Physics job prospects in Canada

  • #1
Hi,
I'm starting my undergrad studies in math and physics this fall. I wanted to know what subfield of physics gives the best job opportunity to a Ph.D. graduate? I want to work in a field that I studied in. Not like particle physicists working in financial maths. Which field uses intense physics and mathematics and have a good career path at the same time? I've heard of medical physics, but I'm not sure they use a lot of intense math/physics compared to other fields like solid state physics or etc?
 

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  • #2
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Have you considered engineering? It tends to be a lot more career focused than math or physics.

Especially since you're just starting your undergrad, and you're talking about jobs you'd get after a Ph.D.- that's 10+ years away. A lot can change in that time, which makes it hard to make predictions about any specific physics subfields. An engineering degree would let you get a related job right after undergrad though, or after a (relatively short compared to a Ph.D.) master's degree.
 
  • #3
Hi pi-r8
I'm planning for physics. I don't like engineering. It feels too focused for now! I want to explore different things.
 
  • #4
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Hi pi-r8
I'm planning for physics. I don't like engineering. It feels too focused for now! I want to explore different things.
To me that sounds like it will fundamentally conflict with "I want to work in a field that I studied in". Would you be ok exploring a few different things, and then picking just one to work in?
 
  • #5
I don’t want to be forced to get a job in a non related field. One of my relatives studied geophysics but he is doing data analysis in a tech company now
 
  • #7
symbolipoint
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I find engineering too focused for undergrad
You need to read about the local Engineering program options carefully. Engineering is too big a field and is filled with a great deal many kinds of courses. Physics and Engineering are different in the way that you are beginning to understand, in that people become engineering graduates so that they can find jobs to design, find ways to monitor, and to develop processes and products. People get degrees in Physics if they wish to explore and understand.
 
  • #8
I like the research side more. I'm very interested in applying mathematics and physics into medicine like molecular imaging research, and radiation oncology. I also like astrophysics but I'm sure the job opportunity is not good.
 
  • #9
symbolipoint
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I like the research side more. I'm very interested in applying mathematics and physics into medicine like molecular imaging research, and radiation oncology. I also like astrophysics but I'm sure the job opportunity is not good.
Very good; and all of that relies on technology which is why I say to look into what is in an engineering degree program. I'm not saying that you should switch to engineering instead. Just I'm saying you need to become more aware.
 
  • #10
Very good; and all of that relies on technology which is why I say to look into what is in an engineering degree program. I'm not saying that you should switch to engineering instead. Just I'm saying you need to become more aware.
It's true. engineering is more practical. I'll research about it. But do you know which field in physics gives you the best job opportunity?
 
  • #11
StatGuy2000
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Hi,
I'm starting my undergrad studies in math and physics this fall. I wanted to know what subfield of physics gives the best job opportunity to a Ph.D. graduate? I want to work in a field that I studied in. Not like particle physicists working in financial maths. Which field uses intense physics and mathematics and have a good career path at the same time? I've heard of medical physics, but I'm not sure they use a lot of intense math/physics compared to other fields like solid state physics or etc?

To the OP:

One thing you need to note that degrees in physics and math are not vocational degrees, so you need to expand your definition on what is a field that you studied in. For a PhD in physics, that could mean the following, if you work in industry:

1. chip manufacturing at places like Intel (if you do research in, say, experimental condensed matter physics)
2. materials science (again, for those in experimental condensed matter physics)
3. photonics (if you specialize in optics)
4. medical physics
5. scientific computing
6. data science

Please note that when you say "use intense physics and mathematics" -- all intense physics and math type jobs will involve at some level a lot of coding/programming, so practically any job that involves considerable scientific programming or data science will involve physics and math at varying levels of intensity.

Of course, the most intense physics and math jobs will be in academia, but I'm assuming you posted because you realize that academic jobs are relatively sparse.
 
  • #12
Yes i don t like to work in academia. The pay raise is non existent
 
  • #13
I like medical physics but i fear there is no much math and physics in the work compared to other fields.
 
  • #14
ZapperZ
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In all of this back-and-forth, not once did the OP mentioned, or anyone responding to this asked, where in the world the OP is, or where he/she intends on seeking employment.

Career opportunities in ANY field is highly dependent on LOCATION. Someone with a Ph.D in astrophysics has a significantly different career opportunity in Ethiopia when compared to, say, in the UK. So, shouldn't this factor matter as much as anything else?

Zz.
 
  • #15
I want to stay in Canada for work. I'm deciding between specializing in quantum optics and work as a optical physicist, or specialize in medical physics and work as a radiation physicist.
 
  • #16
StatGuy2000
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I want to stay in Canada for work. I'm deciding between specializing in quantum optics and work as a optical physicist, or specialize in medical physics and work as a radiation physicist.

As someone from Canada myself, I can state that there are opportunities in both optical physics and in medical physics. My understanding is that optical physics positions are highly competitive, so if that is the area you wish to go into, I strongly advise you to pursue an internship or a research placement (e.g. through the NSERC USRA program) in a research lab during your undergraduate studies.

With respect to medical physics, @Choppy is a medical physicist in Canada, so he should be the person you should direct your questions to regarding medical physics opportunities.
 
  • #17
Dr Transport
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I like the research side more. I'm very interested in applying mathematics and physics into medicine like molecular imaging research, and radiation oncology. I also like astrophysics but I'm sure the job opportunity is not good.


Biomedical engineering
 
  • #18
I researched about the salaries in both fields. Median (Canada)
Optical physicist: 88k
Medical physicist: 135k
This is a huge gap. I guess a phd in quantum optics will at most get 100k. It’s a bit disappointing.
 
  • #19
I don’t think you can have a convenient life with 88k in Canada. Living is very costly in Ontario.
 
  • #20
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I don’t think you can have a convenient life with 88k in Canada. Living is very costly in Ontario.

Can't live "conveniently" off 88k a year? I know of couples who make less than that with combined salaries, and they live quite comfortably. In Ontario as well!

Unless your goal is to buy property in Vancouver or downtown Toronto right off the bat, I can assure you that you can make a living making 88k a year in Canada.
 
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  • #21
ZapperZ
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I researched about the salaries in both fields. Median (Canada)
Optical physicist: 88k
Medical physicist: 135k
This is a huge gap. I guess a phd in quantum optics will at most get 100k. It’s a bit disappointing.

I don’t think you can have a convenient life with 88k in Canada. Living is very costly in Ontario.

Y'know, this is getting to be a bit exasperating.

First you never revealed where you were. Then, after you were given a bunch of info, you suddenly sprang upon us your "hidden" criteria of making money. You could have EASILY researched this already and, if this is all you cared about, could have made your own decision without needing any input from us. So now, that "135k" suddenly is the over-riding factor in your choice.

So what was that "... they use a lot of intense math/physics compared to other fields ... " all about in your first post? Nowhere in there was average salary was ever mentioned. All you wanted was a field that "use a lot of intense math/physics".

I'm checking out. Good luck!

Zz.
 
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  • #22
George Jones
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I don’t think you can have a convenient life with 88k in Canada. Living is very costly in Ontario.

As a Canadian who has lived and worked in five different provinces, I find this post to be very offensive.

"Ontario" does not equal "Canada", and "GTA" does not equal "Ontario"!!
 
  • #23
Those salaries are before taxation and that 88 actually becomes 65k . Also, if you can't make "enough" money in your field of interest, it's better to give up some things for the sake of future! My true interest is astrophysics, but I know that job opportunities are limited and having a stable job is a lifelong challenge. I'm not jumping on any conclusion, but you think I do! I'm just trying to find the best option, that has "physics/math intense content" and "enough money to have a convenient life". I know some people who did not think about this and they feel terrible for themselves and their family now. Don't get hostile please.
 
  • #24
As a Canadian who has lived and worked in five different provinces, I find this post to be very offensive.

"Ontario" does not equal "Canada", and "GTA" does not equal "Ontario"!!

I apologize if I offended you. "convenient life" is a subjective thing. people have different standards.
 
  • #25
as far as I know most jobs (physics related) are in big cities. So there are some geographical boundaries to it!
 
  • #26
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Those salaries are before taxation and that 88 actually becomes 65k . Also, if you can't make "enough" money in your field of interest, it's better to give up some things for the sake of future! My true interest is astrophysics, but I know that job opportunities are limited and having a stable job is a lifelong challenge. I'm not jumping on any conclusion, but you think I do! I'm just trying to find the best option, that has "physics/math intense content" and "enough money to have a convenient life". I know some people who did not think about this and they feel terrible for themselves and their family now. Don't get hostile please.
Okay so you are worried about salary and you want to do mathematics/physics intensive things. Pick Engineering and get your degree, ... and be done with it. Maybe include a Minor concentration in Physics.
 
  • #27
Okay so you are worried about salary and you want to do mathematics/physics intensive things. Pick Engineering and get your degree, ... and be done with it. Maybe include a Minor concentration in Physics.

I still want to be in the field of physics but that's not a bad idea!
 
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  • #28
George Jones
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as far as I know most jobs (physics related) are in big cities. So there are some geographical boundaries to it!

It is such a competitive market that most folks are willing to go where the job is. There are more jobs in bigger cities, but I have met research astrophysicists from small cities, e.g., Brandon Manitoba, Sackville New Brunswick, and Antigonish Nova Scotia.
 
  • #29
It is such a competitive market that most folks are willing to go where the job is. There are more jobs in bigger cities, but I have met research astrophysicists from small cities, e.g., Brandon Manitoba, Sackville New Brunswick, and Antigonish Nova Scotia.
but they are exceptions.
 
  • #30
George Jones
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but they are exceptions.

Also, I have met research astrophysicists from St. John's Newfoundland, Halifax Nova Scotia, Fredericton New Brunswick, Lennoxville Quebec, Kingston Ontario, London Ontario, Windsor Ontario, Lethbridge Alberta, and Kelowna British Columbia.

These so-called exceptions quickly add up, and if you are not willing to consider places like I the ones I have listed here and in my previous post, you really limit yourself.

By the way, all of these places are located in Canada.
 
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  • #31
Also, I have met research astrophysicists from St. John's Newfoundland, Halifax Nova Scotia, Fredericton New Brunswick, Lennoxville Quebec, Kingston Ontario, London Ontario, Windsor Ontario, Lethbridge Alberta, and Kelowna British Columbia.

These so-called exceptions quickly add up, and if you are not willing to consider places like I the ones I have listed here and in my previous post, you really limit yourself.

By the way, all of these places are located in Canada.

you're right. But research work is not a very stable job! getting the proper fund each time is hard!
 
  • #32
StatGuy2000
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As a Canadian who has lived and worked in five different provinces, I find this post to be very offensive.

"Ontario" does not equal "Canada", and "GTA" does not equal "Ontario"!!

That being said, if you look at where most STEM jobs (in particular where most physics, math, or engineering jobs) are based in Ontario, they tend to be in 3 distinct geographic clusters:

  1. The GTA (that's the Greater Toronto Area, for those of you not from Canada -- essentially a geographic region roughly comprising of cities & towns within 30min-1 hour drive surrounding the city of Toronto)
  2. The Kitchener-Waterloo area (including the cities of Cambridge and Guelph)
  3. Ottawa
So the OP is not wrong to focus on the GTA, especially if he/she lives there (and given that his/her handle, if that is his/her name, sounds to me to be of Tamil origin, I would bet that he/she lives in the GTA).
 
  • #33
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To: OP

(1) There was a recent thread that asked the same question. In case you missed it, here's the link:

https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...n-demand-employable-physics-subfields.943422/

(2) There is no good answer to your question. You are seeking a projection of the job market ~10 yrs out; whereas, the historical record shows that job markets can invert (boom to bust, or bust to boom) within a time span of only ~1 yr. Technological advances, government policies, economic cycles, industry consolidation, latest trendy business models, wars, ... can have disruptive effects.

(3) Be careful of making salary conclusions based on surveys, you may need to dig deeper. Such surveys often aggregate data without regard to education level and years of experience. You need to find data based on your intended degree (a PhD) and years of experience. And, of course, "median" means half make more, half make less; so you need more granularity.

(4) You need to organize your wish list more systematically into two lists:

(a) Requirements (must have)
(b) Preferences (would like to have)

From your posts so far, it appears to me that if you lump the entire contents of your wish list under "Requirements", you will find that some items are mutually exclusive. In which case, you will need to move some items from "Requirements" to "Preferences". Note that this exercise will grow more complex should your personal circumstances grow more complex (working spouse, children in school, owning a house ...)

(5) The job that you desire did exist at one time in major corporate R&D labs (in the US, e.g., Bell Labs and IBM Watson were once a haven for physics research). With perhaps a few outliers here and there, that era is past (but who knows whether there will be a rebirth in the future). In Canada, if you had completed your PhD in quantum optics/optical physics/optoelectronic devices in 1999, you probably would have found a job to your liking with Nortel. But, of course, within a few years, you would have been out on the streets. So, even if you are one of the lucky few to find your dream job, the odds are against you that you will maintain it for the rest of your working life. You had better be adaptable ... unless you have a sufficiently large trust fund, or marry rich.
 
Last edited:
  • #34
To: OP

(1) There was a recent thread that asked the same question. In case you missed it, here's the link:

https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...n-demand-employable-physics-subfields.943422/

(2) There is no good answer to your question. You are seeking a projection of the job market ~10 yrs out; whereas, the historical record shows that job markets can invert (boom to bust, or bust to boom) within a time span of only ~1 yr. Technological advances, government policies, economic cycles, industry consolidation, latest trendy business models, wars, ... can have disruptive effects.

(3) Be careful of making salary conclusions based on surveys, you may need to dig deeper. Such surveys often aggregate data without regard to education level and years of experience. You need to find data based on your intended degree (a PhD) and years of experience. And, of course, "median" means half make more, half make less; so you need more granularity.

(4) You need to organize your wish list more systematically into two lists:

(a) Requirements (must have)
(b) Preferences (would like to have)

From your posts so far, it appears to me that if you lump the entire contents of your wish list under "Requirements", you will find that some items are mutually exclusive. In which case, you will need to move some items from "Requirements" to "Preferences". Note that this exercise will grow more complex should your personal circumstances grow more complex (working spouse, children in school, owning a house ...)

(5) The job that you desire did exist at one time in major corporate R&D labs (in the US, e.g., Bell Labs and IBM Watson were once a haven for physics research). With perhaps a few outliers here and there, that era is past (but who knows whether there will be a rebirth in the future). In Canada, if you had completed your PhD in quantum optics/optical physics/optoelectronic devices in 1999, you probably would have found a job to your liking with Nortel. But, of course, within a few years, you would have been out on the streets. So, even if you are one of the lucky few to find your dream job, the odds are against you that you will maintain it for the rest of your working life. You had better be adaptable ... unless you have a sufficiently large trust fund, or marry rich.

Thank you for the great advice! It opened my mind. I will take all this into consideration.
 
  • #35
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unless you have a sufficiently large trust fund, or marry rich.
Or live a low-key lifestyle and save a lot of money, so that at some point you can afford to be forced into early retirement.
 

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