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Math Master's in applied math?

  1. Feb 11, 2010 #1
    I'm currently a master's student in physics. I really don't want to go on to a phd. I feel that in order to be a better physicist, I need more math training. I didn't do a math double major as an undergrad, and now I wish I did. How much would I get out of a math degree? Is someone with two master's degrees in math and physics as valuable to private industry as someone with a phd in physics?

    I've studied a variety of different things (because I like to) and there's nothing quite like the challenge of math/physics. Studying physics has made me accustomed to such high levels of thought. Now I get bored with anything less difficult. That scares me because it gives me that itch to want to pursue a phd but I don't want to stay in academia and I don't want to go through many more years of being broke. I don't think I could handle the rigors (qualifying exams, etc.). Sometimes I feel like "since I've come this far, maybe I should go all the way...."

    The most practical reason for not going for a phd is that I need a job that pays well so I can pay off my loans.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2010 #2
    Take comfort in knowing there are difficult things to think about in all parts of life, rather than just physics.

    That would fly only if you were in your last year or two, but since you have ~4 more years, absolutely not!

    If your hearts not in it, time to move on! A PhD requires a strong and deep passion for the field. It's just not worth it if you don't feel this way.
  4. Feb 12, 2010 #3
    Since I was a kid I was always interested in the the energy/environment/climate change problem. I wanted to research in fusion or other alternative energy sources. I would love to do research at CERN. But the reality is, there are so few jobs for physicists in alternative energy or HEP. The energy problem is really more of a political problem anyway. If there aren't going to be many opportunities after a phd, it's not going to be worth it. The largest employer of sci/tech grads here in CA is the defense industry. I always wanted to avoid the contributing to the military industrial complex but that might be my only potential source of income.
  5. Feb 12, 2010 #4
    It's true that there are very few jobs for professors in HEP. You have to really, really want it to try and have a shot at it. Really know what you want to do in life, and if it's to become a professor, really research the chances of becoming one. There are so many careers to do in life, so really consider as many possibilities as you can.

    Regarding your question if a masters in physics and math the same as a physics phd, I think if you get a phd, you have a different skill set. For industry, you won't be paid much more with a phd than a masters, and you can make up for the pay offset when you enter the market earlier as a masters. The phd doesn't really give you much more in terms of salary, but it opens up jobs to do research in the field.

    Do you really, really want to do physics that bad? Are you willing to put your nose to grindstone for 4 more years at CERN?

    I wouldn't really suggest getting another masters in math if you've got one in physics already. But it all really depends on what job you want. What do you want to do? Can you think of things you can be happy doing besides physics? If not, then go for the phd, at least for the ride, and try your very best! (Keeping all things in perspective, of course).

    I once thought that I couldn't be happy doing anything else besides physics, and it's the only way to go. But when I realized that I could probably not become a professor, I had to think about doing something else. I could probably still do physics, but I'm particularly interested in a subfield, and I wouldn't be satisfied as "researcher" or "staff scientist" due to the lifestyle I want.
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