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Programs MS/PhD in physics or IT?

  1. Apr 23, 2012 #1
    MS/PhD in physics or IT???

    Hello fellow Physics Forum’ers

    It’s been a while since I posted and want to know everyone’s opinion on my situation. I am currently finishing up my 3rd class as part of a master’s in physics program. I got an A in E&M, a B in Classical Mechanics, and will hopefully get an A or B in Quantum Physics. I go to school part-time in the evenings since I work full time in the daytime (in the IT/financial systems sector).

    I have promoted 3 times within the last couple of years in my current company, and feel that I am naturally talented in IT/computers/systems. I don’t feel the same about physics, since I have to really work hard at it and at the same time I feel that since my professors grade on a curve, I do better than what I would get if there was no curve. The thing is I am passionate about space, astronomy and anything related to the cosmos. I saw myself becoming an astronomer or astrophysicist one day. But I am torn now since I am doing very well in my company and am considering getting a masters in IT in order to keep promoting (since my UG degree is in mathematics its tough to continue promoting further in management without an IT or business degree).

    My UG GPA was 3.0. I think so far I am doing ok with my masters program. I am 30 yrs old and have a wife and 2 small daughters. Tell it to me straight: is it realistic for me to continue daydreaming about becoming an astronomer in my current situation with how tough it is to get into a PhD program let alone get a job in astronomy? I think I make now what an assistant or associate professor would make money-wise. I just feel that if I don’t do physics then I won’t be happy. Or should I go for the MS IT since that is where I am at now and that is where I can see myself continuing to push forward??

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2012 #2
    Re: MS/PhD in physics or IT???

    I'm not a PhD or anything but from the extensive research I've done getting an tenure track position at a university is ridiculously competitive. I don't know how the market is currently but in 1999 for every tenure track opening at universities in the USA there were 200 applicants, most of whom are very well qualified. Call me pessimistic but getting a tenure track position just does not seem realistic unless you come from a highly ranked school, at least top 20, and even then the prospects seem dismal.

    With a 3.0 undergrad gpa I would imagine it will be very tough to get into a graduate program. From what I hear admission committees tend to weigh undergraduate grades much more heavily than graduate ones because of the pervasive trend toward grade inflation in masters programs. I also imagine you would have to still take the physics GRE, which would be of great importance since your undergrad gpa is a bit under the average.

    I know many motivational posters will tell you to go for it, that it is never too late to pursue something you are passionate about. To be trite it is clearly your decision to make, and I don't mean to be patronizing but going for four years of possibly unpaid school when you have good career, advancement opportunities, and a family seems like a tough sell, especially considering the improbability of being a professor (which seems to be your goal), the uncertainty of admissions to a decent program, and the fact that jobs in astronomy are heavily dependent on government funding.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  4. Apr 24, 2012 #3
    Re: MS/PhD in physics or IT???

    Thank you for your honesty, prettymidget. I think I have a better idea now of what I should do…
  5. Apr 24, 2012 #4
    Re: MS/PhD in physics or IT???

    Keep killing it at your IT job, retire early (google "early retirement" or "financial independence"), then study astrophysics either independently or in an actual program.
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