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Physics Job Prospects for Honours Physics Student, Potential Grad School

  1. Jul 23, 2011 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm just about to start university however because of some weird thing with advanced credits because I did IB, I have to declare what I want to take this year. I did a bunch of deliberation and finally settled on an Honours Physics degree. I'm wondering: what kind of job opportunities are available for students who graduate with an B.Sc; would it be a lot better to continue to graduate school/what job opportunities are available for post-docs in physics (lol same question); and finally if i wanted to switch to engineering after my Bachelor's, would taking a Master's suffice or what are my options there?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2011 #2
    There aren't many jobs for just a B.S. in physics. You could teach secondary school. With a masters degree in physics, some people find jobs in industry, usually engineering type jobs. You probably won't have a hard time switching to engineering for a masters, but if you want to go that route I would recommend majoring in engineering as an undergrad. With a phd in physics, you could be a university professor, but this usually requires a few years of post-doc work first. If you really want to do physics and you want the highest job security, don't do something like theoretical physics or astrophysics, as there aren't many jobs in these fields.
  4. Jul 23, 2011 #3


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    You have to be careful when you make such statements. All of the statistics that I've seen show that people with bachelors degrees in physics do quite well compared to other university graduates. They seem to end up about middle of the pack when ranked with engineers, and well above graduates of biology, business, or arts programs.

    What's true is that you won't find many jobs that require exclusively a physics BSc. You will also find that your education has not prepared you for a specific job. Instead you will have a background in problem solving that can be applied to a wide variety of careers. The jobs won't land in your lap though. You'll have to do some looking and potentially even some career-specific training after your degree.
  5. Jul 23, 2011 #4
    Yeah I do agree with that.
  6. Jul 24, 2011 #5
    Alright, thanks for the insights guys. I understand that engineering probably would be a better way to go for job prospects and marketability, however I made the decision a while ago that I want to pursue something I'm really interested in and at the moment I know that's sciences (could change once I get into university which is why I'll switch right into engineering if I can't handle the physics).

    Additionally, I've started to look at this new program my university offers: a joint double honours in Chemistry and Physics "primarily, although not exclusively, for students with a theoretical bias who are interested in working in fields of study at the crossroads of physical chemistry and physics. The program will prepare students for either theoretical or experimental graduate work in departments where there is an emphasis on such cross-disciplinary areas as condensed matter physics, chemical physics, or material science." I've been looking heavily into this now for a few days because it seems the types of fields listed above would have a higher demand for new graduates. If I were to pursue this field and then take a corresponding masters or further grad school in one of, well lets use the given examples, condensed matter physics, chemical physics, or material sciences, is there a fairly high demand/good job prospects for graduates of this field?

    By the way here's the link for reference to the Joint Double Honours: http://www.mcgill.ca/study/2010-201...lor-science-bsc-honours-physics-and-chemistry
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  7. Jul 24, 2011 #6
    By the way I like physics a lot and I like physical chemistry a lot which is the chemistry this program consists of so I think I would find this interesting
  8. Jul 24, 2011 #7
    I'm sorry but this is non-sense.

    The thing about a physics degree is that it is not a "get the degree, get the job" type of degree. You have to get creative about how you use the degree, but that's a good thing because it means that you can move from field to field and go where ever the grass is greener.

    Also, most of the people that I know that just had an undergraduate in physics, went into management consulting.
  9. Jul 24, 2011 #8
    I don't think this is true. One thing problem with "what can I do with a physics degree" is that there isn't a specific job that you can do with physics. However, this is sometimes a good thing, since it gives you more options if the world suddenly changes. So far, I've worked in three different industries, and I'm pretty sure that ten years from now, I'll be doing something different.

    The thing about a physics degree is that it's not a "package tour" type of degree, so you will have to do some extra work to figure out what to do, and you may have to do something creative or strange to put bread on the table. However, that's why I think the degree is cool.

    Impossible to say.

    The problem is that predictions destroy themselves. If everyone says that bottle washing is a great field, then you end up with a ton of people getting degrees in bottle washing, and because everyone got degrees in bottle washing, there is a glut of bottle washers, and not enough jobs. Conversely, if people tell you *don't go into cup washing* then you end up with a shortage of cup washers.

    Something that you can do (and it's useful to have a physics background to do this) is to try to come up with a mathematical model of the job market. At that point, you think about the factors that cause booms and busts to happen. For example, if you have a job in which supply instantly met demand, you wouldn't have a boom/bust. If you have a job market in which demand was decoupled from supply, then you have fluctuations but no boom/bust.

    Now you end up with boom/busts when

    1) the current demand influences supply (i.e. people think that there are jobs in area X so they get degrees in area X), and
    2) there is a time lag between supply and demand.....

    So having a physics degree lets you think about things like the job market
  10. Jul 24, 2011 #9
    Well I disagree. If you have to "get creative about how you use the degree", that's not what I think of when I think job security.
  11. Jul 25, 2011 #10
    What do you think of job security then? Being able to lounge about and pick between jobs that magically fall into your lap? And you said there aren't many jobs for a B.Sc. in Physics, so I'm wondering what exactly is the difference between a job you get by "being creative" and one you get by, well, not being such?
  12. Jul 25, 2011 #11
    I don't think the type of job security that you are talking about exists.

    Your working career is likely to last about forty years, and you look at history, and pick any forty years since the start of the industrial revolution, things change enough that I just don't see any jobs that will let you just sit back and relax.
  13. Jul 25, 2011 #12
    Alright well maybe "job security" isn't the right word here. But what I mean is that it's hard to go through college as a physics major not knowing what you will end up doing. It's a lot different than say being an electrical engineering major, which is a more job-specific major. What I originally meant is that there are few jobs in the actual field of physics for people with just a B.S. in physics.
  14. Jul 25, 2011 #13
    Personally, I think it's better to not know, than to know something that ain't.

    Just because you have a degree in electrical engineering doesn't mean that you are going to end up an electrical engineer.
  15. Jul 27, 2011 #14
    Hey guys thanks for all the information and such you have given me. Just to bring this around though, does anyone have an opinion on my proposed path of double honors in chem and phys?
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