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Need Serious Career Advice

  1. Dec 16, 2008 #1
    To make things short, I would like to teach college level physics as my future career choice. I am currently a junior at my local university starting their upper-level physics courses, spring semester 2009, therefore, I am still unaware as to what I am getting into. However, I did make A's on 95% of all my undergraduate courses required for the physics program and associate in arts degree. Given the economic woes we are currently facing along with the financial hardships my family is going through, I am having issues as to whether or not I might be able to pursue a PhD level degree in Physics and might have to settle for a Master's degree in Mathematics which is offered at my local universities whereas I would have to move out of where I am currently living to pursue a PhD in Physics or even a Master's because my family nor I can afford for me to move anytime soon. If I go with the Master's in Mathematics, I figured I could teach at my local community college for the time being and earn money to go back and enroll for graduate school in Physics - how does this idea sound? Also, I am receiving grants and scholarships, therefore, I am not being lazy in searching for extra funding for my higher education needs. Though, I do have bills and this is what is really hindering my probability of moving anywhere - is there anything I could do lets say if I did get accepted into a graduate school for physics where I could have my credit card bills temporarily suspended until I am done? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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  3. Dec 16, 2008 #2


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    Proper paragraphing always helps. Others may not even bother reading a whole block of text.
  4. Dec 16, 2008 #3


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    It sounds like you're expecting to just walk into a community college teaching position. Such positions can be very competative, and there may not be one available at that particular place the day you graduate either. If teaching at this level is your goal, a PhD is desirable.

    Also, keep in mind that grad students generally get paid. It's not a lot, but it certainly beats undergrad.

    I would suggest you stay away from credit cards at all costs if you're having financial troubles. Secondly, if you need need it, you can look into a student line of credit, which generally makes you only accountable for interest payments on borrowed money until you graduate.
  5. Dec 17, 2008 #4

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    Choppy is right - community college teaching positions can be very, very competitive. The local community college has, I believe, exactly one full-time faculty in physics. All the other instructors are part time. I expect that when he retires, they'll hire another one - but only when he retires.
  6. Dec 17, 2008 #5

    Anyway, this is kind of crazy, but I just this morning talked to a girl in your similar situation.. like.. damn.. lol.

    I'll make this short.

    This girl wanted to pursue a degree in a science. Her student loans were high when she got her B.S. and she wasn't sure what she wanted to do yet. So.. she went back to school for her masters. Student loans are defered up to 6 months after you graduate, regardless of how long you take. It's even better if you take on an advisor that pays you to work on funded research. She didn't work on any projects, so she still has debt, but her career required that she get a M.S... funny thing is.. she wants to teach now.. so she'll be getting her teaching certificate fairly soon.

    Move your debt into student loans that will be deferred until after you find a job/six months. Most teaching positions at universities require a terminal degree in the field. PhD in almost all cases. Um.. teaching at a CC to hold you over.. yeah.. not sure if you'd want to do that.. but I can't really say. Good luck.
  7. Dec 18, 2008 #6


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    Given what other people in this thread have said about the competitive nature of the teaching position, you might want to think about alternative careers. A degree in mathematics can take you many places if you are really interested in it. There are a lot of analytical opportunities especially in statistics if you are that way inclined. Most of these however require education up to the honours level and possibly even up to the Masters/Postgraduate level. The jobs in these sorts of fields should help you pay your credit card bills as well.

    I should comment that you would really have to want to do this because like any other mature developed/developing science, things can get real hard real quick and require a lot of dedication to nut them out properly and develop the right perspectives needed to solve real-world problems. So if you have an interest thats great enough to hold your attention long enough to master mathematics in some form, then it provide great benefits to you.

    As for physics I can't really give you any advice here. I think that due to the flexibility that academia provides for people in that sort of employment, it would naturally be highly competitive. You could always work towards some sort of applied degree but that would lead more towards an engineering discipline or applied math discipline as stated above.

    Good luck with your decisions for the future

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