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Other Now is my time for the stay or leave question

  • Thread starter Star_Owl
  • Start date
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Hi everyone,

I am on the verge of a career crossroad that will drastically shape my future. It might seems strange to ask for advice for such an important matter in a forum and to strangers, but people around me are not informed about academic environment or (the ones who knows this world) biased towards the choice "stay" and not enough caring about my future and personal situation. Besides, it is always good to get more information :)

So, I am now completing my PhD in physics and have the following choice: go for a Postdoc or go for a master degree in Artificial Intelligence. Obviously there are other options, but those are the two I intend to consider.
I did a good PhD, with a couple of valid publications. I think that I would be able to eventually get a Postdoc. I also know very well that in 5/6 years this will end: I am not at the stellar level required to get a professorship, which is the only option to stay long term in academia. I will be older and more worned out, academia is a serious and demanding place. I am worried about my future perspective after the Postdoc phase and I am really worried that I won't find a decent job in the private sector, since every good company will always choose a fresh graduate and be skeptical about a scientist switching after so much time in academia, thinking that he is just a "failure" and has not the necessary business acumen. I should mention: I am in Europe, and here we do not have many companies focused in research nor the different career options for scientists as in the U.S. In Europe there is the academia and then there is the conservative and established private sector (with some degree of approximation). We do not have IBM, Google, Microsoft, Intel,... or we do, but only for the business activity, not fundamental research.
But here is the problem: I love research, I am enthusiast about my research field, I love the environment, I feel at the right place in academia. It offers a fantastic life with stimulating tasks and brillant collegues. I feel that leaving now is too early, I still have ideas, potential to express, the possibility of contributing to science (even if only a little). I will miss a lot this world if I leave now.

The other option: go for a Master in IA, a good one where I have been accepted. It fascinates me, it is a blooming sector, here in Europe too. I will be able to employ, at least to some extend, my knowledge and scientific mind set. And it is very likely that I will easily find a job, in my country, as employed, in a startup or with my own business. Many career options will be open and I may have a job with a certain degree of research focus. It is a safe option (or do you think is not?), it will make me happy, but has not the magic of academia, and I will always live with the feeling of having left something incomplete in my research area. A very heavy burden, I do feel it now already.

So, after this long post, what do you think? Is my analysis wrong? Did you have a similar experience, what choice have you taken, do you regret it?

Thank you very much for your help!
 
Last edited:

StatGuy2000

Education Advisor
1,628
709
To the OP:

I commend you for being clear-eyed and realistic about your prospects regarding academic opportunities within physics. While I am not a physicist (I am a statistician working in the private sector), I have known others who have faced a similar situation to yours.

I agree that the prospects for you (and others) in obtaining a tenure-track position is quite low, so it really is important for those with PhDs in physics (or other STEM fields) to have a backup plan. So if I were you, I would indeed consider the Masters in Artificial Intelligence. A caveat that I have, though, is the nature of the Masters program. Preferably, for you to be competitive in industry, you really need to have industrial experience. So in addition to the AI Masters, I would consider seeking a short-term data science/machine learning internship either while you are finishing up your PhD or immediately afterwards (but before beginning your Masters program). In this way, you will have something available in your CV/resume indicating you have experience. I would also advise that you build up your programming/coding portfolio (setting up a Github account if you haven't already, participating in Kaggle competitions, etc.).

Best of luck!
 

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