# Major in what you're PASSIONATE in! and other useless platitudes

1. Jul 10, 2009

### MissSilvy

"Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

I'm sure many people on this forum have been at the point where they needed to make a decision about what to do with themselves as far as careers go. Many of you are probably way beyond that point so I thought perhaps I'd try.

I've been trying to ignore this issue for a while but there's still no getting around the fact that a physicist has a pretty garbagety job. They don't make much, work long hours, and have to deal with all sorts of bureaucracy and b.s. just to get a job. Engineers make more but it's still very low pay and so much headache and stress.

I asked everyone I can think of; career advisers, my academic adviser, professors, friends, parents, people in the industry, and almost everyone I know but I still get pretty empty advice. "Major in what you're passionate in!" as if everyone only had one soul mate major rather than a lot that they're potentially interested in. Or they have some sort of motive to push me in one direction, the most common one being "Be an X; we need more girls in X!"

I may sound like a young whippersnapper but I don't want to go through college and bust my hump at something, even if it's my passion and I'm good at it, just to get out and make 55k a year and maybe be an assistant manager ten years down the line. If I'm lucky, I may even get *gasp* more than that but it's still a rather low salary and a soul-sucking job. I hear all sorts of horror stories about mountains of paperwork, corporate b.s., and hours and hours of overtime that make me cringe at some of these jobs.

I want a field where my hard work and innovation are rewarded, not just treated as something you owe the company for signing your paycheck. Yes, if you're good at your job, you'll be promoted or get a small bonus but it's still woefully disproportionate to the amount of work you do versus what you get out of it. I'm not even just whinging about money; that's not the sole motivator but it is an important one. If money was the number one concern I wouldn't even be asking this question at all; I'd hang my brains, interests, and personality up and get an MBA.

I don't even know what I'm asking this forum. It's like taking shots in the dark but recently I've been frustrated and exhausted by this issue and I needed to do something about it.

**And I do realize that many on this forum are going through hard times and financial troubles where they'd like to have a job at all, much less one that pays 55k a year. I sympathize and I understand that money is nothing to turn your nose up at. I don't mean to insinuate that I'm better than anyone or that I'm far too good for a mere mortal job. This is just mostly heartbroken college student daydreaming than anything.

Last edited: Jul 10, 2009
2. Jul 10, 2009

### Ben Niehoff

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

If you want money, go into law or medicine.

If you think 55k is low, you're crazy. Most college graduates are looking at starting salaries of 30k to 40k. A bachelor's degree today is worth about as much as a high school diploma was 50 years ago.

3. Jul 10, 2009

### MissSilvy

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

55k as a starting salary is pretty damn good; 55k as a industry standard five years AFTER you've already been working is poor. I'm not running around with dollar signs dancing in my head, but even the maximum salary of 70k for that sort of intense, highly demand work after you have years and years of experience is still a bit sad. I'm under no delusions that I am entitled to a high starting salary or promotions or what have you because I'm a special snowflake but I want to know that if I give it everything I have that I'll get something back out of it if my work is worth it.

And I know a BS today is worth less, and I have no problem with going for a Masters or PhD at all but yet people are still discouraged from getting very much into extra college schooling because apparently then they're overqualified. What?

4. Jul 10, 2009

### TheStatutoryApe

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

The only thing I can think of is to specialize. It would probably take more schooling, or maybe you could get on the job training if you find the right employer, but if you can get yourself into a specialized field with few competitors for the job you can probably more or less set your own salary after you get enough experience. Not sure what those fields would be though myself.

5. Jul 10, 2009

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

Good luck with that. I think the only way to ensure that will happen, in any field, is to open your own business and be your own boss. Otherwise, generally, yes, that is what companies expect of their employees, that they put in hard work in exchange for a paycheck. And, this seems a problem with the younger generations that they think hard work is something special, perhaps because everyone gets awards just for showing up nowadays. Hard work should be the norm.

As for innovation, of course you need to be innovative first, and there's no guarantee that will happen. But, true innovation typically IS rewarded. That's what earns promotions and pay raises. Just showing up and working hard doesn't necessarily get you anywhere if the hard work is just doing the assigned job. Keep in mind that when you are looking at median salaries and industry standards, those are for the "average" employee...the one who is not being innovative, but the one who is simply doing their job. If you do more than the average employee and really do something innovative that benefits the company, you'd be among those able to earn well over the median salaries.

Now, what I will agree with you on is that there is certainly no harm in considering earning potential when choosing a major, as long as you aren't going so far out of your interest area for the sake of money (then again, if it's the money that motivates you above all else, go into a business major...that's what they think about all day). If you view a particular career path as "soul sucking" then you already have an indication that is NOT your passion and that should be avoided. But, if you have a range of interests, and see several potential careers as appealing, and one or two of those have more earning potential than the others, there's no reason to ignore that as a factor in your decision process.

So, bottom line is that when people are telling you to follow your passion, that certainly means avoiding the things you view as "soul-sucking" careers...don't choose one of those just because of the money or you'd be miserable.

6. Jul 10, 2009

### Jimmy Snyder

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

Learn from my mistakes and follow your passion. I let myself be seduced by the fast women and loose cars that come with my career as an applications software engineer. But the mansion and the yacht don't make up for what I lost. You see, I had always dreamed of being a systems software engineer.

7. Jul 10, 2009

### CRGreathouse

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

I think you will revise your standard for what you consider a good salary when you get out. You still expect too much.

8. Jul 10, 2009

### chaoseverlasting

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

But you see, I think what the TS means is that even if you come up with something brilliant, the rewards are disproportionate to the hard work and innovation that went into coming up with something brilliant in the first place. Its almost like they're paying lip service to the whole idea of "the company looking out/rewarding the employee".

9. Jul 10, 2009

### rootX

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

I have a major but currently trying to find what kind of area I should concentrate in. Along with your criteria, I am also considering stability, people and work environment.

10. Jul 10, 2009

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

Nobody really likes those jobs. They do them because they can’t get out, they cant do anything else. If you don’t like working in an office for $55K, you really wouldn’t like those other jobs. Work is hard. Hard work is harder. If you hate what you’re doing it’s even worse. I think this has some basis in entropy & thermo. At least you’re in a position to understand that. Your story about the engineer fixing problems, and being ‘rewarded’ with more work: this is a typically slacker point of view. Other variants “I told them how to fix the problem but they wouldn’t listen.” “My boss stole my idea.” “I told them procedure would not work, guess, what - they told me to write a new one.” And so on. You will hear this whining wherever you go. It has nothing to do with being a scientist, or an engineer, or a doctor or a salesman. 21. Jul 10, 2009 ### Choppy Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes MissSilvy, I'll let you in on a secret that you're pretty close to figuring out. The truth of the matter is that guidance coucilors, academic advisors, teachers, and random posters on internet forums don't know what you should pursue. We don't have a clue. The reason you keep coming back to the same advice is because unfortunately, that's the best we can offer. The responsibility for what you do with your life is yours alone. The problem does not have a unique or even necessarily a determinable solution. You might be happy pursuing physics, getting a graduate degree and moving into a well-paying industrial position. You might be happy taking a few university courses, but then working full time as a plummer. You might be happy doing both. Or you might be upset with the fact that in pursuing an academic subject you end up with a huge debt load and few options for work that pays anywhere close to what you hoped for. You have to figure all of that out. It's wise to seek out advice from others, which you're obviously doing, but we don't know what's important to you. Often, the best we can do is suggest a course based on our personal experiences and our observations of others, and apparently a rather common observation is that people tend to be happier when pursuing a passion. 22. Jul 10, 2009 ### Locrian Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes I like the conversation between cristo and turbo-1. Even though they have differing opinions, they've brought up a basic point that everyone should be aware of - many careers have geographic constraints. Whether someone constrains their geography or their career depends on the individual. If you can move anywhere, but the job is geographically restrictive, then you just need to be aware of it, for networking and future planning purposes. On the other hand, if you are restricted geographically, then this could rule out careers. I personally found almost all physics industrial job openings to be in Colorado or California, with a few in Florida and the Northeast (this could have changed). When I switched to actuarial work I did so knowing that actuarial work is also geographically restrictive, just to different parts of the country. Accounting and medicine, on the other hand, are not restrictive - every small town and big town need doctors and accountants (though geography could impact your opportunities for progression). 23. Jul 10, 2009 ### arunma Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes I think you've been given misinformation if you think that physicists have garbagety jobs. None of the professors I know dislike their jobs. And despite all the jokes about 60 hour work weeks, I love being a physics grad student, even though I know I have only a one in two chance of becomig a professor. We don't have unenjoyable jobs by any means. Being a physicist in academia is way better (in my personal opinion) than working in industry and being at the mercy of some employer who can lay you off just because he feels like it. Yes, there are disadvantages, like the small number of jobs and the whole tenure review process. I'm not saying it's perfect, but I would hardly describe careers in physics as "garbagety." As for the issue with salaries,$55k is hardly on the low side.

24. Jul 10, 2009

### MissSilvy

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

That's like scowling at someone who wants to train for marathons that he should be grateful that he can walk because there are people out there without legs.

With all due respect, I never said I was adverse to working hard. Working hard for nothing is for the birds though.

Slacker point of view? Someone who doesn't want to bust their hump doing or improving something for nothing is a slacker? Is someone who asks for an honest reward in exchange for the valuable work they did for the company a slacker? Is someone who doesn't want to spend their free evenings after they've gone home developing and slaving for a company when others don't and earn the same amount a slacker? This is not communism. It is not from each according to his ability. Just because I can do more work than Joe Schmoe doesn't mean I have to or should.

I'm sorry but I'm not really understanding what your point seems to be. To me it seems like you're telling me that because there are people who work at crap jobs for \$8/hour and can't get out of them that I should shut up and be grateful that I can get more than that in an air-conditioned office. I don't mean to start a fight but that advice rubs me the wrong way. It would be different if I moaned and cried about how unfair my life is and how no one could possibly have it worse than me, but that is most definitely not what I even insinuated.

25. Jul 10, 2009

### Rhine720

Re: "Major in what you're PASSIONATE in!" and other useless platitudes

I'd rather work as a physicist or an engineering make new discoveries/things then doing the same old stuff over and over again law/medicine. According to salary charts online physicists and engineers make good money. Normaly 60k starting but can reach as high 120k in the upper 75 percentile. You say physicist have a pretty garbagety job,but I wouldn't like at their endeavors as ****. I'd look at them as a challenge. Something to keep me thinking and working. A short secret is location. Families who only make about 50k a year with children seem to live decently in some places.

Doctors and lawyers make more money and they deserve it i guess. Since they always have the chance to be sued.

Chances are you're thinking of a career before you get your college degree. Have you heard of physics degrees changing to law and medicine? Patent Lawyers, Medical physicist

Sorry if this doesn't help!..You're welcome though

Last edited: Jul 10, 2009