Physics Careers - Only two branches?

In summary: On a personal note, I have an example that fits this idea well. I was hoping to go to a phd school in California in a physics department. I put extra attention into my application to UC campuses. I figured I'd go to a school, get a TA position, and then figure out what I wanted to do from there. But things didn't go as planned, and I ended up going to a school in Texas with no plan. Part of me wishes I had just gone to a random school and not put so much effort into it, but I'm glad I tried. If you're not confident in your career path, then you're not going to do well.But things didn't go as planned, and
  • #1
Nano-Passion
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Physics Careers -- Only two branches?

Is physics careers only broken up into two branches?

Basically all I've seen was theoretical and experimental careers..

What else is there?? (physics related, not engineering or wall street )
 
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  • #2


Nano-Passion said:
Is physics careers only broken up into two branches?

Basically all I've seen was theoretical and experimental careers..

What else is there?? (physics related, not engineering or wall street )

There is also computational.
 
  • #3


DR13 said:
There is also computational.

Kind of like programming and what I see at NASA with people sitting at desks?
 
  • #4


Nano-Passion said:
Kind of like programming and what I see at NASA with people sitting at desks?

Mainly it is programming, modeling, running simulations.
 
  • #5


What is the difference between theoretical and computational physics?
 
  • #6


Why are you even thinking in these silly experimental vs. theoretical terms? You're not going to decide on a career of a theroretical or experimental physicist, you're going to decide what you want to do and go from there.
 
  • #7


Ryker said:
Why are you even thinking in these silly experimental vs. theoretical terms? You're not going to decide on a career of a theroretical or experimental physicist, you're going to decide what you want to do and go from there.

I"m curious at the least, I would like to know.
 
  • #8


Management and full time grant writer being the other options : )

Seriously, you should decide want you want to do and go from there. If you advance in your physics career the line isn't so clear cut between experimentalists and theorists.
 
  • #9


Management and full time grant writer being the other options : )

Seriously, you should decide want you want to do and go from there. If you advance in your physics career the line isn't so clear cut between experimentalists and theorists.
 
  • #10


Sheets said:
Management and full time grant writer being the other options : )

Seriously, you should decide want you want to do and go from there. If you advance in your physics career the line isn't so clear cut between experimentalists and theorists.

Really? I was always under the impression that you are either an "experimentalist" or a theorist. I'm confused, can you elaborate with examples?
 
  • #11


Nano-Passion said:
I"m curious at the least, I would like to know.

You'll figure it out as you go along, just like everyone else does.
 
  • #12


Pengwuino said:
You'll figure it out as you go along, just like everyone else does.

I can't, I need to figure out my career plan and have as close as 100% confidence in it as possible (I'm leaning toward theoretical). Why is it so simple for people to plan their whole life?

Maybe I'm just an overly complex person. =/
 
  • #13


Nano-Passion said:
Why is it so simple for people to plan their whole life?
They don't.
 
  • #14


Nano-Passion said:
I can't, I need to figure out my career plan and have as close as 100% confidence in it as possible (I'm leaning toward theoretical). Why is it so simple for people to plan their whole life?

Many people plan their whole lives. Then they find that life turns out nothing remotely close to what they had planned. They learn and realize that they can plan but that attempting to have 100% control of the future is an exercise in futility.
 
  • #15


Nano-Passion said:
I can't, I need to figure out my career plan and have as close as 100% confidence in it as possible (I'm leaning toward theoretical).

Well that's probably not going to happen, and is a pretty meaningless concept anyways.
 
  • #16


Nano-Passion said:
I can't, I need to figure out my career plan and have as close as 100% confidence in it as possible

You cannot do that as a scientist, and indeed, if you tried it, you wouldn't be very good at it. Most of what I spend my time on didn't even exist when I was a graduate student. Whole subfields have been born and died in that time.
 
  • #17


Vanadium 50 said:
You cannot do that as a scientist, and indeed, if you tried it, you wouldn't be very good at it. Most of what I spend my time on didn't even exist when I was a graduate student. Whole subfields have been born and died in that time.

Wow, speechless. I didn't know it was to that extent, thanks.
 
  • #18


Nano-Passion said:
Wow, speechless. I didn't know it was to that extent, thanks.

In fact, the hell with being a scientist, people typically can't plan their life period. People may have a general idea "oh i want to work in the science field" or "I don't want to have too many kids", but when you try to sort out the details, things typically will fall apart on you within months. You may decide upon a plan, but the world doesn't care what your plan is.

On a personal note, I have an example that fits this idea well. I was hoping to go to a phd school in California in a physics department. I put extra attention into my application to UC campuses. I figured I'd go to a school, get a TA position, not have to pay for anything. What ended up happening? One of the departments I applied to didn't even allow admissions this semester (possibly shutting down?), the UCs get huge budget cuts (I heard some departments cut enrollment by 2/3), and I got rejected by most of them. Now I'm going to end up at Georgia Tech in an engineering department (although the work is the same so it's not really a big deal).

The more I look into the real details of living in Atlanta, it ends up looking like I almost missed the greatest opportunity ever! Without going into the details, it looks like a fantastic place, a great school, and my quality of living will probably be a whole lot better compared to living in a cramp space with 3 other people barely getting by in a desert climate in a state that's falling apart (I won't exactly name which UC I'm talking about). The point is, don't try to plan out your entire life because you might find that you're going to get knocked off that path and onto an even better path in the end.
 
  • #19


There are things like medical physics, engineering, teaching, writing, and even police forensics...figuring out where a bullet came from or analyzing car crashes to determine vehicle speeds etc. Physics is a very broad field with a lot of applications.
 
  • #20


Vanadium 50 said:
You cannot do that as a scientist, and indeed, if you tried it, you wouldn't be very good at it. Most of what I spend my time on didn't even exist when I was a graduate student. Whole subfields have been born and died in that time.

You can't, and yet the path to becoming a successful scientist seems to require it. What do you think would happen if this guy applied to a top-30 physics PhD program without showing any sense of life direction in his application/interviews/etc.

He'd probably get rejected.

I'm a college senior at the moment, and I'm getting a bit stressed out over convincing myself that I'm super-passionate about working in one specific field of physics or engineering, because I'm not, really. Yet I have to apply to grad school next semester. If I were to spend a semester soul searching, the banks would force me to start paying off my student loans...and I really don't feel like doing that.

Everyone seems to say that their life went completely differently than they planned it, but if you're applying to any sort of graduate school you need to still need to come up with some sort of road map.
 
  • #21


Pengwuino said:
In fact, the hell with being a scientist, people typically can't plan their life period. People may have a general idea "oh i want to work in the science field" or "I don't want to have too many kids", but when you try to sort out the details, things typically will fall apart on you within months. You may decide upon a plan, but the world doesn't care what your plan is.

On a personal note, I have an example that fits this idea well. I was hoping to go to a phd school in California in a physics department. I put extra attention into my application to UC campuses. I figured I'd go to a school, get a TA position, not have to pay for anything. What ended up happening? One of the departments I applied to didn't even allow admissions this semester (possibly shutting down?), the UCs get huge budget cuts (I heard some departments cut enrollment by 2/3), and I got rejected by most of them. Now I'm going to end up at Georgia Tech in an engineering department (although the work is the same so it's not really a big deal).

The more I look into the real details of living in Atlanta, it ends up looking like I almost missed the greatest opportunity ever! Without going into the details, it looks like a fantastic place, a great school, and my quality of living will probably be a whole lot better compared to living in a cramp space with 3 other people barely getting by in a desert climate in a state that's falling apart (I won't exactly name which UC I'm talking about). The point is, don't try to plan out your entire life because you might find that you're going to get knocked off that path and onto an even better path in the end.

Well I do agree there are many outside variables. I feel that its in my benefit to take into account as many outside variables as possible.

Thank you.

MaxwellsDemon said:
There are things like medical physics, engineering, teaching, writing, and even police forensics...figuring out where a bullet came from or analyzing car crashes to determine vehicle speeds etc. Physics is a very broad field with a lot of applications.

I'll tell you what my main two interests are in physics-- writing and pondering, and research/analyzing the mysteries of our physical laws/reality.

hylander4 said:
You can't, and yet the path to becoming a successful scientist seems to require it. What do you think would happen if this guy applied to a top-30 physics PhD program without showing any sense of life direction in his application/interviews/etc.

He'd probably get rejected.

I'm a college senior at the moment, and I'm getting a bit stressed out over convincing myself that I'm super-passionate about working in one specific field of physics or engineering, because I'm not, really. Yet I have to apply to grad school next semester. If I were to spend a semester soul searching, the banks would force me to start paying off my student loans...and I really don't feel like doing that.

Everyone seems to say that their life went completely differently than they planned it, but if you're applying to any sort of graduate school you need to still need to come up with some sort of road map.

Agreed. :approve:
 
  • #22


Nano-Passion said:
I'll tell you what my main two interests are in physics-- writing and pondering, and research/analyzing the mysteries of our physical laws/reality

There are essentially zero jobs doing this. Most physics positions - and I am talking about academic positions - involve asking questions more like "why is the Neel temperature of this antiferromagnet what it is?"

You sound like you have an overly-romanticized view of what life as a physicist is like, and based on your posts so far, it sounds like you'd be miserable doing science as it is actually done.
 
  • #23


Vanadium 50 said:
There are essentially zero jobs doing this. Most physics positions - and I am talking about academic positions - involve asking questions more like "why is the Neel temperature of this antiferromagnet what it is?"

You sound like you have an overly-romanticized view of what life as a physicist is like, and based on your posts so far, it sounds like you'd be miserable doing science as it is actually done.

lmaoo.

"Why is the Neel temperature of this antiferromagnet what it is?" is a very intriguing question to me. Mysteries drive me on, I'm curious by nature.

As far as having an overly-romanticized view of what life as a physicist is like-- I'll take that with an open mind. But I don't necessarily agree. I am aware that being a physicist is a lot of hard work and its not all fun and games. I am aware that there will be a lot of stress and low wage, long hours, and the possibility of having to work on a project you might not be all too interested in.

To note, I know writing and pondering won't really be a part of my physics career-- that is something I like to do on the side however. Anyhow, researching and analyzing our physical laws greatly interests me (which is why I'm bent on pursuing theoretical physics). If that is a romanticized view of what a life as a theoretical physicist is then please do let me know.
 

Related to Physics Careers - Only two branches?

1. What are the two branches of physics careers?

The two main branches of physics careers are theoretical physics and experimental physics.

2. What is the difference between theoretical and experimental physics?

Theoretical physics involves using mathematical models and theories to explain and predict physical phenomena, while experimental physics involves conducting experiments and gathering data to test these theories.

3. Which branch of physics is more research-oriented?

Both theoretical and experimental physics involve a significant amount of research. However, theoretical physicists tend to focus more on developing new theories and models, while experimental physicists focus on designing and conducting experiments.

4. Can one switch between theoretical and experimental physics careers?

It is possible for a physicist to switch between theoretical and experimental physics careers, as both branches require a strong understanding of the fundamentals of physics. However, it may require additional training and experience to transition from one branch to the other.

5. Which branch of physics offers more job opportunities?

Both branches of physics offer a wide range of job opportunities in various industries, including academia, research, government, and private sector. The demand for each branch may vary depending on current research trends and advancements in technology.

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