Physics a worthless degree?

• Physics
thanks inna so much and vanadium i didnt know why you didnt like answer like our fellow inna ?

thanks inna so much and vanadium i didnt know why you didnt like answer like our fellow inna ?
Probably because one can only take so much. Just a guess, though.

Staff Emeritus
vanadium i didnt know why you didnt like answer like our fellow inna ?

If you're not willing to put in the effort to read what has already been written, why should I bother to type it in again?

Go for engineering. Unless, of course, you are not a very bright individual who has only the ability to memorize formulas and teach high school students physics. Physics is absolutely useless when not applied, and it isn't cool when it's not applied either.

I guess this would be fine if you want to live a simple life and enjoy thinking about physics, though. You could be a teacher, they deserve more pay than they receive.

If you want a good mix of traditional physics and engineering (and good pay), learn C/C++ and go work for Microsoft on the physics engine of their flight simulators or something.

Some would argue the first thing a degree should do for you is allow you to pay it back. You know, a job. Forget about a high-paying one, or a cool one. Just a job. Period. To pay back your fvcking debt.

High salaries and coolness of work can come later. But you ought to be able to pay your degree back. Don't you agree?

I'll point out one more thing. Physics is employable, but not as desirable in industry. You will get a job, but it *will* take a while (to be kind) and you will have to get creative.

First, you might recognize that well-established industries like Aerospace don't exactly have an appreciation for physics graduates. Don't ask me why, it's just the way it is. Maybe it's because engineering tasks are well defined, and they'd rather hire someone that can hit the ground running.

But. Industries reliant on high-tech like physics graduates. I figure this is because many of the people doing the hiring are full-fledged physicists themselves - or deal with full-fledged physicists. They tend to have a better appreciation for your capabilities - other than "you can teach physics".

The best example is the Semiconductor industry. Of course, during the height of the great recession of 2008, this industry hid in a cave for two full years before coming back out into the sun. I mean they didn't hire for a long time. But now they are hiring quite a bit.

The semiconductor industry is interesting in a few ways. Everything they do is high tech. First to market means everything in this industry, and you have to be the first to make the next chip. Processes change very fast, and the entire industry is in a state of experimentation. Engineers have their place, but the industry needs people that have a broad scientific background - the very definition of physics - and quick learners - again, the definition of physics.

The semiconductor liked me. Matter of fact, they are the ONLY industry that consistently liked me. They account for 70% of all calls I've received - which were not many, but good.

Of course, I didn't sit still during the recession. That would have been suicide. I started graduate studies, and took courses in materials science. Those helped. A LOT. So if you're stuck with physics, unemployed, it hurts but go back to school. If you do materials the semiconductor industry will like you a lot. If you do chemical engineering, the semiconductor industry will also like you a lot - because electrochemical methods and vapor deposition reactors are very important. If you do signals and controls systems the radar industry might like you a lot - although I only contemplated that path, never actually tried it. But I can imagine it would be very successful. Or you could try computer science, which is in tremendous demand - they seem to like programmers with strong quantitative skills. Heck physicists are hired on wall street as quantitative analysts to predict what the market will do. Of course they never predict ****, but they beat the market, which counts. Don't let me mislead you though - quant analyst jobs are demanding, and competitive. Everybody wants them because they have a physics Ph.D., are unemployed, and quant analysts are some of the highest paid jobs you could find (well well into the 6 figure starting salaries, sometimes as high as $500,000). But you would have to convince them you're a mathematical genius. Not all calls were good. Some were crappy. Others were ok. But a few were pretty encouraging. In no particular order, I've gotten calls from: 1. Axcelis Technologies, final test engineer,$23/hr (I turned it down)
2. Radiation Monitoring Devices, crystal growth technician, $45K/yr (I turned it down) 3. IBM, semiconductor process engineer,$62K/yr - under consideration
4. Veeco, technical support engineer, $63-65K/yr - under consideration 5. MathWorks, technical writer,$60K/yr - turned it down

The thing is - all these calls are recent, meaning within the last year. Nay, within the last three months. I spent 9 months looking for *anything* after finishing my B.S. Physics. And even over the past year, I heard mostly crickets.

The funny thing is, when they're hiring, they're all hiring. When they're not hiring, nobody's hiring. I've gone through 5 months without a meaningful call (other than the occasional $12/hr temporary offer), only to receive a small bundle of calls within a period of a few days - only to go another 2 months without a chirp. It helps to know it works that way. It keeps you from convincing yourself that nobody calls you because you suck, and that nobody will ever call you because if they were gonna they would have called by now. It's cruel, but it can be a year before somebody considers you for an attractive position. The thing to remember is, don't let it go to your head when you do. It's easy to figure "oh, I'm good enough for this position, I'm sure good enough for somehting even better". You might pass on pretty good opportunities because they weren't perfect, only to spend the next two months regretting it. It can help to bypass this lesson and accept a pretty good offer when someone extends one to you. But yeah, you'll do alright with Physics, and you'll be considered for engineering positions. It's just that you won't be considered for traditional engineering roles, and most of the demand will be in rapidly evolving high tech industries (personal experience). And you will definitely want to consider graduate studies - even if it's not a degree but just a few useful courses. Electrochemistry was single-handedly the most marketable course I've ever taken. I've gotten a handful of calls strictly because of that course. A course in signal analysis might be very marketable (although I haven't tried it, that's on a different end of the spectrum that I didn't pursue). And it might be a while, depending on whether you graduated during a recession -this one or some future recession for the kiddies of, I don't know, 2018? Let's hope not. 5. MathWorks, technical writer,$60K/yr - turned it down

What did this job entail that they were willing to pay that much?

Actually, a physics graduate qualifies for most of the same jobs electrical engineering graduates do as well. They have a similar skill set.

I thought physicists have a hard time getting engineering jobs because they can't be licensed as a Professional Engineer?

What's interesting is that I've noticed that a large UK based energy company http://www.centrica.com/index.asp?pageid=957" [Broken] the degrees that each successful applicant to their summer internship programme studied, and it pretty much confirms what I've observed empirically: that technical roles are almost exclusively comprised of engineering students/graduates, and that physics and maths students are only recruited for management, finance and IT positions. What's even more interesting is that, apart from the specific technical positions, is that engineering students were to be found in every area of the business. I don't think this example is too atypical at all.

Just looked at that site, and yea... no one with a physics degree works in an engineering position:
http://www.centrica.com/index.asp?pageid=957#table [Broken]
though, it is a small sample. Are most companies like this? From what I've read that seems to be the case. Oh well...I'll just have to prepare myself to work in finance or some programming job.

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I guess this would be fine if you want to live a simple life and enjoy thinking about physics, though. You could be a teacher, they deserve more pay than they receive.

Whenever I hear, from more than one person, "xxx should be paid more" about some xxx job, I know quite certain that xxx job is so under-appreciated and is going to remain so for a while.

If you want a good mix of traditional physics and engineering (and good pay), learn C/C++ and go work for Microsoft on the physics engine of their flight simulators or something.

Microsoft closed ACE Studio, who made the FS series, in 2009. The serious flight-sim makers are mostly based in Russia now (Oleg Maddox and Eagle Dynamics and Gaijin Entertainment). I had wanted to be a flight-sim maker, but the level of physics required for it is actually quite low. The greatest tech challenge would be loading/rendering terrain for the entire Earth, and rendering forests.

Generally, the physics required for game-related software is quite easy. And the greatest challenges in physics engines are in modelling 1000000 rigid bodies with acceptable accuracy (that is, numbers do not blow up) in real time. So CS people are just so much better at making physics engines than physicists.

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pi-r8
The best example is the Semiconductor industry. Of course, during the height of the great recession of 2008, this industry hid in a cave for two full years before coming back out into the sun. I mean they didn't hire for a long time. But now they are hiring quite a bit.

The semiconductor industry is interesting in a few ways. Everything they do is high tech. First to market means everything in this industry, and you have to be the first to make the next chip. Processes change very fast, and the entire industry is in a state of experimentation. Engineers have their place, but the industry needs people that have a broad scientific background - the very definition of physics - and quick learners - again, the definition of physics.

The semiconductor liked me. Matter of fact, they are the ONLY industry that consistently liked me. They account for 70% of all calls I've received - which were not many, but good.

The semiconductor industry is huge, but an ordinary physics student that followed only the physics coursework can only work in a very narrow part.

In this simple illustration:
http://abstrusegoose.com/307" [Broken]
A physicist can only work from the gate/transistor level and down, while an electrical engineer might cover all parts. And indeed, the only people consistently asking our department for interns/recent grad are Intel. And they hire physicists to their wafer plants as process engineers. They also hire EE, Chem E, Chem, ME, Material E... basically all. So a physicist hasn't much advantage there, either.

Something about wafer plants... They are high-cost, high-pollution, high-energy/water-consumption factories. You don't find them in nice beautiful big cities. And the biggest silicon wafer plants are TSMC in Taiwan. In US you're pretty much stuck with Intel or maybe IBM. But if you're imagining some high-tech semiconductor engineering job in Silicon Valley, then forget it. A pure physicist simply does not have the education to do IC design or write drivers for it or write some systems that run on it. That is the territory of CS/EE people.

Oh, one of the major reason for Intel to maintain a sizable silicon manufacturing is to avoid being entirely controlled by TSMC. Same with AMD and GlobalFoundries. US has outsourced a large amount of manufacturing. Semiconductors is no exception.

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Heck physicists are hired on wall street as quantitative analysts to predict what the market will do. Of course they never predict ****, but they beat the market, which counts.

That's not what quants do. In fact it's usually the opposite. In most situations, you assume that the markets are efficient and unpredictable, and then you figure out the mathematical consequences of that assumption.

Don't let me mislead you though - quant analyst jobs are demanding, and competitive.

For physics Ph.D.'s they aren't *that* competitive.

Everybody wants them because they have a physics Ph.D., are unemployed, and quant analysts are some of the highest paid jobs you could find (well well into the 6 figure starting salaries, sometimes as high as $500,000). But you would have to convince them you're a mathematical genius. There are people that make$500K, but they aren't typical. $150K to$200K is a more reasonable salary expectation. Also, the interviews are tough, but not as bad as most dissertation defenses.

I thought physicists have a hard time getting engineering jobs because they can't be licensed as a Professional Engineer?

For EE/CS the PE qualification is pretty much irrelevant.

wukunlin
Gold Member
@lifeson22, mayonaise

may I just say your info with regards to the semiconductor industry is something I have been looking for ages. I find them very informative, thanks