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MQF or PhD physics? Decision for Fall 2015

  1. Mar 6, 2015 #1
    Background: Applied to PhD physics programs (7) , Master EE, MQF, MSMF
    I took a year off after undergrad, unwillingly, because I was rejected from most of the physics PhD programs I applied to. One offered an unfunded master's. I spent a lot of time figuring things out, including re-taking the pgres, applying to various jobs, and trying to acquire additional skills. I know I made a lot of threads here that was all about PhD physics and most indicated my lack of confidence in gaining admission. This time I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket, so I spent a lot of time thinking about other careers I would enjoy too. I even had the opportunities to meet experts, in the field of each of the above degree programs I applied, to get some advice.

    Present Situation: I have gained admission to 2 PhD physics program and the MQF program. I have already visited one of the PhD schools and loved the visit. They have great facilities, most of the grad students seem happy enough and move onto very good post docs or even very good industry positions. I really enjoyed meeting the profs too. A good chunk of the profs work on research that really match my interests! I have not yet visited the other school, but I am looking forward to it.

    The problem is the MQF program expects me to make a decision by around March 23 and I would not have visited my other school yet. I want to work in industry instead of academia, but I was thinking of a more research oriented job involving science+tech (i.e IBM, GE, Intel etc) . At the same time the MQF is a great opportunity to get some experience in finance and could lead to good jobs as well. I was also thinking that with a PhD physics one can transition into finance ( not easy transition), and I find that it would probably be more difficult to go from finance to physics.? Thoughts?

    Oh and my interest in finance jobs stemmed from the fact that I enjoyed working in theoretical physics, and pretty much every thread , on this forum, someone made that involved job after theoretical physics discussed careers in insurance, finance etc. However, I don't have actual experience working in finance industry, but I have only read books and stuff. I have worked on research in physics and enjoyed it!

    *Finance is too broad, I realize. There are various careers one can go into like risk management, quant analyst etc.

    According to grad cafe, I should hear back from the other two master's soon, but I am pretty sure the other 4 PhDs are going to reject me. One PhD program already did. I plan to do condensed matter experiment, however I am keeping my options open.

    I have been thinking about asking the MQF program to give me an extension until April 15. Both are different types of investments and I know I have a lot to think about.

    I appreciate any comments or advice!

    Edit: I seem like I am all over the place. My first and foremost interest would be able to contribute to an industry that works towards the advancement of science+tech. Even if I went the finance route, I have zero interest in working on wall street. I would still want to work at tech companies, but I guess contribute from finance.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2015 #2
    Thanks for the post! This is an automated courtesy bump. Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. Mar 12, 2015 #3
    I have a degree in Physics and yes you can transition from Physics to finance like positions because I have made that transition. When I started out my career I was a Research Scientist for the Army (on the government side, not a contractor) conducting research on Power Generation Technologies. My position got transferred to Aberdeen, MD and did not want to move since I already had a house in DC. So I applied for numerous jobs in DC, and got an offer as a Cost Analyst for the Army. As a Cost Analyst I use my technical background in Engineering/Physics to estimate what it would cost the Army to develop all the latest electronic systems (Such as Radio Systems, Missile Defense Systems, and Radar Systems). A DoD cost analyst needs a technical background in Engineering/Physics/Computer Science etc in order to understand the complexities of all the latest and greatest systems (air planes/tanks/submarines) that the US military builds. The cost analyst can then develop a cost estimate, based on his/her technical understanding of these systems. From the cost estimate a financial budget is then built, which for the much larger programs (e.g. the Stealth Fighter Airplane) goes to Congress for approval.

    Even though I don't do research anymore, I still do a little of that in the Reserves as a Nuclear Science Officer, so I feel fortunate to have made the transition because I get the best of both worlds.
  5. Mar 12, 2015 #4
    I feel as though a PhD in physics has to be an end in and of itself; you have to want to spend five years getting a PhD and having one, just for the sake of your interest in physics. If that's how you feel, get the PhD. If you don't really care about the PhD as an end in and of itself, do something more efficient like getting this MQF.
  6. Mar 18, 2015 #5
    Thank you for the responses everyone! I used to get notifications about responses, but since I didn't I forgot to come back here!

    After considerable amount of thinking I decided that MQF might not be worth it. However, now I have a completely new options. I got into the MEng program and I got a dream job offer! I have been making pro/con lists and everything!

    Let's just say if I go the PhD Physics route, my dream job would be to work at the company I just got the offer from! However, a PhD does give the advantage of being eligible to do research at the company (but who knows if I would get the opportunity). I have zero industry experience and went through A LOT of rejections ( grad apps+job apps), and this offer just made me feel soo happy.

    I think the biggest PROs for taking the job is having industry experience+making industry connections+learning new/different skills+different type of challenge and the biggest con would be that it would tougher to get back into the school mode/get accepted again! I have some school visits to get out the way this week and I think I am going to focus more on asking about grad students who went onto industry or have interest in industry instead of academia. I am confident that I no longer want to go into academia. I am going to ask how my potential PIs feel about taking on internships during grad school ( that's very important for me).

    Main question ( I don't want to start a new thread) how difficult is it these days to progress in a career with just a Bachelors in physics? If I take the job, would I have to go back to school at some point? I feel I would have to...
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  7. Mar 18, 2015 #6
    There's definitely a ceiling if you stop at a bachelors. From what I've heard, the difference between getting a masters + experience and getting a PhD is small from a financial standpoint. However there are certain positions within a company which seem to be tied to getting a PhD; a friend of mine works for Google and stated that certain positions within the company are not obtainable without one from what he knows, as an example.
  8. Mar 18, 2015 #7
    Most of the positions that are tied to getting a PhD are research type right? Otherwise would it matter if one has a PhD versus a Master's? I do see what you mean that there is a ceiling when one has a bachelors though... A part of me just wants to go to school and get it over with so I wouldn't have to go back. However, obviously that's the wrong reason to go to graduate school. Taking a year off made me have plenty of different perspectives on choosing which path to take, not long ago the only path I considered was grad school --> post doc --> become a prof. ( regardless of how difficult it was).

    I guess the decision will be easier to make once I visit the school and ask around about students who have went onto industry.
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