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Particle VS Structure Career

  1. Apr 4, 2010 #1
    Hi everybody! I'm an italian student, i'm about to get my bachelor in physics, and naturally the next academic year i'm going to begin grad school. My problem is: starting with the fact that i'm with no doubt a theoretical physicist, i'd like to know if, as far as regards career, it will be better for me to study (and possibly get a PHD and so on) particle physics or structure (atomic and molecular, i don't really know how to call it) physics.
    I think I'm really fond of particle physics, and that's what i really prefer, on the other side some people keep telling me that it's far more difficult to find job as a particle physicist than as a structure one.
    I'm sort of going crazy, since when I decided to study physics I just thought "I want to do what i like most, screw job possibilities" but as far as i was told, the situation for particle physics, especially theoretical, is quite desperate.
    I'd like to know if you're of the same advice, thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2010 #2
    The jargon that I've heard is AMO physics as opposed to HEP physics. The demand for academics in AMO is somewhat better than HEP, but it's still very hard to get a job there. The google keyword search term that you want is "rumor mill."

    It's desperate if you want an academic position. There is no jobs problem if you are interested in going into industry. The important thing there is to make sure that you get lots of computational experience while doing a Ph.D., at which point there are just tons of jobs in high-end computer programming.
  4. Apr 4, 2010 #3
    So you're basically telling me that academic career is desperate in both cases, although in AMO is slightly better? Speaking about industry, i can hardly think of the way a particle physicist could be useful in industry, could you explain me this point?
    I already knew that computational experience is very important, and luckily for me that is not a problem, in fact i like that pretty much
  5. Apr 4, 2010 #4
    Yes. But I don't think it's so much better that it's worth changing your career goals. Your first priority is to finish the Ph.D. and it's easier to do it if you like the topic.

    It depends on the amount of computer experience that you have. If you have a lot of experience programming lattice gauge theory simulations or doing numerical relativity, then there are a lot of jobs that are available that require high performance computing experience. I've worked in the oil industry, logistics, and Wall Street babysitting supercomputers.
  6. Apr 4, 2010 #5
    So all these industry jobs are all not about physics. I know i'll probably sound naive, but being young, i really hope i'll always be able to do what i had been studying for.
    If i got it right, you're suggesting me to stick with particle physics, with the drawback that probably my job won't deal with physics, but it will require lots of programming
  7. Apr 4, 2010 #6
    Well, the jobs available are unlikely to deal with theoretical particle physics anyway. You should think of your undergraduate and post-graduate study as being a sort of preparation - you're learning a vast set of skills that can be applied to different subject areas. I'm sure you know many industries like to attract physics graduates- because they're good at solving problems/modelling/writing reports etc - this is why twofish mentions this.
  8. Apr 4, 2010 #7
    Twofish, what did you do your PhD in? I know it was Physics but what area was it in? So most of your jobs were programming related? Not trying to hijack the thread just curious for sake of knowledge. Thanks.
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