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  1. Sep 8, 2016 #1
    Hello everyone! This is my first post here on Physics Forums. I'm hoping that you guys will be able to assist me with a dilemma I'm facing. I'm thinking of changing my major from high school science education to physics so I can become a college professor. The way my education program is going with scheduling, I could potentially be halfway through a Masters degree by the time I'd graduate with my education degree and license. Obviously I've heard that becoming a college professor is extremely difficult. I'm hoping everyone can offer some insight into how difficult it is to become a professor as well as job prospects in the physics field in general. I've heard a lot of good experiences and a lot of terrible experiences as well, and I'm hoping to get a clearer picture on the subject. Thank you everyone!

    By the way: If I was to go into a grad school for physics I'd probably study astrophysics/ astronomy or perhaps particle physics. Doing research would be awesome if the opportunity arises, but I really want to teach.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2016 #2


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    It has been extremely difficult for some time, it is presently extremely difficult and will be even more difficult in the foreseeable future. Nearly impossible at the top research institutions (odds 1 in a 1000) to merely difficult as adjunct faculty at a community college (odds 1 in 10). Teaching high school physics raises those odds considerably. Bottom line - if you really want to teach physics stick with your present high school science education track.
  4. Sep 9, 2016 #3


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    You can find statistics about faculty positions at the American Institute of Physics, which regularly surveys department chairs and faculty members.

    According to their graph of Number of New Faculty Members, there are slightly more positions available in "Bachelor's Departments" (small colleges/universities that do not have PhD programs) than in "PhD Departments." These schools tend to be more focused on teaching than on research.

    However, you usually do have to be able to do some research, because (as we can see abundantly on this forum!) undergraduate research is now considered to be an essential part of a physics bachelor's degree in the US. When you are choosing a research field for your PhD, if your goal is a position at one of these smaller schools, you need to choose something that is accessible to bachelor's level students, and can be done with the limited resources that these schools usually have available. Try browsing a selection of web sites of such schools and see what kinds of research their faculty actually do.

    These positions are very competitive. I've been at one of one of these schools for over 30 years. We've had several physics faculty searches, and have always had at least 100 applicants, even though we're far from the Williams / Amherst / Swarthmore / Oberlin level, and located in a small rural Southern town.

    My own job-hunting experience was more than 30 years ago. For what it's worth, in each of my two job searches (both focused on small-college positions) after graduate school (U of Michigan), I sent out probably about 30 applications, and got two interviews and one job offer. So don't be picky about what part of the country you end up in, and have a Plan B ready. Mine was to look for a programming job.
  5. Sep 10, 2016 #4

    Dr Transport

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    Go the high school education route, then you can get an adjunct position at community college or possibly a 4-year school.

    I have 15+ years teaching experience from my time in the service, 3-5 years during graduate school teaching freshman courses and almost 20 years industrial experience and I have had trouble finding a teaching position. Matter a fact, I have taken a job as a high school substitute just to get in the door if I don't find another industrial position.
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