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New physics career?

  1. Dec 27, 2013 #1
    New physics career??

    Hi, I am 25 years old, and a medical doctor, I am have always loved physics, and thinking on studying it as a new career. I am here so you can give me your opinion on this. Is my age going to be a problem for me when I apply for post-graduate or a job? I live in venezuela, and here it's 5 years for the undergraduate degree we call it "licenciado". I would like to continue after it in USA. Thanks for any help or advice you can provide.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2013 #2

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    Your age is not going to be a problem. However, an undergraduate degree is not enough to become a research physicist. How much longer depends on what exactly your career ambitions are.
  4. Dec 31, 2013 #3
    Well Of course, if I start the undergrad degree, I would like to become a PhD.
  5. Jan 2, 2014 #4


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    Have in mind that you probably won't get a job in physics anyway. If you like medicine, do medicine and keep physics as hobby.
  6. Jan 2, 2014 #5
    Why wouldn't I get a Job? I don't like medicine actually. This is why I am thinking of a change.
  7. Jan 2, 2014 #6
    It can be very challenging to find a physics related job, even with a physics phd. There are a lot more people trained to be scientist then there are jobs for scientists.
  8. Jan 4, 2014 #7
    Well. I have read some AIP papers about career paths of physics PhD holders, and I would accept them. Maybe it's not research in physics, but they are related. Or am I wrong?
  9. Jan 6, 2014 #8
    There are a number of options available for you. First of all, age is only a number. There are stories of very young people earning billions, and very old people just starting out. Your age only limits you if you believe it does. Secondly, you could consider a minor in physics or simply taking a few classes. You could even do physics just in your spare time. There is a huge movement of people doing quantum physics in their spare time. It's crazy to think of this as a hobby for some people, but many of these same people have become incredibly influential in the world of quantum physics.
  10. Jan 6, 2014 #9
    Who are you thinking of here? As far as a literature search will turn up, this simply isn't true.
  11. Jan 7, 2014 #10
    You can combine medicine with physics, but I do not think doing a physics undergrad will further your career. You can look on advance medicine specialty programs which are based on physics. Like, at my university, we have a proton therapy facility for cancer research. I do not think you need a physics undergrad.
  12. Jan 7, 2014 #11


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    If you want to go into medical physics - or do anything that's physics-based at a proton-therapy facility, you need to complete an undergraduate degree in physics or equivalent.

    I think what you mean to suggest is that the original poster could look into medical specialties such as radiation oncology, radiology, or nuclear medicine - all of which have a strong physics component. I'm not sure how attainable such specialties are in Venezuaela.
  13. Jan 7, 2014 #12
    Well, I am not searching to add physics to my medical career. I looking for a total switch. Leaving medicine. Even if it is not the best financial decision. What I dislike about medicine, is that there is no thinking or problem solving, all people have the same thing, and the treatment is the same. I have always loved physics, and now I'm thinking of just leaving medicine and switching. I want a job were there is more problem solving involved. Don't wanna do the same thing over and over again.

    So now that I now that my age will not be a problem for me when I go to continue my studies, (if a start now, I'll get my undergrad at 30-31, as it is 5 years in Venezuela). I would like to know from the physicist here if they find their job boring, repetitive with no actual thinking involved? or is it more based on problem solving, and that problems are constantly changing?
  14. Jan 7, 2014 #13
    I used to be a computer science major, however, every time registration came around, I would always be at wits end contemplating if I should be a physicist. My 2nd semester sophomore year, I switched to Physics. After working on numerous ground-breaking research projects, and actually discovering very little, I now find research boring. I now find the rewards unfulfilling. I can see how vast a research career can get, it can mean doing the same thing over and over and over again, hoping that this time, you will get better results, or you may do it and discover something new easily. In research, you just never know.

    I am now more concerned about financial security for my family, and I would rather be in a field that support scientists, rather than being one myself.

    If I had to do it over again, I would have opted for a career track with a more directed career path, rather than an open-ended science field. If the only complaint you have is that you are not being challenged, there are numerous ways to solve that in the medical field. A medical researcher of some sort is the easiest way to challenge yourself. I would rather a life where my challenges in life are optional, rather than ones which my career hinges on chance.
  15. Jan 7, 2014 #14
    Wow I am in the same boat as you. But I'm 33 and medicine is getting a bit boring (same old stuff, long hours and GOOD PAY but just plain mind-numbing work). I'm not sure if I'd give up my salary though, but I do want to consider maybe doing something engineering-related (not even sure if that's remotely feasible to do, it's like going backwards; I suppose I can learn stuff as a hobby, but it doesn't quite add up to working on a real project).
  16. Jan 7, 2014 #15
    If you think being a physicists means spending your time solving problems using pen and paper you are going to have a bad time unless you end up in the extremely small percentage who do get funding and do that.
  17. Jan 8, 2014 #16
    Well, I don't think that. I know the academic spots are rare. I am just asking on general terms about problem solving, or something mentally challenging. If it is on paper, computer, machines, it does not matter to me. I just want to think in my work, not some mechanical thing you just do over and over again. As I described above with people that just have the same thing, and you give them all the same treatment over and over.

    It is amazing to find another person with the same thinking as I Princeton_wu. When I decided against physics and in favor of medicine when I was 17, I did it because I thought the as a physicist in venezuela, I would have no other option but to be a high school teacher, and over here, the pay is really small for that, and of course the problem with dealing with 40 crazy teenagers. And I never realized what the doctors real job is until I started doing in my internship. I now think that it's more important for me to do what I love, than to make more money while hating my life every morning on my way to work. I started this thread to get an idea of what my options are, and what my future job may be like.
  18. Jan 11, 2014 #17
    Why not go straight into doing a medical research PhD? I know an MD who did that. And he earned lots of money as a locum in his spare time!
  19. Jan 11, 2014 #18


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    I don't think you should do that and here's why:
    First: Age is a problem.
    I'm not here do give you false hopes saying that despite being 25 you could still revolutionize some field in physics. That's not impossible, of course, but that's improbable. 25 is not old to do physics, 25 is the exact age at which you should do your best work... as a PhD. By 25 you should already have gotten your PhD. The lifespan of a physicist career is 8 years 10 years tops, between 25 and 35 years, when you are fresh from grad school and spend most of your days in the lab or staring at a black board full of equations. After that, if you did everything right, probably you will have already done your best work. Some papers advocated that 25 to 35 years your brain will be at it's peak, when you have an already develop brain (out of teens years) and not so old that your brain will start to get "old".
    To start an undergrad course in physics at 25 you'll finish your studies probably at 35-40 if you manage to finish, because I believe that you intend to have a life, to get married, buy a house and have kids which you won't be able to do if you're still in school.
    So, if you decided to do this, do be careful, age is a bigger deal that you might think and bigger than people who are trying to make you feel better and not to say the truth to you will make.
    Second: Field of study.
    You are a medic, you probably just have an undergrad degree, which is a lot consider that you do medicine. In most of undergrad courses of medicine you won't even scrap the needed content to which a physicist undergrad will need to keep going to good grad school. What I'm trying to say is that everything you study up until now will be mostly useless if you decided to do physics. Are you really ready to give all the hours that you spend studying medicine up? Consider this carefully.
    Third and last: Physics is not a mundane course.
    You may call me presumptions and most of people here don't like to say that because of modesty or another reason, but physics is not a common subject to study. Physics is the mother of every science in the world. Even math is a tool for physics. Physics is in the roots of the world as we know it. And because of that physics is a really hard thing to study. If you forgive my lack of modesty, I can say that I'm a genius and I still think that physics is hard to do. I'm member of MENSA. What I'm trying to say to you is that physics may seem fun and interesting from the outside, but she is hard and will not play fair with you. She'll pull the rug on you and throw in the ground if she have the chance. She'll fascinate you, as she have done with millions of others, but that doesn't mean she'll be sweet and care about you.
    She'll demand every waking and something sleep hour of your life. She'll take every piece of your brain full of caffeine and turn into knowledge. There's no middle ground. Either you life for her or you quit her entirely. I might even get to the point to say that physics, as a whole subject of study is the most hard thing you could ever study in your whole life.
    But, if even then you still want to do physics, do it at your own risk and good luck, my friend. Maybe you'll meet in the field.
  20. Jan 12, 2014 #19


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    Rolen, if you think leaving medicine and pursuing physics instead is not a good option for the OP, what would you suggest the OP should do? Remember, the OP has stated that he/she hates medicine, that he/she hates his/her life every morning he/she goes to work.

    Living a life like that is an agony that no one should go through, except at least on a most temporary basis.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  21. Jan 12, 2014 #20


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    This is a serious question and I don't believe that I know enough of his/her life to say what he/she should do. I'm just stating a fact that physics is completely different from medicine. That physics is very hard and very difficult to get success in it. And that physics may seem pretty from the outside but that's not true. But, if he/she's fine with everything that I said and think that he/she can manage, then he/she should do it. Better be happy with physics despite everything than miserable in medicine.
  22. Jan 13, 2014 #21
    Thank you very much for you answer Rolen. I am aware that medicine has nothing to do with physics, and that everything I learned will be useless while I am studying physics. That does not matter to me. I also don't care to give up every hour I lost studying medicine. I think, If I have already gave medicine 9 years of my life, that is not sufficient for me to give it another 40. Best to leave 9, than 49. The house and family problem is something I am actually worried about, and it is mainly that what makes me doubt doing this. I am not afraid of physics being hard. My goal is not to change physics, nor to be the next Einstein, I am just thinking of switching, to have a job I'll be glad to wake up and go to every morning.

    If it is not much trouble. Can you please tell me what you do, and if you find your job boring, repetitive and that it has almost no thinking or problem solving involved?

    I am a Man by the way. =P.
  23. Jan 14, 2014 #22


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    You know, I have found doing Physics (research) boring, repetitve and no-creativity job. I study at art school now and ended up in gamedev doing story and art.There is no guarantee that you will find REAL physics interesting. Popsci books and movies are cool. But real research is mundane. You should try doing medical research. If you find that boring, you won't like physics. Try different stuff. That's the only way to find your real interest.
  24. Jan 14, 2014 #23
    I agree with you. The only way to find it is to try different stuff! Maybe things get boring if you just don't like them. I know Mds who are not bored with what they do, and seem very interested and excited when they talk about it, even if it is repetitive. Maybe that is the reason. It's a matter of what each person likes.
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