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Physics Career Expectations

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello everyone I am 23 years old mechanical engineering student getting his associates this year. I am very determined to pursue a career in physics I have basically taken all of my physics courses and pre requisite for the core physics courses so at my senior college I can declare physics as a major with no problem. In my math classes from Algebra up to Calculus 3 I have gotten all A's. In my physics 1 I got a C it was a very tough professor. I choose to move to physics because it expands my thinking on a whole new level and that gets me going. I am thinking to get into the field of particle physics or nuclear physics still doing my research. One of my aspiration as well is to be an NASA astronaut for USA. I would very much appreciate past physicists or undergraduate students who can offer advice and expectations of this field and how can I improve my self in this field.

Thank You
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I think getting a few bad grades is normal for most people, but physics careers are so difficult to obtain that you need every advantage you can acquire. You will be competing with a lot of 4.0 Stanford Honors students when you try out for graduate school.

Also, physics is incredibly broad; you have yet to describe the subfield you intend to specialize in. Electron microscopy for materials physics is a vastly different kettle of fish from theoretical quantum gravity, with different career opportunities, chances, and other issues.

Also keep in mind that you can actually go to graduate school in mechanical engineering and specialize in applied physics, which is a more lucrative route (e.g. fluid dynamics, nanoscale heat transfer etc).
 
  • #3
I think getting a few bad grades is normal for most people, but physics careers are so difficult to obtain that you need every advantage you can acquire. You will be competing with a lot of 4.0 Stanford Honors students when you try out for graduate school.

Also, physics is incredibly broad; you have yet to describe the subfield you intend to specialize in. Electron microscopy for materials physics is a vastly different kettle of fish from theoretical quantum gravity, with different career opportunities, chances, and other issues.

Also keep in mind that you can actually go to graduate school in mechanical engineering and specialize in applied physics, which is a more lucrative route (e.g. fluid dynamics, nanoscale heat transfer etc).
Are you also an undergraduate student in physics field?
 
  • #4
34
12
Hello everyone I am 23 years old mechanical engineering student getting his associates this year. I am very determined to pursue a career in physics I have basically taken all of my physics courses and pre requisite for the core physics courses so at my senior college I can declare physics as a major with no problem. In my math classes from Algebra up to Calculus 3 I have gotten all A's. In my physics 1 I got a C it was a very tough professor. I choose to move to physics because it expands my thinking on a whole new level and that gets me going. I am thinking to get into the field of particle physics or nuclear physics still doing my research. One of my aspiration as well is to be an NASA astronaut for USA. I would very much appreciate past physicists or undergraduate students who can offer advice and expectations of this field and how can I improve my self in this field.

Thank You

I sort of just coasted through my physics degree and came out with a VERY bad GPA (most of the bad grades came from my stint as a chemistry major though). I still got a very good job in materials research. It is possible... but my advice to you based on my experience is... STUDY and never look up the answers, make friends in the department, don't commute more than a little ways or, if you are like me, you will be unmotivated to go everyday. Lastly, don't get married until you are done. haha

Oh yeah, be absolutely sure it is what you want to do. I thought I wanted to do a lot of things in college and it ended up taking me forever. This is also part of the reason my grades suffered. I just got tired of the whole thing after a while.
 
  • #5
I sort of just coasted through my physics degree and came out with a VERY bad GPA (most of the bad grades came from my stint as a chemistry major though). I still got a very good job in materials research. It is possible... but my advice to you based on my experience is... STUDY and never look up the answers, make friends in the department, don't commute more than a little ways or, if you are like me, you will be unmotivated to go everyday. Lastly, don't get married until you are done. haha

Oh yeah, be absolutely sure it is what you want to do. I thought I wanted to do a lot of things in college and it ended up taking me forever. This is also part of the reason my grades suffered. I just got tired of the whole thing after a while.
Whats your highest degree earned if you don't mind me asking? Do you enjoy it? Does it pay well? ty
 
  • #6
34
12
Whats your highest degree earned if you don't mind me asking? Do you enjoy it? Does it pay well? ty
I have a B.S.
I love it! It pays pretty well, the benefits are pretty great.
 
  • #7
I sort of just coasted through my physics degree and came out with a VERY bad GPA (most of the bad grades came from my stint as a chemistry major though). I still got a very good job in materials research. It is possible... but my advice to you based on my experience is... STUDY and never look up the answers, make friends in the department, don't commute more than a little ways or, if you are like me, you will be unmotivated to go everyday. Lastly, don't get married until you are done. haha

Oh yeah, be absolutely sure it is what you want to do. I thought I wanted to do a lot of things in college and it ended up taking me forever. This is also part of the reason my grades suffered. I just got tired of the whole thing after a while.
I generally agree with this advice. I think making yourself a fixture of the department and making sure you are there every day is important for your motivation. We don't often talk about how important personal connections are for making it through the degree. It's a way to commiserate about the struggle and also learn skills from others.

Knowing why you want to study physics, and constantly reminding yourself of this, is also necessary.

BUT, I would say it's also okay to have a personal life, re: marriage, children, etc. You can't be a robot.

Regarding career expectations, that is a very broad question. Typically a Masters degree is necessary. I think a lot of NASA astronauts have PhDs.

INFO: Currently in Postdoc position, got married and had child in graduate school. All went well.
 

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