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Job Market for Physicists

  1. May 2, 2013 #1
    Im considering a career in Theoretical Physics. In terms of jobs what opportunities would I have after my Bachelors , my Masters and then after my PHD. What is the most typical pattern followed by most people going into physics? Job after Masters or before it? and what is the future like for theoretical physics? After reading through quite a lot of posts , Ive got this mindset of folks with a Physics degree begging for jobs and regretting their choice? I'm not one for the money but i'll obviously need to feed a family so what should someone like myself do and what options do I have?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2013 #2
    I think most people on this board are more optimistic than me, so keep that in mind.

    Most people enter physics to get a PhD. Most dont make it that far, but those that do have good to great job prospects, depending on what they did for their research. Most do not become professors or professional physicists though.

    If you dont get a PhD you will want to do some kind of grad school. Something in electrical engineering or computer science is a natural choice for a physics BS grad. With just a BS you will not have many options. Teach for America is one place that hires unskilled physics BS grads. Otherwise, you will need to heavily rely on skills gained in undergrad research to be marketable.
  4. May 2, 2013 #3
    so would it be advisable to do engineering and physics in your undergrad years? What's the safest plan of action for a person who ultimately wants to land a PHD in physics?
  5. May 2, 2013 #4
    This does sound daunting, I must say. Has it always been this way, or is this state of affairs mostly caused by the everlasting recession?
  6. May 2, 2013 #5

    Tell me about it
  7. May 2, 2013 #6
    Really? Compared to what? There no such thing as a guaranteed path to a career. But doing a physics BS for academic knowledge and then a MS for specific job related skills is a pretty good bet. This should only take 6-8 years and you will likely be making more right out of college than the median US household income.

    I dont think this is a function of the recession. I think its a function of the third world becoming the developing world and the increase in college graduates (at home and abroad).
  8. May 2, 2013 #7
  9. May 2, 2013 #8
    Depending on the industry a physics bachelors might have even better opportunities than the engineering bachelors due to their varied background and if they have experience in simulations than all the better. When I went to my first job/career fair conference Lockheed Martin screen for physics majors explicitly for their systems engineering offices in Orlando, this might've been a function of the fact that their manager there had a physics background but still. Physics majors were getting plenty of internships from NASA at that conference too.
    Generally the engineering major has alot more opportunities than the physics major because he's taught skills directly applicable to industry in their classes vs the physics major who's mainly taught lots of sophisticated ways to use maths in only ideal situations (no such thing as infinitely long, uniformly charged cylinders in the real world I'm afraid).
    What alot of physics or math majors do is finish their bachelors and than do masters in electrical, mechanical, or nuclear engineering and that tends to be pretty lucrative. A masters in physics will not be so advantageous unless its in something like engineering or applied physics where the program has some connection to industry (UT dallas applied physics program is one).
    Usually for the physicist the masters is either a terminal degree for the person who couldn't finish the phd or is part of a program where the person's undergrad credentials couldn't get them into a phd program so they do a masters to beef up their resume.
    You'll probably see the max earning potential out of a purely physics oriented career from the Phd. I'm just an undergrad mind you, but I've read up on this alot, YMMV.
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