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Job Skills Optics: Master's or PhD?

  1. Jun 10, 2016 #1
    I am entering my senior year at a liberal arts college where I am earning a BA in Physics. I have some research experience in optics and by the time I graduate I will have more. I am fairly certain that I do not want to continue doing research for my career and that I am more interested in some form of industry work/engineering. With that in mind, as far as opportunities are concerned, does it make more sense for me to pursue a master’s degree or a PhD in optics? I suppose another way to phrase my question is, if I am not interested in doing research long-term, would it still be a significantly better career move for me to get a PhD? Or could I stick with a master’s degree and not lose out on significant opportunities in industry?

    Any advice, pros and cons to consider, or general info about what it’s like to work in optics at any level would be much appreciated, since it’s a somewhat specialized field and I don’t know many people in it. I have seen forums on the same masters-vs-PhD question for topics such as medical physics (another possibility for me if optics doesn’t pan out…I’m definitely not set in my career plans) and physics degrees, so I thought I’d ask specifically about optics. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2016 #2
    I suggest going for the PhD. Many or most PhDs dont work in scientific research. A PhD will open more doors for you, particularly since you dont have an engineering degree.
  4. Jun 10, 2016 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    A lot depends on the specifics- for example, what industry? (telecommunications, solar panels, displays, etc. etc). A good MS involving an internship or other professional experience can make you very competitive. On the other hand, coming out with a PhD will set you up to be a technical group leader instead of a technical group member.

    Similarly, having only a MS means you will need to jump to a management track at some point if you want your career to keep progressing. Having a PhD allows you to stay on technical staff as long as you like.
  5. Jun 12, 2016 #4


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    A Master's in physics is essentially useless. You need the PhD to do physics like work in industry like at IBM or Intel for example.
  6. Jun 17, 2016 #5
    As far as industry is concerned, the two ideas that have caught my attention most are solar panels and medical imaging (which is why medical physics is another option I'm still looking into). Thanks for the advice! That's exactly the kind of perspective I was looking for.
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