PhD Application in Physics: Age, Immigration, 2 PhDs

In summary: However, the pay and working conditions are often much worse at a private than at a public school. Community college may be a better option for you because the workload is often lower and the pay is usually better. Plus, you may be able to transfer to a 4-year university if you don't like the community college.
  • #36
Fernando Rios said:
I was thinking about the PhD in Physics after the M.S. in Physics.
You should be aware that if you do go that route, unless you do your PhD at the same university, you probably will not receive much if any transfer credit from your master's towards a PhD. As a result you'd probably be looking at a minimum of 8 more years of education (on top of the 10 you've already completed).
 
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  • #37
And SJSU does not have a PhD program, so this is guaranteed to happen.
 
  • #38
gwnorth said:
You should be aware that if you do go that route, unless you do your PhD at the same university, you probably will not receive much if any transfer credit from your master's towards a PhD. As a result you'd probably be looking at a minimum of 8 more years of education (on top of the 10 you've already completed).
That's definitely a good point to consider. Does that mean the PhD will take 5 years? Will this amount of time make a difference I terms of being able to find a job?
 
  • #39
The average PhD takes just over 7 years. If your MS takes 2, and you don't get any time savings from your MS (a situation that is highly highly likely) this sums to 9.

I believe that will make you almost 50 when you finish (and it can take even more time than the average). This will have a large financial impact, as well as raise "perpetual student" questions.
 
  • #40
Fernando Rios said:
Since I was in my last years of the B.S. in Mechanical Engineering I wanted to study Physics, but I didn't know I could change fields and do an M.S. in Physics. Also, due to circunstances out of my control I ended up in the PhD in Nanosience and Nanotechnology.
OK. But I still don't understand why your career goal is a tenured position at a community college? Rather than, say, a tenured position at a research university, or an R&D job in industry? Is there something explicitly drawing you to a community college, or do you just think it's an easy position to land? Again, you're talking about your primary Plan A goal, not a Plan B fallback.
 
  • #41
If you’re mainly interested in teaching, not research, you should consider four-year colleges that don’t grant PhD’s. I did my undergraduate at one, and taught at one for many years (now retired).

Most of them do expect some research, but it’s often mainly for giving students research experience so they can have a chance to get into graduate school. It’s not the primary criterion for tenure and promotion, as it is at research-oriented universities and the more prestigious small colleges.

Warning: many of these small colleges are under financial strain because of declining enrollment and a smaller expected pool of high-school graduates in the near future. Many colleges are avoiding re-filling tenure track positions when professors retire or leave, and trying to make do with adjuncts instead, or cutting back programs.
 
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  • #42
CrysPhys said:
OK. But I still don't understand why your career goal is a tenured position at a community college? Rather than, say, a tenured position at a research university, or an R&D job in industry? Is there something explicitly drawing you to a community college, or do you just think it's an easy position to land? Again, you're talking about your primary Plan A goal, not a Plan B fallback.
The reason why I rather teach at a community college is because I want to focus on teaching rather than doing research, also I have heard it is easier to teach at a community college than at a university.
 
  • #43
jtbell said:
If you’re mainly interested in teaching, not research, you should consider four-year colleges that don’t grant PhD’s. I did my undergraduate at one, and taught at one for many years (now retired).

Most of them do expect some research, but it’s often mainly for giving students research experience so they can have a chance to get into graduate school. It’s not the primary criterion for tenure and promotion, as it is at research-oriented universities and the more prestigious small colleges.

Warning: many of these small colleges are under financial strain because of declining enrollment and a smaller expected pool of high-school graduates in the near future. Many colleges are avoiding re-filling tenure track positions when professors retire or leave, and trying to make do with adjuncts instead, or cutting back programs.
You mean like the one I will attend to do my M.S. in Physics (SJSU). They just offer Master's degrees, but I think in the Physics department professors still do research. I know someone who is teaching there with an M.S. in Physics, but just as a lecturer, not as a professor. Working there as a lecturer is still a full-time job? Do I need a PhD to get tenure at this type of institutions?
 
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  • #44
From my internet searches, I find that community college teachers teach about twice as many hours per week as do professors in research institutions. You will have less requirement to do research, but you may or may not find this community college teaching "easier". I myself hope some people with advanced degrees and love of teaching will choose high school teaching, having myself suffered through a high school class in physics that was basically a joke.
 
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  • #45
Your plan is to get a research degree so you can get a job where you don't have to do any research. OK...but are you going to write that on your Statement of Purpose?
 
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  • #46
Fernando Rios said:
The reason why I rather teach at a community college is because I want to focus on teaching rather than doing research, also I have heard it is easier to teach at a community college than at a university.
<<Emphasis added.>> By "easier" do you mean easier to land a job in the first place, or easier to do the job?
 
  • #47
Fernando Rios said:
You mean like the one I will attend to do my M.S. in Physics (SJSU)
No, SJSU is a state school (according to Wikipedia, "the oldest public university on the West Coast and the founding campus of the California State University system."). The schools I'm thinking of are mostly small and privately-owned:

List of liberal arts colleges in the United States (Wikipedia)

They depend on student tution and fees, and on donations from alumni etc., for financial support.

Most of them originally had "College" in their names, and some of them still do, but many have "upgraded" themselves to "Universities" by adding specialized master's degree programs, often in health-related fields (e.g. nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy), in order to bring in more tuition and fees. (However, my own alma mater is still a "College", even after adding a nursing program.)

Fernando Rios said:
Working there as a lecturer is still a full-time job? Do I need a PhD to get tenure at this type of institutions?

Yes, they have the normal tenure track: assistant, associate and full professors; and most require a PhD in order to get on the tenure track. Their accrediting agencies usually limit the percentage of class-hours for a bachelor's degree, that can be taught by faculty who do not have a "terminal degree" e.g. PhD.

When I started teaching at the college that I retired from, a professor's normal teaching schedule was four lecture courses per semester. In departments with labs (e.g. physics, chemistry, biology), labs didn't "count" as much as lectures, so my schedule was usually either three lectures and two labs, or two lectures and three labs. At some point this changed to seven lectures per year (three in one semester and four in the other), with some weird advanced mathematics for "counting" labs. :rolleyes: This was for freeing up some faculty time to do research, which had basically become required for students.

Colleges with greater expectations for faculty to do research have teaching loads of three classes per semester, or even fewer if you can "buy" teaching hours with research grant money.
 
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  • #48
Vanadium 50 said:
Your plan is to get a research degree so you can get a job where you don't have to do any research. OK...but are you going to write that on your Statement of Purpose?
Well that's what I want to do. What did other professors with PhD and with the same job say?
 
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  • #49
CrysPhys said:
<<Emphasis added.>> By "easier" do you mean easier to land a job in the first place, or easier to do the job?
Easier to land a job and I would also think easier to do the job since you do not do the research, but I would like to hear other opinions.
 
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  • #50
mathwonk said:
From my internet searches, I find that community college teachers teach about twice as many hours per week as do professors in research institutions. You will have less requirement to do research, but you may or may not find this community college teaching "easier". I myself hope some people with advanced degrees and love of teaching will choose high school teaching, having myself suffered through a high school class in physics that was basically a joke.
So, you mean it may be as equal as hard to teach at community college than to teach at a university? Based on my experience nothing compares to research.
 
  • #51
Fernando Rios said:
Easier to land a job and I would also think easier to do the job since you do not do the research, but I would like to hear other opinions.

Fernando Rios said:
So, you mean it may be as equal as hard to teach at community college than to teach at a university? Based on my experience nothing compares to research.
According to the SJSU website, their master's in physics program takes typically 2 - 3 yrs to complete. Since they admit students without a bachelor's in physics, but require them to take remedial undergrad courses, I assume the 3 yrs applies to that category of students (and you fall in that category).

So if you want to spend 2 - 3 yrs studying physics for its own sake, fine. You know by now that the master's will qualify you to teach at some community colleges as an adjunct instructor, but getting a tenured position will not be as easy as you first hoped for. And the teaching job may not be as easy as you first hoped for. You don't appear to be interested in a job in industry (at least at this time); however, you should note that in the US, with exceptions, an MS in physics won't afford you greater job opportunities than the degrees you have now.

But you should think really, really hard whether you want to spend an additional ~6 or so yrs (after your master's) getting a PhD in physics if you are not internally driven to do research. Typically students pursue a PhD because they are internally driven to pursue research. They complete their thesis research, a finished outcome for one phase of their lives. Then they move on. To more research; or to some other career option.

But to pursue a PhD when you are not internally driven to do research, solely as a means for the end goal of landing a job teaching at a community college? Does that really make sense to you (regardless of the age issue)?
 
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  • #52
CrysPhys said:
According to the SJSU website, their master's in physics program takes typically 2 - 3 yrs to complete. Since they admit students without a bachelor's in physics, but require them to take remedial undergrad courses, I assume the 3 yrs applies to that category of students (and you fall in that category).

So if you want to spend 2 - 3 yrs studying physics for its own sake, fine. You know by now that the master's will qualify you to teach at some community colleges as an adjunct instructor, but getting a tenured position will not be as easy as you first hoped for. And the teaching job may not be as easy as you first hoped for. You don't appear to be interested in a job in industry (at least at this time); however, you should note that in the US, with exceptions, an MS in physics won't afford you greater job opportunities than the degrees you have now.

But you should think really, really hard whether you want to spend an additional ~6 or so yrs (after your master's) getting a PhD in physics if you are not internally driven to do research. Typically students pursue a PhD because they are internally driven to pursue research. They complete their thesis research, a finished outcome for one phase of their lives. Then they move on. To more research; or to some other career option.

But to pursue a PhD when you are not internally driven to do research, solely as a means for the end goal of landing a job teaching at a community college? Does that really make sense to you (regardless of the age issue)?
Actually, it is not that I don't feel that motivated to do the research. I guess it is more like I find it hard from my experience from my PhD. Anyway, since I will be 3 years in the M.S. degree, I guess I have about 2 years to get research experience in Physics and talk to people at SJSU to make the decision of whether I will apply for the PhD or not. I will definitely need to consider a lot of aspects.
 
  • #53
I also found getting a PhD the hardest thing I had ever done, partly because of poor pay, poor working conditions, exploitation by the university, family needs,.... But afterwards, research activity, .... well yes, it was still extremely hard, but was also a source of enjoyment, at least when I was able to converse and cooperate with brilliant colleagues on topics of real interest to us. By comparison, trying to teach hard material to large numbers of unappreciative students, for an unappreciative administration, can be very discouraging. Although many of my lower level classes were rewarding due to some of the hard working students, the real scientific stimulation in my day was the time talking research to colleagues, or teaching an advanced graduate class. But I had friends who preferred teaching to research. The ones who enjoyed it the most however were those who regularly taught only the very best students in honors classes. By definition this cannot be the lot of every teacher. If you aspire to teaching in a community college after years of study, I recommend you try to get a real sense of what it is like to explain physics to an audience of ill prepared, often ill motivated and ungifted students, and make sure this will engage you long term. To be sure, any student who wants to learn can be very rewarding to teach, but it helps greatly if you are, or can become, one of those teachers who can actually interest, or even inspire, average students to want to learn. good luck in your journey.
 
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