Job Advice Question: Physics PhD

In summary, the physics PhD holder is unsuccessful in getting a job in engineering. He or she would be happy with any job that is even remotely technical in nature. Teaching certificates might be a good idea if one desires a lower paying job. Local teaching jobs might be a good place to start.
  • #1
Djf321
6
0
So I have a PhD in physics specializing in experimental soft matter physics/optics, and I have been unsuccessfully trying to get a job now for 9 months. I've been applying to engineering positions all of which I was very experienced in, but I can't even get a single interview (not even with a recruiter).

Previously I was able to get an engineering/computer programming job in industry after 8 months of trying, but I am thinking of giving up at this point as this might have been a fluke occurrence. Really at this point I would be happy with any job that is even remotely technical in nature.

What I want to know is what kind of jobs can I get now that I have a physics PhD and no chance of a job in academia? So far most of what I have been reading has been hearsay from what I am assuming are engineers or people with no real personal experience with this. Can someone else in a similar camp as me tell me about their experiences job hunting? And specifically, what job titles are actually hiring physics PhDs, because in my experience engineering jobs seem virtually impossible to get (bizarre since this is what I was trained to do)?

The only jobs that seem slightly interested in me have been private high school physics teaching jobs, but they are all surprisingly low paying. And I am not sure if spending 2 years to get a teaching certificate is a good idea as I read somewhere that physics PhDs have a hard time landing public school teaching jobs (although I don't really know if this true or not). I'd like for someone with a BS or PhD in physics to weigh in on this.
 
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  • #2
Getting a job you want is always easier if you have a job.

Why not apply for local teaching jobs (community colleges, lower tier unis, etc.) and at least be gainfully employed while applying for the higher paying jobs you desire more? Often the local physics depts do not employ nearly as many teachers as the local math depts, so if you are willing to apply for the math jobs also, you will greatly improve your chances.
 
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  • #3
To the OP:

How long has it been since you have completed your PhD in physics? Are you not able to reach out to say past PhD graduates who did not go into academia (and did not end up in secondary school teaching jobs) to find out where they are employed and network with them?

Also, you have said nothing about where you are located, where you have completed your PhD, or in what locations have you been applying for jobs.
 
  • #4
Djf321 said:
I've been applying to engineering positions all of which I was very experienced in...

...what job titles are actually hiring physics PhDs, because in my experience engineering jobs seem virtually impossible to get (bizarre since this is what I was trained to do)?
This is confusing to me (what training in engineerind did you have? You only said physics) perhaps because you have listed an incomplete picture of your experience, but to repeat what I just told someone else in another thread:

If a hiring manager asks for an engineer in a job posting they are more likely to hire an engineer than a physicsist.

This should not be found bizarre.
 
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  • #5
russ_watters said:
This is confusing to me (what training in engineerind did you have? You only said physics) perhaps because you have listed an incomplete picture of your experience, but to repeat what I just told someone else in another thread:

If a hiring manager asks for an engineer in a job posting they are more likely to hire an engineer than a physicsist.

This should not be found bizarre.

This is bizarre that people would ask what training an experimental physicist could have in engineering as if there is huge amounts of separation between the two (depending on the field of course).
 
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  • #6
clope023 said:
This is bizarre that people would ask what training an experimental physicist could have in engineering as if there is huge amounts of separation between the two (depending on the field of course).
Physics and engineering are related, but they are not the same. The OP specifically said engineering training.
 
  • #7
russ_watters said:
Ok, so I'm sensing that the answer is that you don't have any specific training in engineering, but rather assume your physics training is equivalent? It isn't.

It isn't that simple as you're making it out to be. I don't know about the OP, but I myself studied both and yes the physicist isn't as trained in design and such like but considering graduate school the experiences of the physicist and the engineer isn't so different as a hard and fast rule, just look at ZapperZ's thread about accelerator physics.
 
  • #8
clope023 said:
It isn't that simple as you're making it out to be. I don't know about the OP, but I myself studied both and yes the physicist isn't as trained in design and such like but considering graduate school the experiences of the physicist and the engineer isn't so different as a hard and fast rule, just look at ZapperZ's thread about accelerator physics.
Note, I rewrote that post after I realized you were not the OP...

I was giving the benefit of the doubt in my first post by not assuming the OP incorrectly believed he had engineering training if he doesn't. Why this matters is that it is a potential explanation for why he's having trouble finding a job; there may be gap between what employers are asking for and what he is offering. Or even worse, an accidental misrepresentation.
 
  • #9
russ_watters said:
Note, I rewrote that post after I realized you were not the OP...

I was giving the benefit of the doubt in my first post by not assuming the OP incorrectly believed he had engineering training if he doesn't. Why this matters is that it is a potential explanation for why he's having trouble finding a job; there may be gap between what employers are asking for and what he is offering. Or even worse, an accidental misrepresentation.

These are valid concerns, but I've been on the job search recently myself and I've found many engineering jobs list physics as an acceptable field of study to pull engineering candidates from, especially in a field like optics (though that can be highly specific and out of the breadth of lots of physicists too).
 
  • #10
1) I'd examine your job search methodology. Are you replying to ads? Studies show that nearly 60% of job applicants who land jobs had a personal contact or experience within their new employer. These days it's all about networking.
2) Employers typically want to know that you have the skills needed to do the job, and it's particularly true for engineering jobs. Have you shown how you have competence and skills needed for the job?
3) If your background doesn't cover the needed skills, you may need to take a course and/or prepare on your own. If you are applying for a job in 5G mobile wireless engineering, you'll be more attractive if you list relevant extension or MIT OCW courses and say "have written Matlab simulation of end-to-end data and error rates for LTE waveforms with urban multipath scattering propagation model" compared to "physicist with graduate E&M course study and strong math skills." Your experimental physicist's ability to study systems and attack arbitrary new problems, coupled with that relevance, then amounts to something.
4) My observation is that start-ups are stretched for resources and are often willing to take someone lacking a specific skill if they are generalists who can wear many hats and jump onto any task that arises. Large companies want someone whose already demonstrated competence in the specific area of need. You might search out start ups.
 
  • #11
Are you applying for R&D positions to which your thesis is relevant? Or are you applying to entry level positions?
 

Related to Job Advice Question: Physics PhD

1. What kind of job opportunities are available for someone with a Physics PhD?

There are a variety of job options available for individuals with a Physics PhD. Some common career paths include academia, research and development, industry, consulting, and government work. Many physics PhDs also go on to work in fields such as finance, data science, and engineering.

2. Is it necessary to have a postdoctoral position after completing a Physics PhD?

Although it is not required to have a postdoctoral position after obtaining a Physics PhD, it can be beneficial for gaining more research experience and strengthening your skills. Postdoctoral positions can also help build your professional network and make you a more competitive candidate for future job opportunities.

3. What skills do I need to develop during my PhD to be successful in the job market?

Aside from technical knowledge in physics, it is important to develop skills in communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and project management during your PhD. These skills are highly valued by employers and are transferable to a variety of industries.

4. How can I prepare for a non-academic job while pursuing my Physics PhD?

To prepare for a non-academic job, it is important to gain experience outside of your research through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering. You can also participate in workshops or seminars to develop skills such as data analysis, programming, and project management. Networking is also crucial for exploring different career options and finding job opportunities.

5. What resources are available for job searching as a Physics PhD?

There are many resources available for job searching as a Physics PhD. Some useful platforms include job search engines such as Indeed or Glassdoor, professional networking websites like LinkedIn, and university career services. It can also be beneficial to attend career fairs and conferences related to your field and connect with professionals in your desired industry.

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