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Physics Physics career or not? *Ambivalent*

  1. Dec 14, 2003 #1
    Maybe this is a non-answerable topic... but here goes:

    I'm a fourth-year undergrad student at M.Sc. Engineering Physics and pondering the riddle, so to speak, of what I should do after graduation. I really think physics is cool, and am interested in a broad sense of the topic (thus the programme chosen^^).

    But I am wondering: Is there any point in grad studies when you feel you are almost certainly not brilliant in any way? Now, some would say that one's grades would be an indicator but I'm just not that convinced. I have better grades than almost anyone but I can't relate this to any constructive thinking! Learning for exams and stuff just doesn't seem that relevant for actually accomplishing something...

    Ahh I don't know... what would you suggest? Any senior researchers who can give some kind of advice..? I know for a fact that there are non-brilliant (or worse) researchers and teachers out there but I'm not really keen on becoming one of them.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2003 #2

    The question is whether this is a career choice you want to make. If you want to get a higher level degree, this doesn't pigeon hole you into becoming a researcher or a professor. You could teach at the secondary level, work as a project coordinator for a technology firm or any of many other possibilities. The question is whether going on to possibly 5 more years of studies is something you want to do. Will those 5 more years be worth the effort to you in the end? These are the kinds of questions you have to answer yourself, and ultimately only you will know what is best for you. Good luck in everything,
  4. Dec 14, 2003 #3
    In my experience, grad studies were much more rewarding than undergrad. I got to work on my own experiments, sucessfully develop unique models to explain and simulate the data, etc. That part was a joy. I had no life outside the lab, and loved every minute of it.

    But after all that, you enter the real world, and have to find a job. Your choice will be industry or academics. I chose industry. Finding an industrial job can be tough for a physicist. If your thesis work happens to match what the company is doing, then you might be in luck. I worked with semiconductor devices in grad school, and went directly into the semiconductor industry afterwards. I had to supress my desire to analize and model things, and just come up with a solution that works within the deadline. I could live with that (although I snuck in some experiments here and there). The problem is, that tech industries like semiconductor and optoelectronics are very unstable. They could be booming at one instance, then desolate the next. Right now is a desolate phase in the semiconductor industry, and desppite having a PH.D., I've been out of work for over a year. I sent over 1000 resumes to various industries, and recieved 4 interviews, with one job offer that I declined.

    Your other choice is the academic route. Job stability is less of an issue here, but it's replaced with the stress of getting grant money. You basically become a salesman, pitching your services to various institutions, and begging them to finance your research. If you manage to get grant money, you can live as a physicist -doing research, etc. Until the the grant runs out, and its time to hity the pavement again.

    Good Luck!
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