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Physics Grad School for Non-Traditional/Older Students

  1. Nov 13, 2012 #1

    If there is such a thread, then please guide me to it.

    I am seriously debating applying, or starting to get ready for applying to graduate school in physics. I am not very happy with my current career field and after doing much soul-searching, I believe this is what I want.

    I know that this will be a long and arduous road. I am also fully aware that there obstacles that the traditional student might not have. I would appreciate hearing from people that went that road and would love to hear about their experiences.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2012 #2
    Hi Moneer81,

    if I remember correctly we have already 'met' in a related thread - you have worked in IT / networking, correct?

    There are a lot of discussions on being a non-traditional student, it does not hurt to start a new one. I think I stumbled upon PF initially googling for similar topics.

    I am not in exactly the same boat, but in a closely related one: I have a PhD in physics and spent quite a time in IT. In order to 'reconnect with my roots as a scientist and engineer' I embarked on a master's degree in sustainable energy engineering. I am one of the most non-traditional students there (re age and re past career), but it does not feel odd at all.

    The most difficult part of the whole career / life change thing actually was to take the decision as such - and all the communications associated with it... e.g. to tell your former customers and colleagues who consider you a top expert in a very specialized niche that you would decline their project requests and 'start it all over to do something else'.

    But then it went downhill from there. Finally I think it was a useful and necessary exercise that I was forced to 'tell my story' quite often.
  4. Nov 14, 2012 #3
    Hey elkement!

    Yes I believe we have met and I have always enjoyed reading your insights and I occasionally spend some time poking around your blog :)

    I agree with you, I actually been imagining walking up to my co-workers and my manager and saying: I am not interested in doing this anymore, I need to pursue something else. I would think that would be a little hard to do: throw away a very good job and a high-demand, growing career path. I don't think they'll understand. Most people I know probably will think I am nuts.

    On the other hand, I also struggle with envisioning myself doing the same thing 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Heck, I don't envision myself doing this next year! I am good at what I do, but I feel I am constantly unhappy with what I am doing, and I am almost dragging my feet sometimes. In short, I have no enthusiasm for what I am doing whatsoever.

    Your story is inspiring and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor! I know you will do a great job and you will reconnect with your roots!

    Best of luck!
  5. Nov 14, 2012 #4
    I had a good IT job with advancement potential and quit to do physics because I just couldn't see myself doing it forever. Sometimes I think I might've made the wrong decision because I don't have an income right now, but I don't miss my actual workplace at all, and my soul has thanked me. :p

    You only live once, so I say go for it. As a grad student you'll likely have an income, at least. :) (I don't get that luxury yet!)
  6. Nov 14, 2012 #5
    What field did you major in, seaofghosts?

    Stories like this, worry me a little...
  7. Nov 15, 2012 #6
    Why does it worry you? I'm majoring in physics right now.
  8. Nov 15, 2012 #7
    Absolutely! This was an important driver for my decision, too. I had built up quite a reputation in a specific field and I could have kept doing that forever (from the perspective of fame and money).

    But I felt I was doing the same all the time - it was sort of routine on the one hand, but stressful on the other hand (firefighting, travelling... and above all: always trying to keep up with new versions of products changing every year).

    I did a lot of research and soul searching before I went for renewable energies. This tag might actually be misleading as I would not be interested to work - say - for a large corporation fabricating solar cells and becoming a specialist again.

    In fact, I wanted to get out of "corporate world" as such and go for smaller clients - being fully aware of the fact that this means 1) less money, 2) less glory.

    The advantage is that working like that is much more appealing to the generalist in me. So I am sure, I will not do the same in 10 years.

    Good luck!
    And thanks for the feedback and for reading my blog ;-)
  9. Nov 15, 2012 #8
    Oh I must have misunderstood. I thought that you got your phd in physics and have no income. I know it is sometimes hard to find a job that you like in physics.
  10. Nov 15, 2012 #9
    Ah, no, I don't have an income because I rejected IT and am doing my undergrad degree at the moment.
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