Is Physics Worth Pursuing Given Financial Responsibilities?

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In summary, it seems that the OP should definitely pursue a physics degree, as it will provide him with a lot of opportunities and financial stability. However, he should not let his narrow self-image limit his options or his happiness.
  • #1
CuriousGuy33
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I am planning to take undergrad physics but I am concerned about the pay scale of physicists. Since I am the leader of my family (after my father), I will be financially supporting my family soon as my father retires (we have a family system). I also will have my wife and children. The reason I am telling this is to make it clear how desperately I will need money in the coming 6-10 years. The issue I'm facing is that I can't envision myself studying any subject other than physics. I am also interested in computer science, but my long-term goals lie in the field of physics.

So my question is "Should I go for short-term financial stability or long-term satisfaction?"

Although I am certain that this thread may not benefit a large number of individuals, it is possible that there is someone facing a similar situation to mine who can find value in reading this.

Ps: After grappling with this decision for a year and a half, I have been unable to reach a resolution, resulting in heightened anxiety. Consequently, I find myself lacking the capacity to think critically.
 
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  • #2
CuriousGuy33 said:
I can't envision myself studying any subject other than physics
Seems like you should expand your vision of yourself. Such a narrow self-image is unlikely to be conducive to “long term satisfaction” even if you do wind up in physics.
 
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  • #3
It seems you're making a lot of assumptions and ultimately forcing yourself into a false dichotomy.

It is true that if you choose to pursue physics all the way to a PhD, starting from undergrad you're looking at a decade of dedication and frugal living. That's the way it is for students. And if you pursue academia you're going to follow that with post-doctoral work. You're also going to need geographical flexibility. The more you specialize, the more you have to go where the work is. If you have family responsibilities, this now becomes an N-body problem.

But studying physics does not mean you're doomed to be broke for the rest of your life.
You can check out some data on the matter from the AIP here:
https://www.aip.org/statistics/employment

There are a lot of career path options for physics graduates, and the bottom line is that these students can go on an have quite lucrative, personally meaningful and satisfying careers.
 
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  • #4
The OP's profile says he's from Afghanistan. I for one do not know the physics and educational situations in Afganistan, other than that is likely very different from, say, the US or Switzerland.
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
The OP's profile says he's from Afghanistan. I for one do not know the physics and educational situations in Afganistan, other than that is likely very different from, say, the US or Switzerland.
The OP is better able to truly understand and answer his own question than nearly anyone else here on PF.

CuriousGuy33 said:
Since I am the leader of my family (after my father), I will be financially supporting my family soon as my father retires (we have a family system). I also will have my wife and children.
Suppose, @CuriousGuy33 that you do not pursue physics. What is your alternative? Will it provide support for your family?
 
  • #6
We just don't know. The fact that pretty much anyone with a physics degree can live a middle-class lifestyle in the US tells us little about Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, they may live like kings. Or be first against the wall when the revolution comes. Or both. We just don't know.
 
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  • #7
There are many people studying subjects that they do not specialise in as a career, so an alternative way to think about it is how transferable are the skills. I would consider any quantitative subject such as physics would make most quantitative careers easier. This includes more heavily quantitative finance, but also something like accounting, actuarial, fund management or more technically complex law (intellectual property perhaps). One thing I do recall is a friend who read mathematics as an undergraduate. He found the quantitative analysis fairly easy, but the more qualitative analysis harder. He developed his wider skills on the job, having shown that he was an intelligent person who could learn new skills. I would encourage people to be wary of refusing to consider happiness only comes in one career. In particular, mathematics and physics looks to me (as being neither) as a very pure and narrow skill-set, which can offer intellectual delights, but if you find that you have a broader range of skills then you might maximise your happiness (and earning capacity) by utilising the most skills and personality traits that you have. As an example, I think a fair few mathematics and physics graduates become actuaries, but where some can fall down is at more senior positions where quantitative skills become less important and there is greater focus on managing people, processes and client relationship management (and it pays well, I understand).

One thing that would help is if you consider what possible future careers you might consider outside of/ in addition to physics and then use summer holidays to get work experience. You might not aspire to be an accountant, but you might find the mathematics is fairly easy after three years of physics, that there is a wider range of skills required that you also have and that many physicists do not have, and then you find that being the CFO of Lockheed Martin is actually quite appealing instead of a scientist. It may be that physicists will unlock the secrets of the universe, but it will be an accountant and lawyer who tells them what to do with the secrets and banker that sells the secrets to their clients.
 
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