Is Pursuing a Career in Physics the Right Choice for Me?

  • #1
Slimy0233
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I have made a few threads in the past trying to get an informed perspective on whether sticking with Physics would be the best thing for me. Although, some of you have made very helpful comments, I am not sure if leaving Physics would be right path for me. I realize I am not going to be great at it, but I am not sure if the alternative (leaving it) would serve me well. But, I want some information to make a better decision which maybe only this forum can provide. I am a 23 year old man who has dreamed of a career in Physics since he could dream. It's a passion of my life and something which gives my life meaning. But, due to a poor education in a bad university and due to my inability to learn undergraduate Physics in 1.5 years, I now have to reconsider my passion. My passion though fulfilling hasn't lead me to put in intense and consistent concentrated efforts on leaning Physics, I might be able to do it later, but it might be too late already. I am not getting any younger and I need a way to sustain my family and I am not sure if the efforts required to make a career in Physics is worth it for me at this point of time. But, I don't want to regret making a decision to leave Physics, so I have come here again to gather more info that only you could help me with
. I would request you to read my assumptions below and correct me where I am wrong.

What I think of Physics: I feel like it's a spiritual and a fulfilling endeavor when done right. By writing a research paper which is useful, you become part of a continuum which is bigger than yourself. You actually matter somewhat in the grand scheme of things. You have helped humans, who in their essence are just matter and energy understand themselves. It's like the universe trying to understand itself and it's beautiful. But, I was reading a quora article which said most research papers (PhD thesis mostly) aren't worth the paper they are written upon. Is that true? How often do papers get cited and if they don't get cited does that mean, they have been useless? I want/ed to contribute a very small but useful paper to Physics, I am under the impression that it would aid progress of humanity and no matter how small my contribution was, it's a contribution nonetheless. What do you think about this? Also, for those who have a career in academia, how much of your work do actually enjoy, do you think it was worth it (I think ik it was worth it, but I am just asking).


Need not read from here as it might be over your area of expertise, but did most of you have a dream of becoming physicist or did you ever have a different dream which broke so you went into Physics. I might know the answer to this one, No for most of you. Do you have any suggestions to find a meaningful and fulfilling career (I will make another post for this). Thanks a lot for all your help.

Meanwhile, again need not read this, but if you do, tell me if I have any misconceptions about pursuing a career in physics.
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  • #2
Choose something in Engineering. You want to earn an income. Not know your exact setting but some Physics courses should come in along the way.
 
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  • #3
symbolipoint said:
Choose something in Engineering. You want to earn an income. Not know your exact setting but some Physics courses should come in along the way.
Engineering would actually take 4 more years. I mean, I would rather go with a PhD than do engineering tb completely honest. I realize you are trying to help (tq!), but engineering isn't an option to me.

India doesn't have a shortage of engineers, it's filled to the brim with em.
 
  • #4
Slimy0233 said:
Engineering would actually take 4 more years. I mean, I would rather go with a PhD than do engineering tb completely honest. I realize you are trying to help (tq!), but engineering isn't an option to me.

India doesn't have a shortage of engineers, it's filled to the brim with em.
One major goal should be, be able to earn a career-level income in not more than five years from now. If Physics is not this and if Engineering is not this, then another choice should be needed or chosen. Maybe something in Computer Science; or maybe a schooling program geared for Healthcare or Medical Care, not necessarily Medical School.
 
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  • #5
symbolipoint said:
One major goal should be, be able to earn a career-level income in not more than five years from now. If Physics is not this and if Engineering is not this, then another choice should be needed or chosen. Maybe something in Computer Science; or maybe a schooling program geared for Healthcare or Medical Care, not necessarily Medical School.
what do you think about MBA though? Or finance? I would need some challenging and difficult. And I might want to leave my country for good so that my kids won't have to go through what I am going through right now.
 
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  • #6
Slimy0233 said:
what do you think about MBA though? Or finance? I would need some challenging and difficult. And I might want to leave my country for good so that my kids won't have to go through what I am going through right now.
I attempted only to make suggestions based on possible choices being a bit or somewhat related to Physics. Finance could be a good choice ONLY IF you are interested.
 
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  • #7
Slimy0233 said:
I am under the impression that it would aid progress of humanity and no matter how small my contribution was, it's a contribution nonetheless. What do you think about this?
While this is true, it is also true of many other fields of study besides physics. There is nothing particularly unique about physics in this regard.

If this is the reason that you feel drawn to physics then I would encourage you to open your heart to other possibilities. This same sense of contribution is available in many or even most career paths. In a healthcare setting, even the janitors have it.

Slimy0233 said:
Engineering would actually take 4 more years.
Since time is important to you, you should consider immediately getting a job with your existing qualifications. Focus on jobs in healthcare, the building trades, education, and research, all of which offer that sense of contribution to humanity by virtue of the industry, essentially regardless of the specific role you perform.

Be pretty broad in your first search. The main purpose of this first one is not to be your dream job or even your career path. The purpose of this job is to help you learn about yourself, the kind of work you like to do, the things that you don’t like in a job. It is also to get you basic job skills like showing up on time and working hard at an assigned task.

Spend about 6 months just learning to do the job well, then about 3 months thinking about what you like and don’t like. Then start looking for your next job. Take more time in this search. Repeat that a small number of times until you have a better idea of your actual work preferences.

Then based on what you learned about yourself, either start looking for your real career or go back for education, now knowing better what you find fulfilling.

Also, seek medical advice and possible treatment for depression, etc. You have mentioned it a couple of times, but not about treatment. We cannot help with that here, but it is critically important for your well-being.
 
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  • #8
Dale said:
While this is true, it is also true of many other fields of study besides physics. There is nothing particularly unique about physics in this regard.
I don't wish to argue but I feel like Physics is a better endeavor as it is a product of your intellect and in some way your life experience and your perspective, I have different thoughts about a certain topic than you and I think of it a different way than you and when all is said and done different perspectives can bring in different kids of helpful work and that's somewhat interesting to me.

Dale said:
Be pretty broad in your first search. The main purpose of this first one is not to be your dream job or even your career path. The purpose of this job is to help you learn about yourself, the kind of work you like to do, the things that you don’t like in a job. It is also to get you basic job skills like showing up on time and working hard at an assigned task.
Thank you sir! that's a very good advice, which probably will be helpful to me soon.Meanwhile, my friend made me promise that I won't give up on Physics at least for the next 106 days, she has no problem with me giving it up for something better if I do my best and can't succeed, but she thinks I am making up reasons to avoid hardship and I was concerned about that too. I can't avoid hardships, I might just give it a go, not to make her happy, but to make sure that I don't develop a habit of giving up when things get hard. I most probably would be asking for a career option right after 106 days, but I think the time is not now. I wasn't planning on doing it, but not quitting things when stuff gets hard is a good thing.
 
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  • #9
Dale said:
Also, seek medical advice and possible treatment for depression, etc. You have mentioned it a couple of times, but not about treatment. We cannot help with that here, but it is critically important for your well-being.
unfortunately, seeking medical help and possible treatment for depression comes at a pretty hefty price tag which I can't afford.
 
  • #10
When you're over 40, you'll back at yourself at 23 and realize how young you were then. Whilst becoming an adult means making decisions with your life and taking responsibility for those decisions, avoid applying time pressure where you don't need to. The real pressure comes from the opportunity cost of further schooling, and it seems like you have a handle on that... as a graduate student you won't make a lot of money, you won't be paying down a mortgage or putting much money away for retirement.

A lot of what you've written seems to focus on this idea that you'll only find your work meaningful, or make any contribution of value to the world through an academic career in physics. As a couple of counter-examples you could look at a couple of major influencers in the world. Elon Musk... accepted into a PhD program at Stanford, but chose to pursue other opportunities... founded PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, (we won't talk about Twitter)... but certainly has had an impact on the world. Jeff Bezos initially pursued physics at Princeton but gave that up to go the engineering route and founded Amazon, Blue Origin, Altos Labs, etc. Of course those are extreme examples, but the point is that if you limit yourself to a single avenue as the only way you'll ever find personal satisfaction in life, you're placing an unnecessary constraint on ever achieving that.

Something to consider, for example is how "non-physicists" make contributions to physics. You could look at discoveries made by amateur astronomers. In fact here's a list of Canadian citizen-science projects looking for volunteers. Just because you're not a physics professor doesn't mean you can't make a meaningful contribution to the scientific world.

Science is not generally a lone academic person in a room solving equations. It's far more often teams of people working collectively on challenging problems.

Slimy0233 said:
I was reading a quora article which said most research papers (PhD thesis mostly) aren't worth the paper they are written upon. Is that true? How often do papers get cited and if they don't get cited does that mean, they have been useless?
While sure, there is a lot of work that goes uncited, that doesn't mean it's useless. Sometimes a body of work only needs to be citied once for something bigger to be built on it. Sometimes, the bigger point of the exercise is for someone to learn how to do the research, to develop a tool or methodology, or to show that something that should work does not. Or sometimes a paper won't get cited for years, or even decades, because it's ahead of its time, but it later provides the impetus for someone else to make a major discovery or advancement.
 
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  • #11
Slimy0233 said:
I have different thoughts about a certain topic than you and I think of it a different way than you and when all is said and done different perspectives can bring in different kids of helpful work and that's somewhat interesting to me.
Again, this is true of physics, but also true of many other fields.

Slimy0233 said:
unfortunately, seeking medical help and possible treatment for depression comes at a pretty hefty price tag which I can't afford.
If you are clinically depressed then you cannot afford not to seek treatment. However, if you get a job with benefits then that is an additional benefit to taking the immediate work path. I am not sure how common jobs with benefits are in your country.

FYI, my son is smart but lacked direction. He worked in an automobile repair shop, as a janitor in a nursing home, and in the restaurant business. From those jobs he learned what he wants to do and avoid, he learned how to work hard, and he gained basic employment skills. Now he is returning to school with a clear goal and purpose and he is being very successful. There is a huge value to just getting out in the world and doing.
 
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  • #12
Dale said:
FYI, my son is smart but lacked direction. He worked in an automobile repair shop, as a janitor in a nursing home, and in the restaurant business. From those jobs he learned what he wants to do and avoid, he learned how to work hard, and he gained basic employment skills. Now he is returning to school with a clear goal and purpose and he is being very successful. There is a huge value to just getting out in the world and doing.
Interesting, my parents said the same. Meanwhile, thank you for that.

I am not sure if I am clinically depressed or not, it has become a phase of life and I am not sure anymore. Anyways, I might seek a diagnosis from a psychiatrist and then look for directions.
 
  • #13
I've seen a number of your threads but haven't replied in any of them. Several of your threads contain sentiments similar to the following:
Slimy0233 said:
I am a 23 year old man who has dreamed of a career in Physics since he could dream.

Slimy0233 said:
It's a passion of my life and something which gives my life meaning.

Slimy0233 said:
My passion though fulfilling hasn't lead me to put in intense and consistent concentrated efforts on leaning Physics
Which should tell you that passion and dreams don't get the job done...

Slimy0233 said:
I feel like it's a spiritual and a fulfilling endeavor when done right.

Earlier this year you set a goal for yourself that several people told you was unrealistic; i.e., attaining the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in eight months. Some of the people who were skeptical of your plan asked if you had a Plan B, which you didn't have. IMO, it's time to stop following your feelings and start paying attention to reality.
 
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  • #14
Choppy said:
When you're over 40, you'll back at yourself at 23 and realize how young you were then. Whilst becoming an adult means making decisions with your life and taking responsibility for those decisions, avoid applying time pressure where you don't need to.
All these years I have rejected the wisdom of those 40 year olds but not now. The reason I am asking so many questions is because I want to know if I gonna regret leaving what I think is the only meaning I have for my life. At the meantime I am not sure if the struggle is going to be worth it.
Choppy said:
A lot of what you've written seems to focus on this idea that you'll only find your work meaningful, or make any contribution of value to the world through an academic career in physics.
I get a sense of purity from this that I don't get from any other endeavor.
Choppy said:
Of course those are extreme examples, but the point is that if you limit yourself to a single avenue as the only way you'll ever find personal satisfaction in life, you're placing an unnecessary constraint on ever achieving that.
That is true!
Choppy said:
Something to consider, for example is how "non-physicists" make contributions to physics. You could look at discoveries made by amateur astronomers. In fact here's a list of Canadian citizen-science projects looking for volunteers. Just because you're not a physics professor doesn't mean you can't make a meaningful contribution to the scientific world.
Thank you! I and my best friend who is also interested in Physics were chuckling about buying a "big freaking telescope" and being amateur astronomers in our free time. He already has a small telescope, so yeah! This is a meaningful avenue and I am pretty sure I will try to do this.
Choppy said:
While sure, there is a lot of work that goes uncited, that doesn't mean it's useless. Sometimes a body of work only needs to be citied once for something bigger to be built on it. Sometimes, the bigger point of the exercise is for someone to learn how to do the research, to develop a tool or methodology, or to show that something that should work does not. Or sometimes a paper won't get cited for years, or even decades, because it's ahead of its time, but it later provides the impetus for someone else to make a major discovery or advancement.
I must thank you! your answer was really helpful!
 
  • #15
Slimy0233 said:
what I think is the only meaning I have for my life
That is a dangerous falsehood. Physics is not the only meaning you have for your life. You need to get rid of that nonsense from your mind entirely. Such a narrow view of self and life is both false and harmful.
 
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  • #16
Dale said:
That is a dangerous falsehood. Physics is not the only meaning you have for your life. You need to get rid of that nonsense from your mind entirely. Such a narrow view of self and life is both false and harmful.
That is why the strong suggestion of hurrying your thinking into "learn something useful as soon as possible" so you could "find employment" soon after that. I suggested Engineering but you are aware the trouble with this as it means you would then try to enter a over-supplied market.

Very basically I also made the strong suggestion to choose something useful, important, which may be related to Physics or relies on some principles of Physics.

slimy0233,
remind us again, what courses have you succeeded in so far, and what skills you have. And on reflecting within yourself, outside of PHYSICS, what do you believe are jobs you may like to prepare for? I mean, outside of just something dedicated to Physics?
 
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  • #17
Slimy0233 said:
who has dreamed of a career in Physics since he could dream.
Drama is not your friend.

Earlier, you complained about "unfairness". You had a shot, and you squandered it. Now you want another. And since the number of slots in graduate school is limited, for you to get a second shot means someone else - who has likely performed better - doesn't get their first shot. Your beef isn't with the aspects of life that are not fair. Your beef is with the aspects that are.

Slimy0233 said:
my passion
The word "passion" comes from a Latin word meaning
to suffer". I see no suffering. I see someone who watches a bunch of YouTube videos and the complains that this isn't advancing them along the path.

If you were truly passionate, you would do whatever it takes. Instead, every time you get advice on where you need to do differently and better, you argue and argue and argue. It's time we put something to bed: you have continually made plans that require that you learn an order of magnitude faster than anyone else. You even see it in this thread. ("Four years to learn how to be an engineer? Too much!") This would require you to not just be smart, but the smartest person who has ever lived. Even your avatar is a fictional character who is literally inhumanly smart.

So long as you make plans under this assumption, you will fail.

Your choices are to either give up this unrealistic worldview, or continue to fail. Your choice.
 
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  • #18
Er ... The OP had one thread, which was closed by @berkeman over concerns for the OP's mental health; that further discussion might be detrimental. The OP then started a second related thread, which has been paused by @berkeman for moderation. We now have a third related thread started by the OP. Is it wise to continue like this?
 
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  • #19
Slimy0233 said:
Engineering would actually take 4 more years. I mean, I would rather go with a PhD than do engineering tb completely honest. I realize you are trying to help (tq!), but engineering isn't an option to me.

India doesn't have a shortage of engineers, it's filled to the brim with em.
Data Analytics /Programming will likely get you a job to support yourself and you can study Physics in your free time until you master it. After which you can aim for your Physics graduate degree.
 
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  • #20
CrysPhys said:
Er ... The OP had one thread, which was closed by @berkeman over concerns for the OP's mental health; that further discussion might be detrimental. The OP then started a second related thread, which has been paused by @berkeman for moderation. We now have a third related thread started by the OP. Is it wise to continue like this?
Yeah, I told them that we'd allow one last thread if it focused only on alternatives (the "Plan B" that they had neglected). Let's try to focus on that, and we'll see how it goes.
 
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  • #21
berkeman said:
Yeah, I told them that we'd allow one last thread if it focused only on alternatives (the "Plan B" that they had neglected). Let's try to focus on that, and we'll see how it goes.
OK. Thanks for the clarification.
 
  • #22
Mark44 said:
Some of the people who were skeptical of your plan asked if you had a Plan B, which you didn't have. IMO, it's time to stop following your feelings and start paying attention to reality.
I realize this sir, but I see so many examples of people who are rich and yet miserable and I don't want to end up like them. I did not have a plan B because it's my nature that when I have a plan B I won't focus on plan A.
 
  • #23
symbolipoint said:
remind us again, what courses have you succeeded in so far, and what skills you have. And on reflecting within yourself, outside of PHYSICS, what do you believe are jobs you may like to prepare for?
My bachelor's degree was on Maths, Physics and Computer Science. I am actually thinking of doing an MBA because I think money might buy me happiness and apparently consulting maybe worth it. I have few friends who abandoned their STEM dreams and then got into stuff which they didn't like at first but liked later and they won't have traded it back for a STEM job now even if they could.

I feel I am of a different nature (I do not know and I don't have the time to explore right now). I am not sure I would be happy with it and that's what I want to find out before I bid Physics good bye.
 
  • #24
Slimy0233 said:
I realize this sir, but I see so many examples of people who are rich and yet miserable and I don't want to end up like them. I did not have a plan B because it's my nature that when I have a plan B I won't focus on plan A.
To be realistic, you must have a plan that will work. If that means choosing a plan A AND a plan B, then you must choose them. You must decide on both of these, because you are running out of time. Maybe you need to begin your plan B, NOW.
 
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  • #25
Dale said:
That is a dangerous falsehood. Physics is not the only meaning you have for your life. You need to get rid of that nonsense from your mind entirely. Such a narrow view of self and life is both false and harmful.
I beg you to write as much about it as you can, I realize it's a big ask. I really want to know more about this. I want to get rid of that and I want to learn to do something which I would find meaningful.
 
  • #26
Slimy0233 said:
I beg you to write as much about it as you can, I realize it's a big ask. I really want to know more about this. I want to get rid of that and I want to learn to do something which I would find meaningful.
So you want something meaningful to study, be trained for, to do. How to think is this:
  • You cannot rely on your plan A - Physics.
  • You cannot rely on your parents' support for your whole life. One day one or both will be sick or dead; unfortunate but that usually happens.
  • You must become educated, trained, and employable within about 4 or 5 years so you can earn an income. But you are he who must decide what do you want to be able to do for a job; what skills will you be using; what equipment will you know how to use; what things will you need to know how to do as a way to earn an income.
 
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  • #27
Vanadium 50 said:
If you were truly passionate, you would do whatever it takes. Instead, every time you get advice on where you need to do differently and better, you argue and argue and argue. It's time we put something to bed: you have continually made plans that require that you learn an order of magnitude faster than anyone else. You even see it in this thread. ("Four years to learn how to be an engineer? Too much!") This would require you to not just be smart, but the smartest person who has ever lived. Even your avatar is a fictional character who is literally inhumanly smart.
I actually require clarification if or not to do whatever it takes. The main question infront of me is "Should I run after money and abandon Physics or Should I follow my passion because it might give me happiness someday.

I can learn Physics in the next two years, do a masters in the other two and I would get a seat in a paid PhD program and everything I do next would be paid, it's better than doing engineering for 4 years and getting into an insanely crowded job market.
Vanadium 50 said:
Even your avatar is a fictional character who is literally inhumanly smart.
Ohh... I actually didn't choose it for that. I am not inhumanly smart and I can't be. I choose it because I want to accept what I do not know and not be ashamed by it.

1698464795496.png

Also, just want you to know, I am not arguing because I want to argue. I am arguing because I myself don't know what to do and am looking for directions.
 
  • #28
Vanadium 50 said:
The word "passion" comes from a Latin word meaning
to suffer". I see no suffering.
I am suffering but not in the right way. I don't watch youtube videos and complain. All these days I have been trying to understand what I was doing, I wanted to understand the concept of gradient before I put in values into the formula and just calculate it. I wanted to know the Physical interpretation and applications of everything I have been learning and that somewhat messed me up.
 
  • #29
Slimy0233 said:
I actually require clarification if or not to do whatever it takes. The main question infront of me is "Should I run after money and abandon Physics or Should I follow my passion because it might give me happiness someday.

I can learn Physics in the next two years, do a masters in the other two and I would get a seat in a paid PhD program and everything I do next would be paid, it's better than doing engineering for 4 years and getting into an insanely crowded job market.

Ohh... I actually didn't choose it for that. I am not inhumanly smart and I can't be. I choose it because I want to accept what I do not know and not be ashamed by it.

View attachment 334360
Also, just want you to know, I am not arguing because I want to argue. I am arguing because I myself don't know what to do and am looking for directions.
I suggested to you a middle of the road approach. You're likely to be able to get a data job with your skills.
Take it and while at it, do your Physics on your free time, until you've became good enough to transition into a Physics degree or something else.
 
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  • #30
Slimy0233 said:
All these days I have been trying to understand what I was doing, I wanted to understand the concept of gradient before I put in values into the formula and just calculate it. I wanted to know the Physical interpretation and applications of everything I have been learning and that somewhat messed me up.
That is why previously I suggested Engineering for you, since some Physics courses should come along with the flow of the program. Engineering has insufficient appeal to you because "4 more years". I do not know specifically at the moment what to suggest as plans B, C, etc.

A further question to you is: What is your region or district or county hurting for? Could this become possible plan B or plan C, for you?
 
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  • #31
symbolipoint said:
What is your region or district or county hurting for? Could this become possible plan B or plan C, for you?
I am sorry, I don't get that.

Meanwhile I think I know what I might want to do. I might want to go into an MBA and do something Physics related. I am not sure how this is going to workout but I feel like it's a meaningful thing for me to do. I don't know if I will stick with this, I hope I will.

I feel like I want to do something big and engineering (although I love the concept) will bring me more suffering especially if I do it in India. Let's say what I can do about that.
 
  • #32
WWGD said:
I suggested to you a middle of the road approach. You're likely to be able to get a data job with your skills.
I am feeling like that can be helpful! I am going to do something related to data too. I think I am going to prepare for an MBA and I like the way I am feeling about that right now. I am not sure as of now, but I am sure enough.
 
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  • #33
Slimy0233 said:
I am feeling like that can be helpful! I am going to do something related to data too. I think I am going to prepare for an MBA and I like the way I am feeling about that right now. I am not sure as of now, but I am sure enough.
Well, look at your Avatar ;).
 
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  • #34
Slimy0233 said:
what do you think about MBA though? Or finance? I would need some challenging and difficult. And I might want to leave my country for good so that my kids won't have to go through what I am going through right now.
I'm in the US. I don't know what the job market in India is. But I'll chime in since you mentioned that you might want to leave India.

* MBA. I'm a physicist, but I have 4 MBA's in my family. At least in the US, getting an MBA is a good step for career advancement after you have already been employed for several years. That is, you already have work experience as a staff member, maybe some preliminary managerial experience, and know that you want to advance to a managerial position. Some of the top business schools here won't even consider you for admission unless you have ~3 - 5 yrs work experience. You should check carefully the situation in India.

* Finance. This might be a good path out for you. I'm a volunteer English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor. One of my students is a financial analyst who recently immigrated to the US from China. He seamlessly transitioned to a job as a financial analyst for a US branch of a Chinese bank. You should look at which Indian banks or other financial institutions have branches in the US or other countries you might be interested in relocating to.
 
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  • #35
Slimy0233 said:
The main question infront of me is "Should I run after money and abandon Physics or Should I follow my passion because it might give me happiness someday.
What you should abandon is this "follow my passion" bilge. It's very clear from the dichotomy that I quoted that running after money = bad while "follow my passion" = good. It's very easy to disparage "run after money" when you're being supported by someone else. From what you wrote about your father's failing health, you might not be able to run through daddy's money much longer.

You're 23 now. Have you ever had a job (one for which you were paid)?
 
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