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Looking for some career advice please

Hey guys,

So I'm about to finish my master in Particle and Astro Particle Physics this June, and as most people seem to be, I'm confused whether to continue in research or switch over to industry.

So here's the thing, I am probably going to switch over to industry anyway if I do a Ph.D. cause well, I've heard from a lot of people who've worked at CERN and a couple of labs in EU that its terribly hard to find permanent positions, which you probably only get a chance for after like 10 years post your phd! And well I hope to do a phd anyway, cause well.. I've always wanted to do it.. and its the reason I'm doing my master.

I looked for jobs after my masters, and I'm found that as physicists we're probably best suited for Quant jobs, or maybe financial analysis as well.. Here's my question now : These jobs require that we've done enough data analysis and programming, which as a PhD I would have much more exp with. but I'll have almost zero finance knowledge (assuming i read something about finance during my phd).. So after doing a phd, will they start me at grass root level if I switch over to industry, or will they start me off at a mid-management level of some sort? Or would it make more sense to switch to industry immediately after masters and use those 4 years to rise up the company like everyone else!

If anyone has any past experiences, any insights, opinions, thoughts, anything... please it would be really helpful..

And also if you're aware of careers prospects that better suit physicists then please do mention them as well..

Thank you all so much!
Akshay
 
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This may or may not interest you but here ye' go:

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/mathfin

https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/courses/finance/ [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
I looked for jobs after my masters, and I'm found that as physicists we're probably best suited for Quant jobs, or maybe financial analysis as well.. Here's my question now : These jobs require that we've done enough data analysis and programming, which as a PhD I would have much more exp with. but I'll have almost zero finance knowledge (assuming i read something about finance during my phd)..
Start reading Hull's book on derivatives. You should be able to pick up that in about two or three weeks. That will give you the basic knowledge that you need to get through an interview. Once you've read Hull, there are dozens of mathematical finance books that you can read.

So after doing a phd, will they start me at grass root level if I switch over to industry, or will they start me off at a mid-management level of some sort?
The ranks in an IB are

analyst
associate
VP
Senior VP/executive director
managing director

People that get hired as a Ph.D. are hired at the associate level. With three years of experience it's standard to make VP level which is a mid-level rank. Above that it gets random, because there are people that spend their entire careers at VP.

Or would it make more sense to switch to industry immediately after masters and use those 4 years to rise up the company like everyone else!
The problem is that there's not very much you can do with masters in physics in finance, and if you have a fresh masters, you start as an analyst and worse yet, you go through the same recruiting channel as the MBA's. This is a problem because MBA programs have all sorts of connections with employers whereas physics masters programs don't.

Many groups will not hire fresh masters. The minimum requirement is either a Ph.D. or Masters + several years industry experience.
 
Hey guys,

So I'm about to finish my master in Particle and Astro Particle Physics this June, and as most people seem to be, I'm confused whether to continue in research or switch over to industry.
...

And also if you're aware of careers prospects that better suit physicists then please do mention them as well..
It sounds as though you need to make an appointment with your university careers service ASAP. At least where I come from, many universities have stopped taking applications for PhDs starting this year which, as you are graduating in June, is a problem. Similarly, most graduate programmes in large companies that I'm familiar with start accepting applications in December to February(ish) for a start in the following September. This means that, if you're looking to get something this year, you had best knuckle down and come to a decision.

I'm also not sure why you think that the 'best suited' career for a physicist might be in finance. Sure, there are a few jobs and, though everything I've read from twofish-quant, it seems to be that physicists definitely have a home in finance, should they choose it. However, physics is a pretty general degree from which you'll emerge with a general set of skills. Chances are you'll have covered some electronics, mechanics, computational work, problem solving, projects, lab work, reports, technical writing etc etc etc. This means that you're really able to apply to most jobs that engineering graduates can go for as well. In my opinion, this leaves physicists with a bit of a luxury (though I suppose in the current job climate, perhaps we cannot afford it) in choosing what they want to do. You have quite a lot of different choices, so you should try to start by narrowing it down.

What sort of jobs do you want? Do you want to build things? Electronics? Mechanical? Do you want to sit and program? Computational work? If so, what kind? Modelling?

As far as the possibility of doing a PhD goes, you need to have a good think about this one. If you aren't already sure (why not?) when why are you still considering it? You graduate pretty soon, and doing a PhD because it's a 'logical progression in learning' is a poor reason to take on such a big project. PhDs are tough, very tough, and that's without considering the fact that you'll be on a low income for years. You need to really want it.
 
@Thy Apathy - Thanks for the links... but I dont think at this point I want to follow up my current master with another master.. Though its quite a helpful link if I ever have to do this later.. so thanks so much!! :)

@twofish-quant -
The problem is that there's not very much you can do with masters in physics in finance, and if you have a fresh masters, you start as an analyst and worse yet, you go through the same recruiting channel as the MBA's. This is a problem because MBA programs have all sorts of connections with employers whereas physics masters programs don't.

Many groups will not hire fresh masters. The minimum requirement is either a Ph.D. or Masters + several years industry experience.
Thanks for your reply and the book suggestion I will definitely be going through it.
But are you saying that even if I join now as an analyst it'll be hard for me to go up the ranks in a firm ?? And that only if I'm a PhD then will it make sense?


@fasterthanjoao -

Thanks for your reply... :)

It sounds as though you need to make an appointment with your university careers service ASAP. At least where I come from, many universities have stopped taking applications for PhDs starting this year which, as you are graduating in June, is a problem. Similarly, most graduate programmes in large companies that I'm familiar with start accepting applications in December to February(ish) for a start in the following September. This means that, if you're looking to get something this year, you had best knuckle down and come to a decision.
Yeah I really need to make a decision, but I need to know my options before I can make a decision.. which is why the post

I'm also not sure why you think that the 'best suited' career for a physicist might be in finance. Sure, there are a few jobs and, though everything I've read from twofish-quant, it seems to be that physicists definitely have a home in finance, should they choose it. However, physics is a pretty general degree from which you'll emerge with a general set of skills. Chances are you'll have covered some electronics, mechanics, computational work, problem solving, projects, lab work, reports, technical writing etc etc etc. This means that you're really able to apply to most jobs that engineering graduates can go for as well. In my opinion, this leaves physicists with a bit of a luxury (though I suppose in the current job climate, perhaps we cannot afford it) in choosing what they want to do. You have quite a lot of different choices, so you should try to start by narrowing it down.
The reason I thought that physicists are best suited for finance jobs/ quant jobs is because well both require similar training in terms of data analysis and programming knowledge. Although ofcourse I have no finance skill sets, the data analysis part is still transferable...
Also I haven't really heard of physicists who've moved to industry doing much else, they, much like engineers, move into finance/ Investment banking and stuff like that.. and most importantly, I fancy it.. its about the only other thing i'd want to do apart from physics, is probably another job that involves analysis, modelling etc. you know ?


As far as the possibility of doing a PhD goes, you need to have a good think about this one. If you aren't already sure (why not?) when why are you still considering it? You graduate pretty soon, and doing a PhD because it's a 'logical progression in learning' is a poor reason to take on such a big project. PhDs are tough, very tough, and that's without considering the fact that you'll be on a low income for years. You need to really want it.
Ok so my initial plan before starting my master was do a phd after the master and follow it up with a post doc and stuff like that.. get into pure research basically. Now I've spent a year and a half doing this, and I'm still very fascinated by it.. but there are lots of people I've heard of who are finding it hard to survive within the field, just because there are sooo few positions and still lesser salaries.. I was at CERN over last summer and I spoke to a couple of seniors and that was the feedback I got.. So I decided to probably switch over to industry at some point.. now the only question I have is when should I do it.. and when is it most feasible. I would love to do a phd.. and I'm not worried about the low income for those 4 years.. but its just that I don't want to move to industry 4 years from now and start from grass root level again.. that my major concern.. I don't want to spend 4 years and begin at the bottom!

But thanks for your feedback guys... if you have any more to add, and well reply to what I've said.. please do!! :) Thank you sooo much!!!

Cheers,
 
But are you saying that even if I join now as an analyst it'll be hard for me to go up the ranks in a firm ?? And that only if I'm a PhD then will it make sense?
The problem is getting in. Once you are in, it's a different game. The problem is that Wall Street firms are looking specifically for physics Ph.D.'s and they aren't usually looking specifically for people with masters degrees in physics. The reason they look for physics Ph.D.'s is that the problems that Wall Street wants physicists to look at are basically research problems.

The reason I thought that physicists are best suited for finance jobs/ quant jobs is because well both require similar training in terms of data analysis and programming knowledge.
Sometimes. But that goes with a Ph.D. If you have a masters degree in physics and become a hot-shot C++ programmer that will work, but you can do that with a masters degree in anything.

Also frankly one reason that the finance industry likes physics Ph.D.'s is that physics Ph.D.'s are willing to work "cheap". If you have a physics Ph.D., you can reasonably assume that they *like* doing math, and are willing to work really cheap if you give them math problems. Now, "cheap" in Wall Street would be considered "totally ridiculously high" by any other standard, but that's a motivation for getting physics Ph.D.'s.

[Also I haven't really heard of physicists who've moved to industry doing much else, they, much like engineers,
I went into oil and gas and worked as a non-financial C++ programmer. Also, there is part of me that thinks that the financial sector of the economy is too big.

Move into finance/ Investment banking and stuff like that.. and most importantly, I fancy it..
Well..... Maybe. One problem here is that you've never been on a trading floor, so I suspect everything that you know about finance comes from the movies. There is a bit of truth in movies about scientists, just like there is a bit of truth in movies about physicists. I personally love finance, but I know of some Ph.D.'s that feel totally trapped by it.

I would love to do a phd.. and I'm not worried about the low income for those 4 years.. but its just that I don't want to move to industry 4 years from now and start from grass root level again.. that my major concern.. I don't want to spend 4 years and begin at the bottom!
One thing that I like about finance is that being at the bottom of the totem pole isn't that bad. The salaries are "low", but "low" is relative. The problem with going into higher levels in business is that tremendous stress comes with the job. For example, I cannot single-handedly destroy the world economy with any bad decision that I make. I just don't have that kind of power. If I come up with a stupid idea, then there is someone else with more experience than me that will crush that idea before it causes any damage.

Once you get into mid levels of management, you are making decisions that can effect the lives of thousands or sometimes millions or billions of people. I know people with that sort of power, and it's really exhausting. As long the people that are making those decisions are decent and competent, I'd rather have them make that decision.

Something I don't like about academia is that you *HAVE* to move up. The salaries of graduate students are so low, that the only way that get people to do the work is to promise more later. The nice thing about industry is that you make decent enough amounts of money that you don't *HAVE* to move up, if you don't want to. I know people that spend their entire careers "at the bottom". Why not? The money is good enough.
 

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