PhD Physics student on career planning

In summary, vnck78 is seeking guidance on pursuing a PhD in theoretical physics from a renowned institute. He has a background in electronics and telecommunications engineering and has been working in a corporate environment for the last 15 years. He would like to pursue a PhD while maintaining a professional career.
  • #1
Hey people.

I'm currently in a situation of finishing my BSc in Chemistry and about to start a MSc in mathematical biology and biophysical chemistry at the University of Warwick (This is the UK).

I'm currently pondering what to do with my future career. Personally, Having spent 3 years and about to spend another year in the same university, I feel like moving on to another university to do a Ph.D. My question is, will the quality of a PhD matter when for example comparing universities such as Warwick (which is I believe, above-average) or in the top tier ones such as Cambridge or Imperial?

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  • #2
u.s. citizen and PHD from american university --> professor at foreign country

If you are a u.s. citizen and get your PHD here in the states could you then become a professor in mexico or some country in south america? How difficult would it be to find a position in a foreign university(excluding moving troubles, working visa etc.)? Are foreign universities keen on hiring PHD's from the United States or are there enough of or a surplus of domestic graduates for them to choose from?

In case anyone has first hand advice I am specifically most interested in mexico, chile, argentina, and uruguay but would consider any spanish speaking country(Fluent in both english and spanish).

  • #3
I recently obtained my BSEE and have been accepted into a PhD program at a Texas university. This program is BS to PhD, which I suppose means I won't be obtaining a Masters.

Anyway, I have become rather strongly attached to working in the medical field. As far as I know, this potential university doesn't have some of the exciting research going on that I found in other schools such as cochlear implants and things like that. What they do have is a whole department devoted to medical imaging, which I was learning to like.

My dilemma is that, while my ugrad school offered a concentration in bioengineering, it's not what I was involved in, and I would say I know very little about bio in terms of physiology and anatomy and things in that subject.

Would this be a huge problem for me? I'm counting on myself being able to pick it up along the way since most of the work will involve mathematics in the medical imaging field.
Also, what kind of work should I expect to be doing with this type of skill? As of now, the only thing keeping me interested in this field is that my personal philosophy forces me to focus on something directly applicable to human life, as that for me would serve as motivation to keep chugging through. Ideally, when I was younger I used to tell myself I was going to work and study on the brain, and well, with a background in EE and knowing the brain is driven essentially by electrical impulses, it seems like I found a good avenue to use my EE experience towards and to coincide with my personal ideological goals.
(A bit off topic but I have the opportunity to get into a straight MsEE at a better university but lack the funding).Thanks for the reply.
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  • #4
Hi All,

I selected the direct path to PhD instead of doing a MS first, passed the qualifier exams and finished all my graduate courses and now totally into research. This Fall, I just started my 3rd year in grad school.My research deals with experimental studies on protein aggregation. These studies can shed light on numerous "protein condensation diereses".
My background is in Physics and Math, and basically self studying Biochemistry and Biology. I really want to take up a career in research related to Medicine/Health care. What options do I have? Please explain in detail, I would really appreciate it!
Also, my mentor suggested that I should aim to publish my work in "Physics Review Letters", would this be helpful if I want to apply for research positions related to Medical research?

Thanking in advance.

  • #5
Dear Forum Members,

I am new to this forum and seek some guidance from you.

  1. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from one of the top Tier Engineering Colleges of India - as part of my degree I did 4 semesters of Physics and 6 semesters of Mathematics

  2. I have been working in the Corporate environment for the last 15 years since graduation (no exposure to Physics/Mathematics apart from occasional self study

  3. I would like to pursue a PhD in Theoretical Physics (specialization not yet clear) preferably from Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics ( ) mainly due to reasons of proximity since I want to pursue the PhD in parallel with my professional career

I am sure I have raised a lot of eyebrows with the expression of my intent. But would still like to ask for your guidance/inputs - some of the specific questions would be

  1. I have conflicting information on my eligibility to be considered for a straight PhD following a BE degree - one school of opinion tells me I must do a full time Masters / other says I would be eligible for a straight PhD provided I enroll myself through an university which offers a Masters degree. What is the truth (since I may not be able to go for a full time Masters)?

  2. While I have some idea of the daunting scale of the task (provided I am eligible - refer question 1) how much actual classroom sessions will I have to plan for (Since I presume lot of Mathematical / Theoretical foundations would need me to attend some classes)

  3. The mother of all questions - is this at all feasible (keeping mainly in mind the academic possibilites/restrictions in India/Kolkata - I am setting aside the questions of my ability for the time being)

Thanks in advance for all the valuable suggestions I am anticipating

Warm Regards
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  • #6

I am sort of stuck on what I should do after I finish up my PhD.

First a bit of background. I'm about a year from finishing a PhD in high energy experiment. For many reasons I don't really want to pursue the whole post-doc rat race. I've seen too many shattered, late 30s post-docs unable to get a permanent position to want to pursue that path. I doubt my chances would be helped any by the fact that accelerator physics in the US has a somewhat uncertain future. There are other reasons in my personal life as well. The PhD was a lot of fun so far (and stress but that is ok ), so I don't regret going for it at least.

Of course this leaves me with the question, what next? I am not even sure what are reasonable alternatives to pursue. I'm in hep so the majority of what I've done (and will do) for my PhD is programming. Even my service work for the experiment I am a part of was development work on the software used to monitoring the data coming off the detector. So I guess software development is one path, and I would enjoy it which is one plus. It seems to me though it would be hard to sell myself as good candidate to a prospective employer. I am, for personal reasons, stuck the San Francisco Bay Area for at least the next several years and I would assume their are plenty of developers better than me floating around with just a B.Sc. Luckily, from working on a big experiment I have experience with revision control systems and developing your code as part of a much larger piece of software. Has anyone here (or knows someone) that has made a similar transition? Is it possible?

I haven't really done any hands-on stuff with any sort of industry application since my first year of grad school. This was basically just a summer taking measurements on transistors from different semiconductor processes with a probe station and an ancient HP parameter analyzer to see how much their leakage currents changed after irradiation. So nothing spectacularly useful at least not without some other skills. All my friends who are condensed matter experimentalists are so much luckier in this regard. Some sort of industry job doesn't really seem possible.
  • #7

I am thinking of applying to PhD programs in experimental physics. Little background aboout myself. I am from India and 10 years ago I had gone to US for grad studies and I was there
for 3-4 years. I had completed all the course work , but I had to cut short my studies because of personal problems and return to India. Since I did complete the course work, I got MS in physics. I am thinking of going back to grad school in Physics for doing PhD in experimental physics. Since I am out of touch with grad school (though I teach physics in India), for 6-7 years, I need advice. I will be looking for programs which offer me funding , as a TA or RA. My last GPA was 3.0/4.0 (the minimum required, where I was :cry:)
I have heard that recession has affected the funding scene in US. Is it true ?

I have completed "Base SAS" and "Advanced SAS" ( certifications. The SAS is a programming language mostly used for data related jobs and statistical analysis. These certifications can help me get some kind of campus job if in case I don't get full funding.

So which schools should I be looking for ? I can't think of any high ranked univs because of such background. So suggest some schools where the funding chances are high for me.
I am also thinking of applying in Canada,Germany but I have no idea about these countries. At all.
  • #8
Hi everyone - I'm hoping for a bit of impartial advice about career prospects for a couple of different options I'm considering. I graduated from a Masters degree in Physics back in 2009 and since then have been mostly traveling and working, albeit in an unrelated industry (medical insurance/some accounting).

I loved my time studying during my undergraduate years and still feel the desire to learn more, but I'm also concerned about limiting future career prospects.

I've had a look around at PhD positions and have been accepted by two supervisors in different fields:
1) PhD in Biophysics subject at a top university in Germany under a very reputable supervisor
2) PhD in Soft Condensed Matter subject at a top university in Australia, again under a great supervisor

I think I tend to lean away from pursuing an academic career, although I haven't closed the door on it completely.

What are the prospects for a career in industry/government/non-academic field after completing a PhD like the ones I've listed? What sorts of employers would be interested in someone qualified in a PhD in these fields? Are these fields overly specialised and could they limit employability?

Or, would it be better to simply pursue a career outside of academia based purely on my Masters qualification?

I've heard nightmare stories about people doing PhDs in physics, coming out with the qualification and then being shut out of prospective job opportunities and having to retrain in a totally new field.

Advice would be greatly appreciated from a very indecisive person!
  • #9
I didn't get into any of the Maths Phd schools I applied for. I thought I was a decent applicant with some research experience(no publications), solid gre(above 90%) and good recc. letters.
I did apply to top ranked, medium ranked and even some with lower ranks.
Such is life.

I want to pursue mathematics PhD because that is something I really enjoy. I am planning to work on a job(finance) for two years and reapplying. If you have been/know someone in such a situation, what do people recommend? What classes should I take? What should I do
to show that I am still pursuing mathematics actively? How will my chances be affected by applying after 2 years of finance job?

Info: My area of interest in mathematics are pde(more on theroetical side) and set theory.

  • #10
Hi everyone,

I'm a recent mechanical engineering graduate and am considering doing a PhD. Ideally I would like to get involved in a topic that is directly related to non-linear dynamics and chaos but am quite overwhelmed with information. I have an interest in automotive engineering as well as vibrations.

To narrow my question down a bit, I'm unsure of the actual process involved in achieving this. Am I limited to advertised positions and therefore have to cross my fingers that something comes up? Or is approaching the right institution something that is an option?

If anyone could provide perspective on potential topics that are related to my interests that would be great.

Thanks in advance.
  • #11
I'm doing a PhD (particle physics) at a British university, and I'm at the point where I'm starting to think about career options. Staying in physics as a postdoc is a potential option but I've heard all about how a career in academia as a physicist is a competitive world to succeed in.

However, I'm not against leaving the UK for a good job, but right now I'm limited by only knowing how to speak English. I'm considering learning another language but don't know which one tp pick. Which one would be my best bet - either to go somewhere as a physicist or as someone doing a job that physics graduates typically end up doing?

Additional info: I'm not too concerned about which languages are harder to learn than others, but ideally if I leave the UK it would be for some warm & beautiful place rather than somewhere similar to the UK.

  • #12

I am a student finishing up my master's degree, and I am in a bit of a dilema regarding what to do next, so I am posting here to see if I can get some input or advice.
Basically, I have been offered a PhD position in particle phenomenology (so theory but quite close to LHC physics and experimental particle physics), however the more I think about it the more I am having second thoughts about going into that.
I feel like the possibilities after my phd will be quite limited, because of the very high competition in high energy theory, and I am not sure how I feel about ending up in finance, IT or management consulting. I don't mean to say that there is anything wrong with those, but I think it would be a bit of a disappointment to end up in something completely unrelated to my studies after so much hard work.
So now I am very seriously considering enrolling in a 1-year master in statistical physics and condensed matter theory, with the idea of moving towards computational condensed matter/statistical physics. I am however not completely sure wether the prospects in those fields are actually much better, or if I am just seeing greener grass on the other side...
I am also wondering about prospects outside academia in those fields, the feeling I get is that once you leave the academic world it doesn't matter so much what you studied so in this sense I should just continue with my current phd position rather than waste a year to move to something else, and just leave academia after my degree if things don't work out for the best and I don't get a great postdoc in high energy theory.

Any input is appreciated,

Related to PhD Physics student on career planning

1. What career options are available for a PhD Physics student?

A PhD in Physics opens up a wide range of career opportunities. Some popular options include research positions in academia or industry, teaching at the university level, scientific writing and communication, data analysis and consulting, and roles in government and policy-making organizations.

2. How can a PhD Physics student prepare for a career after graduation?

To prepare for a career after graduation, a PhD Physics student can gain practical skills through internships or research collaborations with industry partners. They can also attend career workshops and conferences, network with professionals in their field, and gain teaching experience. Additionally, students can work on developing their communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

3. Is a postdoctoral position necessary for career advancement in physics?

While a postdoctoral position is not mandatory, it can provide valuable research experience and enhance job prospects in academia. It can also help in building a strong research profile and expanding professional networks. However, there are also successful career paths in industry or other non-academic sectors for PhD Physics graduates.

4. Are there any specific skills or qualifications that can help a PhD Physics student in their career?

In addition to technical knowledge in their specific area of research, PhD Physics students can benefit from developing transferable skills such as data analysis and programming, project management, and teamwork. They can also consider taking courses or gaining experience in areas such as science communication, entrepreneurship, or data science, depending on their career goals.

5. How can a PhD Physics student balance their research work and career planning?

Balancing research work and career planning can be challenging, but it is important for PhD Physics students to prioritize and manage their time effectively. This can involve setting specific goals and timelines for both research and career-related tasks, seeking guidance from mentors or career advisors, and taking breaks to avoid burnout. It can also be helpful to attend workshops or seminars on career planning while still in graduate school.

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