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Physics M.S. Program in Physics

  1. May 1, 2009 #1
    Hi, I was recently accepted in to a Masters program in physics. My undergraduate preparation is minimal and I have a large number of undergraduate courses to complete before starting my graduate program. I work full time and looking the way things are going I will complete the program in 7-8 years taking 2 classes per semester. My family, friends, and co-workers are telling me that I'm wasting my time and life on physics for the following reasons 1) It requires so much work 2) I have a good job that won't go away any time soon (federal employee) 3) Computer Science is much more relevant to my job (Network Engineering) and I'm done with a lot of the CS perequisites for a masters in CS.

    Am I wasting my time? I really like physics and this is almost in some sense more of a luxury. Having a physics degree would not hurt my career but CS is more applicable and more expedient. Any thoughts? Anyone?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2009 #2
    What is your reason personally that you are 1) getting a graduate degree, and 2) doing it in physics?

    An answer would really depend on those.
  4. May 1, 2009 #3


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    Are your friends/family/co-workers in any position to make a reasonable comment on this kind of thing?

    (1) Lots of things worth having require a lot of work. The amount of time you put into this (or anything really) is your own decision. Just make sure that you learn as much about the kind of sacrifices that you will have to make and make your decisions with your eyes open.

    (2) It sounds like you're going to pursue this in your spare time. Perhaps eventually you would like this to result in a better/different job, but until you quit, you will still have that current job. There is nothing wrong with pursuing an education for the sake of an education. And just because you have something that's "stable" it doesn't mean you have to be content with it. Again, the decision is yours to make. I think your friends are just concerned that you realize what you're giving up.

    (3) Perhaps CS is more relevant to your current job, but if your main goal is job-specific training, you should be getting your employer to pay for it. If you want a master's in CS, then go for it. But it sounds like you really want to pursue physics, in which case, you should at least take a few steps in that direction. Also keep in mind that physics can give you a lot of experience in approaches to problem-solving that you won't get with a CS degree.
  5. May 1, 2009 #4
    I'm a CS guy who has been working in the networking industry for many years. I am also in the process of finishing up my MS in physics.

    I can tell you the following from my experience:
    1. An MS in physics will not help you in the networking/computer industry at all. I agree, it won't do you any harm, but there are very few hobbies that would hurt your career.
    2. Physics is a lot more fun than the networking industry.

    I can't really tell you if getting the degree is a waste of time or not. If you just enjoy it and want to learn, or if you want to switch fields regardless of the economic impact, then no, it's not a waste of time, go for it! If you think it will help you advance in the computer industry, then yes, you are wasting your time...

    It's all a question of what you want to do with your life!
  6. May 1, 2009 #5
    Ignore your friends and co-workers. By family, do you mean your parents and siblings? Or do you mean your spouse and kids? There's a big difference. Ignore the former and listen to the latter.

    When you become a parent, it's not all about you anymore, and getting a degree "for fun" might amount to tuition payments for your children that you won't be able to make. More importantly, it might amount to time away from your kids' formative years that you'll regret missing later on.

    Picture yourself in 7 or 8 years thinking back on your life. Would you regret having spent time in a degree program instead of doing other things? Or would you regret not having the degree more?

    By the way, since you're not a computer scientist but an engineer, don't be too sure that Physics is that much less relevant than Computer Science (which, as the saying goes, is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes). Physics blesses your brain with a way of thinking about the world.
  7. May 2, 2009 #6
    Degrees are purchased, knowledge is free. If you need to purchase a master's degree, do it in CS, but take your electives in applied physics courses. Usually you have latitude to make substitutions on required courses with concurrence of the department chair. This will let you avoid the prepackaged M.S. bureaucracy designed for PhD-track physics students.
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