1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Moving forward after a terminal masters (Advice/options please)

  1. Jul 10, 2017 #1

    I'm a graduate student who failed their quals, and as such will be terminating my physics education with a masters degree. Up to this point in my education I've done excellently, but due to several factors I've was unable to pass the quals. This isn't really an issue because one of the factors I mentioned before is that as time has gone on I've realized the university I'm attending isn't a great fit for me. Furthermore, my interest in physics has diminished and at this point i'm far more interested in pursuing a career in an unrelated or minorly related field.

    This is where I need help. I know many of the fields that are open to physics majors degree holders:Finance,Software,Managerial Consulting, etc.

    Aside from finance I'm not particularly interested in doing much of that, and I believe I'm only interested in finance due to the large financial incentives. Consulting,rather, working as a grunt/code monkey on a consulting team actually seems right up my alley. The only downside is that I'm not much for travel and I've got a significant other who'd I'd rather not be away from for weeks at a time.

    I suppose I should give a brief description of my skill set. In physics I've worked almost exclusively in computational physics and I am proficient in FORTRAN and C, and can optimize programs using openMP and MPI. I enjoy scientific programming but feel that a job in software development will be lacking on the motivating interest. I've never worked as a software developer so I don't know, but this is what I think.

    Aside from computation I've got the standard skill set of problem solving,critical thinking,etc associated with a physics degree. I'm a decent public speaker and my presentation skills are above average I'd say. From my professors and student evaluations I'm also a pretty good teacher. If it helps my myers-briggs type is ENTP.( I know these are kinda BS, but my fiance is wild about them and to me it seems like a decent way of communicating aspects of your personality in a succinct way.) I think that's about all of the stand out skills I have.

    My question to the community is this; What are my options either academic or in industry? I'm not fond of the idea of pursuing another degree or continuing my current one at another university. I'm having a hard time pulling together the motivation to finish my masters, but at this point I feel like I'd have a two-year gap with nothing to show. I've learned skills yes, but the degree seems to be the only thing that matters.

    I guess specifically I'm looking for fields/job titles I'd be qualified for so that I can further investigate them. I'm also drawn to anything that would allow me to work remotely. I'm at my best when I can work when I want to, rather than strict hours. This is more a pie in the sky kinda thing, but I figure it's worth mentioning.

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I think the first piece of advice I would offer would be in the absence of anything else, try to finish off the master's degree. I suppose that depends on how much effort that would take and how much you're willing to put in at this point, but in general it will look a lot better on your CV to have a master's degree than a story about how you dropped out of graduate school.

    The next thing is to consider the jump between education and employment. It's often hard to make specific recommendations in this respect because what you have at the moment is an education and not a lot of job-specific experience. Naturally you're looking for something ideal for the skills that you already have, but it's probably not going to be news to you that you're unlikely to walk into the perfect fit right away. The way most people find their ideal career-type job in my experience is by working toward it over time, picking up the necessary skills and experience as they go, and sometimes (often) having to go through less-than-ideal positions on the way.

    You might want to look into attempting some freelance coding work, if you haven't already. That might get your foot in the door, and help you to build up a portfolio to take on bigger projects or compete for programming positions.
  4. Jul 11, 2017 #3

    Thanks for the reply. It's not an unhuman amount of effort to finish the masters degree. I plan on finishing it in the next term.

    I appreciate the advice as far as getting into the job market. Any tips on where to look for free lance work? Also would having several completed projects on something like github be helpful? One more question would be about what types of skills should I be looking to gain? Is it more of experience thing or an actual lack of hard skills?

    Thanks again.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted