Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Proper career choice?

  1. Jan 29, 2012 #1
    I love astronomy, physics, and mathematics. For the past couple years I have been set on becoming an astrophysicist, but as of late I have been questioning the exact field of physics I would like to get into. I will preface by saying I have no prior physics classes under my belt, but understand basic principles and enjoy doing independent research on the subject. In high-school I did very well with chemistry but I want to study something a little more big picture. Science has always been intriguing to me and I would love to make a career out if it, but I am having a hard time deciding whether or not to shoot for my PhD, or aim my sights a little lower, and its also troubling to find the exact career to choose. A job that would interest me would be designing spacecrafts, but then that gets into more engineering. Another thing I would love to do is make ground breaking discoveries in creating worm holes that could one day possibly take the human race to explore Kepler-22b. Am I over-thinking things too much for someone that hasn't even started their first year of college? Or are these things that I need to worry about now?

    Thank you,

    Edit: I see now I have this in the wrong place, sorry.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2012 #2
    You should pursue what you love most and don't let anyting stand in your way. Personally I would pick worm holes, more exciting and a better way to travel. Do be careful in this forum though they don't like anyting "non-mainstream". Last I checked some of the greatest theories we know today were born from non-mainstream science.

    Keep thinking and question everything.
  4. Jan 29, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    There's no 'proper' or 'improper' career choice out there. Most people will have multiple options that will change with time and the trick is to figure out which option will make you happiest in the long term, given your specific conditions.

    It's nice to have a goal in mind when you're staring out, but this is something that changes for most people as they progress through academia and enter into a career, so if you don't have something specific at this point, don't stress too much.

    The first step consistent with what you've listed is to start out with some first year university courses in physics and mat. This will give you a better idea of what studying physics will be all about. These will generally be the same whether you ultimately decide to follow an engineering route or a physics route.
  5. Jan 30, 2012 #4
    It sounds like astrophysics is for you. By combining physics, astronomy, and mathematics, one studies the universe as an astrophysicist. I am in high school as well, and i theorize that your career goal, advancement in the knowledge of wormholes, will be one of the prime focuses of our generation. I myself am considering becoming an astrophysicist because the universe as a whole interests me the most; the big picture. It sounds like your interests match up with that too, so my advice to you would be to consider a career in astrophysics.
  6. Jan 30, 2012 #5
    I think it'll be healthier to be able to accept that, whatever option you figure will make you happy, CAN fall to pieces in the blink of an eye. Say, you would really enjoy running a cozy bookstore, but then Amazon came along. Or you really think you'll be happy being a banker, but happen to graduate in 2008.

    Ironically, once I came to accept that, I felt safer to pursue what makes me happy.
  7. Jan 31, 2012 #6
    Yes you are. :-) :-) :-)

    Go to college, and explore a little bit. See what you like. See what you don't like. Go out into the world, see what's there. See what isn't.

    I have my Ph.D. I'm three times as old as you, and I still haven't quite figured out what my career plan is.

    As long as you do your homework and work on your math, you don't have to think too much about what happens next.
  8. Jan 31, 2012 #7
    Not sure about that. One thing that you'll find out is that real science isn't the same as what you are seeing right now. Once you get into college, you'll be able to do some undergraduate research and figure out whether you like it once you find out what it's all about. Also there may be some summer science camps at a local university that will give you a taste of what things are like.

    What do you do if tomorrow someone ends up proving that wormholes are impossible?

    Anyway one reason that research camps are useful is that you get exposed to the "grunt work" of research. Once you figure out that 95% of theory involves staring at rows of numbers trying to figure out why your equations just don't work, you can find it more interesting or less interesting.

    What happens to most people is that somewhere along the way, they find out "hey, this wormhole stuff isn't working out, but interstellar dust is kind of cool, and I need to write my dissertation on something."

    And at some point, you'll figure out that you'll never understand the big picture, and you'll be desperately finding something you can understand. But that's cool.

    One other piece of advice. Don't think of astrophysics as a career. It isn't. Most likely, you'll spend ten years of your life studying it, then you'll find out that you have to find something else to do to pay the bills.

    One way of thinking about it is that you are reading books right now about mountain climbing, but there is a big difference between seeing someone climb mountains and doing it yourself.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook