is unlikely to take you very far in life in terms of financial stability and even finding a job. I'll be honest, money also is concerning for me mainly because I was not blessed with vast wealth - I am from a middle class family so money is pretty important as I know about its importance to enjoy life (though others may disagree..). On the other hand, according to Michio Kaku blog he says that physics will become less populated due to professors and other researchers retiring. This is coming from a very credible man.

    Next, for example I could even be doing Neurosurgery (I have good enough grades... and know connections) but the problem is I do not love is as much as Physics, I don't mind it but I don't LOVE it either (just like most doctors). I just find it a little interesting. Not to mention, if I say "I am a neurosurgeon" most people would freak out and have tremendous respect for me and the pay is incredibly high enough to be living a cushy life with Lambourginis and other such luxuries.

    I don't just want to be a average worker, I want to be the best in the field and win notable awards and so on basically I want to do something great... (some of you may laugh).

    If so what are the prospects of doing research with moderately high income in physics? What field in physics are very popular and highly paid in today's market $200k+ or is it just impossible?

    Is it very unlikely to get just a job? Is physics as interesting for you still as when you started it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2015 #2
    If I may ask, what are your true motives here? Do you want to pursue physics because you're interested or even passionate about it? Then why is a $200k salary and notable awards even in the equation? If you're looking for money and fame, there are easier ways. Financial stability doesn't require a $200k paycheck and a successful and satisfying job doesn't require a very popular field of physics or the winning of awards. If you want a job with a physics degree doing some kind of physics, you will likely be able to find your path if you keep going with an open mind. If you enter a career for the wrong reasons with unrealistic expectations, you'll be disappointed regardless of what field you choose.
  4. Apr 19, 2015 #3

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    Additionally, I think you should wait to make this decision.

    • You're 15. You don't even need to decide what to major in for 4 or 5 years.
    • No career is guaranteed, least of all one in science. No matter what the career, is entirely possible that once you start down a particular path that you discover you're just not any good at it.
    • If you think Michio Kaku is credible, you have a lot to learn.
    • If you enter a career because you think people will be impressed by it, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
    • If you will only enter a field if you think you can be the absolute best in the world at it, you are doing it for the wrong reasons, and will also very likely will end up disappointed.
  5. Apr 19, 2015 #4
    Do what you like to do. No one can tell you in 10 years, which is about the time you could be finishing your Doctorate PhD or otherwise what opportunities will be available in Physics or in what branch of Physics. We will always need good physicians. When I was an undergraduate I remember discussions with classmates about money. We felt that it was not our main concern we loved what we were doing and were hoping to be able to put ourselves into a position so that we could continue to do so. I think we did. Not rich but a rewarding life none the less. Not all ended up doing what they had originally planned including me. but we did what we could to put something together that still resulted in rewarding careers.

    You seem sharp so you could hedge a bit and do a physics major with a pre-med minor. This would be challenging for the average good student but in seven years or sooner you could make a choice about a PhD or MD. By that time you will have a lot more information from which to make a reasonable choice.
    You still have a lot to learn about yourself including what you really want.
  6. Apr 19, 2015 #5
    Hey guys,

    I think you guys got wrong understanding of what I mean.

    I am not saying I am going to be the best, but I wish I could to be the best in the field and do something exciting and I know it may not ever be a reality but the thing is I love the subject and I want to work and strive to be the best in the field because of my interest. Next, as for the other questions - at this age (15) the world is all a bubble with safety catch nets and other such things but - I do not want to grow up and take a subject (which I truly LOVEEE!!) but not get a job in it due to economy or other such factors. I love the subject a lot - I spend a lot of my time learning and imagining about wonders of science, but you gotta see the world in the more pessimistic way as well because I do not want to get to the stage where I am pretty much broke and having to suffer and so on and I've seen it in the countries I originate from so I am a little more cautions than most people. As much as money does not affect me, it does after all matter in the real-world for example - Families (Obviously I do not want kids to be suffering), Happiness (To be able to afford things we want, sometimes love is just not enough), Respect (It is also important to be looked well by our society), etc.

    Next, I agree Michio Kaku may not be the most reliable person (let alone even a good physicist) but a lot of people do seem to refer to his articles due to his popularity but I guess I was wrong, Sorry guys. :D

    Respect does help especially in different countries and various families, mainly for influence and other such regional support. It is not my biggest concern but still worth mentioning due to the culture and beliefs I was grown up in.

    I LOVE physics (look at how much time I spent doing physics related things, I truly love it) and thus my dilemma because on other hand I do not want to take a chance to loose the enjoyment of life for unemployment or to go towards something that moderately interests me but not too much and earn a high amount, - I want to enjoy my work but on other hand also want to be aware of the realistic world - Finances and so on.

    so please keep this mind before answering my question please, thinking about different cultured perspective of the world is also important; so please refer to my circumstances as well.
  7. Apr 19, 2015 #6


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    I did a Google search for "physics faculty salaries". One of the first hits was a link to a table of average salaries at the University of Colorado - Boulder, which is a well-respected public institution, probably in the second tier below "elite" level.
    • Assistant professors (generally 0-6 years experience): about $83k.
    • Associate professors (generally 7-14 years): about about $92k.
    • Full professors (generally 15+ years): about $137k.
    http://www.colorado.edu/pba/facstaff/facsal/2014-2015/displayAas.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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