Physics PhD after working for few years

  • #1
ccndy
7
2
I’m currently a rising senior at a T10 university studying physics and another major. Because of the double major in addition to me starting my physics major later than usual (so I had to stack up on classes) and admittedly, because I was dumb and fooled around for a couple years, my GPA is really low– too low to be competitive for any grad schools currently. My GPA has an upwards trend junior year and I’ve taken lab classes so I have elementary experience in the lab. I have no research experience otherwise as I’ve been spending my summers doing corporate internships completely unrelated to physics (save for some math perhaps).

That being said, I really want to go to grad school. My interests lie within condensed matter physics. I loved my lab classes and the thought of learning more physics excites me. I understand that thinking about grad school right now may be a waste of time so my plan currently is to go into the work force in a research related role (once again, more math-y than physics-y) and applying for a masters program in math (while working) to essentially improve my math knowledge and have a higher GPA to show before applying to physics grad programs. However, that plan would be costly both in terms of time and money. I wouldn’t mind, but I was wondering if anyone on here has any advice for me (should I just apply for grad programs this coming school year? Is it wise to essentially not take any physics classes for the years leading up to application for grad school? What would be an ideal timeline to do all of this?) as to how I should approach this situation. I take full responsibility for being in this situation and I believe myself to be more mature now, so any advice, no matter how blunt, would be incredibly appreciated. Thank you.
 
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  • #2
ccndy said:
That being said, I really want to go to grad school. My interests lie within condensed matter physics. I loved my lab classes and the thought of learning more physics excites me. I understand that thinking about grad school right now may be a waste of time so my plan currently is to go into the work force in a research related role (once again, more math-y than physics-y) and applying for a masters program in math (while working) to essentially improve my math knowledge and have a higher GPA to show before applying to physics grad programs.
<<Emphasis added>> That plan makes no sense to me. You want to pursue a PhD in physics, you want to demonstrate to a physics grad admissions committee that you're worthy of admission ... so you get a job in a non-physics position and get a master's in a non-physics major???
 
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  • #3
I worked in industry for a year before I started graduate school. So that's not a killer.

But if you want a career in physics, why spend your time gettinbg math degrees and taking jobs with no relation to physics?
 
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  • #4
CrysPhys said:
<<Emphasis added>> That plan makes no sense to me. You want to pursue a PhD in physics, you want to demonstrate to a physics grad admissions committee that you're worthy of admission ... so you get a job in a non-physics position and get a master's in a non-physics major???
Thank you for your comment. The job is largely for the money, which I do need. I’m not sure if there are physics positions out there straight out of undergrad that pay enough for me to pursue a masters. As for the masters in math, my original logic was that my weak point is not knowing enough math and perhaps further education in math can aid in that. I know that there are math majors that end up pursuing physics in grad school so I had thought it would be ok. A masters in applied physics would probably make more sense, but otherwise, is there any advice you could give?

Edit: I apologize, I see where I had been unclear. This non-physics job had already been offered to me, hence why I believe I’ll be doing that.
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
I worked in industry for a year before I started graduate school. So that's not a killer.

But if you want a career in physics, why spend your time gettinbg math degrees and taking jobs with no relation to physics?
Hi,

Thank you for your comment. I’m taking a non-physics job because it pays well and I need the money for a masters program. My logic for the math masters had been that I know math is a weak point for me and further education in mathematical subjects may be needed. That being said, I would also love to get a masters in applied physics as I know they have to take some math classes as well.

Edit: also I’m taking this role because it had already been offered to me– I’m not currently purposefully applying for non physics related jobs.
 
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  • #6
ccndy said:
Thank you for your comment. The job is largely for the money, which I do need. I’m not sure if there are physics positions out there straight out of undergrad that pay enough for me to pursue a masters. As for the masters in math, my original logic was that my weak point is not knowing enough math and perhaps further education in math can aid in that. I know that there are math majors that end up pursuing physics in grad school so I had thought it would be ok. A masters in applied physics would probably make more sense, but otherwise, is there any advice you could give?

Edit: I apologize, I see where I had been unclear. This non-physics job had already been offered to me, hence why I believe I’ll be doing that.
* Refer to this AIP webpage for companies that have hired people who graduated with a bachelor's in physics:

https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/whos-hiring-physics-bachelors

* Previously, major corporate R&D labs would foot the bill for techs with a bachelor's degree to get a master's. I don't know how prevalent those programs are these days, but you should check.

* It wouldn't hurt to apply for grad schools in the fall and see what you get.

* At the same time, as a Plan B, apply for jobs as a research assistant/tech in an industry or university lab (or government lab if you qualify). If you're interested in experimental condensed-matter physics, these should be available. If you can find a company that will support your master's program, go for it. Otherwise, learn as much as you can on the job, and impress the scientists/engineers you work for so they can supply letters of reference.
 
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  • #7
CrysPhys said:
* Refer to this AIP webpage for companies that have hired people who graduated with a bachelor's in physics:

https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/whos-hiring-physics-bachelors

* Previously, major corporate R&D labs would foot the bill for techs with a bachelor's degree to get a master's. I don't know how prevalent those programs are these days, but you should check.

* It wouldn't hurt to apply for grad schools in the fall and see what you get.

* At the same time, as a Plan B, apply for jobs as a research assistant/tech in an industry lab (or government lab if you qualify). If you're interested in experimental condensed-matter physics, these should be available. If you can find a company that will support your master's program, go for it. Otherwise, learn as much as you can on the job, and impress the scientists/engineers you work for so they can supply letters of reference.
Once again, thank you! I looked on the list and my current company is on there. I believe I did get the job based on my physics credentials, though the job itself is more based on mathematical research rather than pure physics. I’m sorry for being so vague, but do you believe that will still be beneficial for me? My company is known to pay for masters programs so I’m hoping that is the case for me. Once again, thank you for your advice and I think I will apply in the fall even if it’s just to gain some experience in grad school applications.
 
  • #8
I think I'd talk to some faculty who knew you well (i.e., the people who would write great rec letters) and ask them what your chances/path to graduate school would be. Right now you seem to have decided on some convoluted path that bears little relation to the ultimate goal. Would you go to graduate school directly out of undergrad if you were accepted into a program? Or is the need for money more than just a need for enough money to subsist?
 
  • #9
Here's the problem as I see it. Look at your proposed application from the perspective of someone who doesn't know you. (i.e. an admissions committee)

I got crappy grades in physics. Didn't do any research. Then I took a job in industry not doing anything related to physics. Then I got my masters in math. Now I want to start a PhD in physics.

This looks really, really flaky.

Do you really think the reaction will be "Yes! This is the student we really want to accept!"
 
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  • #10
ccndy said:
Once again, thank you! I looked on the list and my current company is on there. I believe I did get the job based on my physics credentials, though the job itself is more based on mathematical research rather than pure physics. I’m sorry for being so vague, but do you believe that will still be beneficial for me? My company is known to pay for masters programs so I’m hoping that is the case for me. Once again, thank you for your advice and I think I will apply in the fall even if it’s just to gain some experience in grad school applications.
* I'm confused about your timeline. You said that you're a rising senior (i.e., you'll start your senior year this fall). Yet you have already applied for and been accepted for a math-related job in industry. When does this job start?

* Why don't you apply for a job more relevant to condensed-matter physics, e.g., at a semiconductor-device company or optoelectronics company? Or at a university lab (though the pay will likely be less)?

* V50's Reply #9 is spot on. You need something to counteract that, should you apply after working in industry.

* What's your second (non-physics) major?
 
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  • #11
It’s not uncommon to get a job offer right after completing a corporate, consulting, or banking internship between junior and senior year. This allows the student to have a lower stress senior year and the firm has locked in their starting class without worry about them being poached by another firm. Some have programs to give the offer 2 years in advance for certain DEI categories.

But, it is to early in the summer for OP to have completed his internship though…
 
  • #12
PhysicsRelearner said:
It’s not uncommon to get a job offer right after completing a corporate, consulting, or banking internship between junior and senior year. This allows the student to have a lower stress senior year and the firm has locked in their starting class without worry about them being poached by another firm. Some have programs to give the offer 2 years in advance for certain DEI categories.

But, it is to early in the summer for OP to have completed his internship though…
But in an industrial R&D lab, which is where the OP should be looking, this is not common. Headcount is generally set at the beginning of the fiscal year and needs to be filled during the fiscal year (with exceptions, e.g., if a major contract is won or lost).
 
  • #13
CrysPhys said:
But in an industrial R&D lab, which is where the OP should be looking, this is not common. Headcount is generally set at the beginning of the fiscal year and needs to be filled during the fiscal year (with exceptions, e.g., if a major contract is won or lost).
Totally agree but the OP mentioned he had done corporate internships
 

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