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Job to Pursue while Majoring in Physics?

  1. Jul 11, 2013 #1
    I am a non traditional student, 28 year high school dropout, who is starting on my third year of college majoring in astrophysics with the intention of earning a minimum of a masters either in physics or engineering. I am also going on my 7th year as a bicycle mechanic. I used to love my job but have grown tired of it to say the least. I make 15 hourly with benefits and enough flexibility to earn full time salary while taking 2-4 classes per semester.

    I am pretty sure I already know the answer to this but.... are there any science related jobs that I might want to consider while I am still working towards my first degree? I am married and have a mortgage so I can't take much in the way of salary decrease...but I am desperate to get out of my current field of work asap. Is is emotionally draining to have become so bored with my job and I can't stand thinking about what else I might be accomplishing with these 8 hour work days.

    Any thoughts or experience shared is appreciated :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2013 #2


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    It depends on your area. Major research firms for industry are picky, and rightfully so. In my area, many friends worked for Bechtel, Life technologies, US Government jobs, and a few bio-processing firms (tests and such). I live near a major city (DC). So here, there just is a lot going on but the competition is fierce. Even with previous lab experience, I wasn't able to get a job in a lab. They wanted at the bare min. a B.S in a science related field plus experience. These jobs were for sample prep, basic lab work really. Nothing exciting!

    I work in data research/analysis. What I do isn't directly related to science, however, it gives me skills that will nicely compliment my future education. At this job I had to work extensively with Excel, Access, sql, python. I had to learn quite a bit about financial modeling as well. In addition to that, I've learned the flow of an office work-space. How to meet deadlines, prepare proposals, impress your boss. All the good stuff. I've also learned a bit of marketing. So when I graduate with a degree in physics, and maybe can't find a job, I can always go back to finance. It'd be a stretch but I've networked myself into a nice little group of people, who I keep contact with.

    As far as some of my friends, some were lucky. I know a few who worked (the company relocated) at an engineering firm. They were then paid to get their A.S in autocad training, which transferred well if you wanted to take an extra year for some of the engineering sub-fields. I have a few that teach at the college, myself included. I do groups of 10-20 students for pre-calc prep, test prep, and homework study. I also proctor tests.

    Lastly, there were a lucky few who worked in a lab. Generally they networked and pushed their name around for some time. They mostly do the office work though. Keeping track of inventory, managing grant money, etc. Ordering new things. And they work in the cold; the freezer at one's work requires special gear to enter. He works in there for a few hours at a time.

    Salary will depend on your area. For me, 12/hr is what I can command for my work. It certainly wouldn't pay for a house! Though those that worked in unpleasant lab conditions earned about at much as you do.

    My advice to to network. Ask people, friends, professors. The online job applications are not all that great, because many people already have their foot in the door before they even send in a resume. You want to put yourself into that position.

    You also want to ask yourself, "what skills can I bring to this job?"

    No one wants to hear "I'm a quick learner" when they can hear "I know all the formal background training for this job"

    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
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