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Physics Is physics an unfair degree?

  1. Sep 23, 2011 #1
    is physics an unfair degree??

    I did some research about career paths of physics majors, and it seems that they can do what ever they want. The most common pathway of fresh graduates is engineering. And they can be titled as electronics, mechanical, software, and even robotics engineer.

    But I know that before they can be titled as, <lets say software programmers>, they still need to take some classes in C++, AI and etc. In other word, they need SKILLS!!!

    I think they (physicists) are the founding fathers of modern technologies. From nanotech to engine to satellite to integrated system (robots) to INTERNET and more.

    So my question is:

    is this true?

    if you say true, then I think i will be very motivated to pursue this degree!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2011 #2


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    Re: is physics an unfair degree??

    I don't know that "unfair" is the word I would use.

    Most people would agree, earning a physics degree is very difficult. It takes a lot of discipline and determination...more than other degrees? Maybe, but I'm not in a position to make that call.

    Having a physics degree means you are trainable. But especially in this economy, employers want to see skills. It's been my experience that employers aren't as willing these days to invest a lot of training time/money in new employees.

    I'd advise any student (but especially physics majors) to keep this in mind as you go through school. Having some immediately marketable skills is a good idea in this job market.
  4. Sep 23, 2011 #3


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    Re: is physics an unfair degree??

    A big component is how you market yourself.

    It's not only that you need marketable skills, but some employers may not even know what type of skills physics majors have. (Most people don't know what goes on in physics classrooms and labs beyond the introductory level.) For instance, you may have picked up a good deal of MATLAB or programing ability during your degree, but your potential employers may not realize that. Keep this in mind when it comes time to write a resume and go to interviews.

    Another thing that is often discounted in science and engineering is one's ability to speak and write. A scientist or engineer that cannot express themselves clearly is no where near as appealing as someone who will clearly be good at interacting with clients, customers, collaborators, etc.

    I do think that a physics degree can prepare one for a job in a variety of different fields. However, the degree is what you make it. So pick good, useful electives! The degree is only useful if you are able to sell it! So, learn how to build a resume, speak clearly, and write well!
  5. Sep 23, 2011 #4
    Re: is physics an unfair degree??

    I fully agree to what lisab and G01 have said! You need to be prepared to explain what you actually know and what are capable of to the "real world" and should constantly try to improve such skills when you work on your PhD.

    Tailoring my skills at that time I finished by PhD to academia I would have said:
    I am specialized in experimental consended matter physics - high temperature superconductors- and in optics / laser physics and I did a bit of theoretical modelling in fluid dynamics of laser ablation processes <Drop some important insider names here: method X, worked with group Y, material Z that nobody except a few experts know>

    But selling what I did to my first employer (national lab, contract research for steel industry) the list of the most important skills rather was the following:
    - I was concerned with optimization of hightec materials and I established standardized processes and "quality control" for the fabrication and characterization of related samples, including a variety of state-of-the art measurement techniques (X-Ray diffraction, electron microsope, electrical properties..) and developing and programming of related experimental setups.
    - I managed a European research projects with partners from industry and academia which included full accountability for reporting, presentations, controlling and negotiations with partners.
  6. Sep 23, 2011 #5
    Re: is physics an unfair degree??

    If you're asking whether a physics degree gives you an unfair advantage over other applicants when it comes time to get a job... let me see if they have a smiley for this...


    Think the other way around.
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