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Making my move, one tough decision at a time.

  1. May 21, 2012 #1
    I just joined the forums here, after reading through several pages of incredibly useful advice. I'm mostly beginning this thread to organize my thoughts, but I'm in need/want of advice at all times during this process. You all are knowledgeable and helpful, so any commentary is appreciated.

    I'm a 26 year old "nontrad" student at the junior level in a state university. My high school academics were very good, but that was a long time ago by now. I'm still confident and committed to following the physics career path. Just a little concerned that I might run into a few special challenges, about which I'm totally unaware at the moment.

    My current semi-solid plan is to continue with a B.S. in physics, and pursue the phD with a concentration in astrophysics. This was originally because I read several reports about the unemployment rate being nonexistent, and also because it's something I've always wanted to do.

    The conversations here are honestly the first glimpse I've had into the real-world idea that astrophysics degrees most likely do not lead to astrophysics careers.

    I've made peace with that idea (I think- still room for debate), but now I need a little help moving on from there. I still want to fulfill my dream to study and "be" and astrophysicist, even if my profession ends with something in the finance sector or the like.

    I just need to know that I've got a flexible but solid plan for when I graduate if I'm going to dive into this field without that 0% unemployment guarantee as an astrophysicist (as previously whispered to me through USA Today articles and other sweet fairy tales).

    I'm interested in writing, I would be interested in finance if the pay is comparable, and I'm also open to any suggestion. My childhood and young-adult background hasn't given me much first-person experience with industry or high-level careers, so anything that would help me visualize what I'm getting myself into would be so very much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2012 #2
    Hi there pumpkin0017.

    Here are some of my thoughts on career guidance that I've thought about to share with you. Feel free to pick and choose the advice I give to best suit your needs. To other forum readers, I would suggest maybe keeping a running list of generally useful advice for all future readers as well.

    1.) Develop a five year plan.
    I know this is cliche but it really does help to write your goals down year by year and keep them posted somewhere visible. I keep mine on my bathroom window so evey morning they are staring at me in the face as I brush my teeth and floss. Build in flexibility and make sure to also include steps to reach your objective (don't put down something like "Become world dicatator" without steps to accomplish that goal).

    2.) Don't let external factors influence your thinking. Follow your heart and reason.
    In your post you mentioned reading an USAToday article about carer prospects as an astrophysicist. I question whether a journalist is really tuned into the astrophysics job market. I'll be bold here, turn off all forms of media (TV, internet, movies, pop music). Your dream is to be an astrophysicist? Put the blinders on and study like hell. The variables that should direct your career goals are your reason, your passion, your financial circumstances and your family and friends. Some magazine or salary report should have no effect on your lifestlye. Rely on people in your field for the inside scoop.

    3.) Overcome fret.
    I myself am not some ubermensch that is not prone to self-doubt and panic. Sometimes I question what I am doing with myself. After reading this board and conversing with my peers, it seems that this is entirely natural. Find some constructive hooby to engage in when these feeling occur to overcome moments of "career terror." You mentioned writing, so write something. Play an instrument, go exercise, etc. Again, following point 2, probably not the best idea to veg out and watch some vulgur movie, television program or listen to pop music.

    That's it for now. I invite my fellow PhysicsForumers to comment and critique this advice or add their own.
    Last edited: May 28, 2012
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