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PhD in physics

  1. May 10, 2015 #1
    I'm just finishing my sophomore year of high school so I have a lot of time to think about it, but I'm pretty confident that im going to want to go for a PhD in physics. Ideally I would get a job as a theoretical physicist, but I understand how low the chances of that happening are even with a PhD from a good school. How are the chances of getting a job as either a climate analyst, or an engineer? I haven't looked into it but I heard there is a high demand for engineers and I would assume climate analyst is a growing field. Also what other jobs would a PhD in physics be good for?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2015 #2
    Open Landau's "Mechanics", read the first chapter. Did you understand it? No (If you did...continue, you may be on the right track).

    Open Vol.1 of Feynman's lectures on physics, read the first chapter. Did you understand it? Yes (I hope).

    One is a graduate level text, the other meant for college freshmen.

    You are not ready to be considering a PhD in physics. If you are interested in that kind of career path, enroll in an undergraduate physics program, start getting A's, and keep an eye out for research opportunities. In the mean time you could probably volunteer at a local college or laboratory to get more of an idea about what physics is.

    There is a very famous post on this forum entitled something like "So you want to be a Physicist". Google is your friend.
  4. May 10, 2015 #3


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    If you want a job in engineering, an engineering degree is worth much more than a physics degree.

    But I agree that while it is good that you are thinking about this, it isn't a decision you need to make yet.
  5. May 10, 2015 #4


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    I really am not quite sure why this type of question keeps popping up. I can understand people wanting to find out job opportunities in such-and-such a field, but it is a mystery to me why the choices that are often mentioned are such opposite to each other: theoretical physics or engineering. It is as if there are nothing in between!


  6. May 10, 2015 #5
    I'm sorry, but at this point you can't decide this. You likely don't know what a theoretical physicist does. It is far different than how it is portrayed in the media. That said, if you genuinely enjoy physics, then you might want to enroll in a physics program. But first you should find out if you really enjoy physics!
  7. May 16, 2015 #6
    Don't listen to these dream crushers kid! At least you understand the difficulty required and you goals are more of an ambition than a set path. Its a great starting point and sophomore year of high school is when I decided I would get a PhD in physics. Now, while my pursuit of a PhD did not survive through my four years, I had found another career path in the process. Now I'm doing optical engineering (and it pays way more than getting a PhD and being a professor). Keep the dream strong, but now is the time make yourself a well rounded student. I suggest you start looking in computer science. Physicists use it a lot, but many don't learn it until later in their studies. With a solid background in physics and computer science, you have the perfect foundation for a PhD or a career in technology (this includes engineering).
  8. May 16, 2015 #7


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    The advice that I gave was NOT to crush anyone's dream, but to inject a sense of reality. Note the probability of someone at that age ending in the exact career that his/she envisioned at that age! You are a prime example of this.

    No, in fact what I tried to convey is the fact that one can definitely do a PhD in physics from another major, but using that other major as a LEVERAGE for a built-in expertise. Someone with an undergraduate degree in EE can easily go into a PhD physics program in Accelerator Physics or Detector Physics. The pendulum doesn't have to swing all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum! What you had learned and acquired does not have to be completely discard and made irrelevant simply because you wanted to change major to physics. That is my whole point!

    There's a common theme that we have seen over many years in this forum, where kids are already trying to decide what they want to do before they even have a clear and full view of the field. What we tried to do here is to open their eyes a bit more into a lot more possibilities than they even imagined. It is also a disservice to these kids if we simply paint for them only the rosy picture and not tell them all the pitfalls and all the other options in front of them.

  9. May 16, 2015 #8
    I wasn't being completely serious. I just think it is great for kids that age to be ambitious and really want something. He/she already has a slight understanding of the difficulty in getting a PhD, which is much more reasonable than the sophomore's claiming they are MIT bound and want to know which area of theoretical astrophysics they should get their Nobel Prize in haha. Neil deGrasse Tyson claimed he was going to be an astrophysicist when he was 11 and his parents reinforced his interests and it clearly paid off. Obviously he is a rare case, but that type of reinforcement is very useful even if he might end up on Wall Street. He shouldn't be narrow minded to the PhD path, but I think it would be beneficial for him to go to college with a physics knowledge above the average student.
  10. May 19, 2015 #9
    I didn't intend to sound 100% certain that I will be getting a phd in physics if it came off that way. Although I will almost certainly at least major in physics. Also, I didn't mean to give the impression that I was trying to decide between theoretical physics and engineering. Although if I did decide to aim to become a theoretical physicist, as I understand it, it's extremely difficult to find a job in that field, and it would be pretty likely that I would end up at a job that is in high demand and requires experience in physics such as engineering.
  11. May 20, 2015 #10
    More than 50% of American physicists have their PhD in plasma and condensed matter physics. These areas have huge job openings in tech. Maybe learn a bit about these things and see how you like it?
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