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Should I go to grad school?

  1. Aug 30, 2010 #1
    Hey guys!

    I'm an undergrad senior and I'm trying to figure out what to do. When I'm done, I'll have double majored in Physics and Math, with a minor in Computer Science. This gives me a bunch of options, but none of them really appeal to me.

    Grad school would probably be fun, but the idea of working ridiculously hard for 6 years in the same place during my early 20's seems like something I might tire of. I know I could work as hard as I need to, but I have to be interested in what I'm working on. And I do like Physics, but I'm not sure if I do that much.

    So far, people have asked me, "Well, what would you do instead?", and I don't really have a good answer. But doing something big like this for lack of something better to do seems like a bad idea.

    I also don't know where I'd even apply. I've been doing research, but I still don't really know what part of Physics really interests me, so I don't know where I'd look.

    Can anyone give me some advice?

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2010 #2
    You're quite correct, "what would you do instead?" is a horrendous path to grad school. Being so unsure about doing a PhD probably means you don't want to do one - so don't. It is hard work, has ridiculous hours at times and is poorly paid. If you don't love it, it'll drive you mad. Though, you should consider that you're not limited to physics or mathematics for grad school - there are hundreds of other disciplines that would be keen to use your skills. Do you have any other fancies or interests that you would consider spending the next 6 years investigating?

    Try making an appointment with a careers advisor at your school, they might be able to suggest something that you hadn't previously considered. You have tonnes of options with that degree, many of which you'll likely never have considered. You could also have a look at:


    There is a list of common jobs for graduates from particular courses - they're really just the bog-standard, however. But who knows, it might get you thinking - there is also a questionnaire that you complete which aims to suggest careers based on what you enjoy doing day-to-day rather than which degree you're from. (for instance do you like working with computers? etc).

    You could also make a list such as this for yourself. What sort of things do you enjoy about physics? Computation? Solving differential equations? What sort of things do you dislike? Writing things like this down can help prioritize in your mind what is important to you. Then, based on that, you can try to look for a suitable job - it might be easier than just carpet bombing every profession out there. If you do make a list like that, take it to your careers advisor. Some of them are very good and might actually be useful.
  4. Sep 8, 2010 #3
    Well, I made a list of pros and cons for myself.

    -I'll definitely have something to do while I'm there
    -After I get out, I'll be probably easily be able to get a good job
    -I would be around really smart people
    -I would be challenged
    -I would be learning really cool stuff
    -It would be a college environment (I don't mean parties and stuff, I just like the college)

    -I'd be stuck in the same place for 6 years
    -The work would be insanely hard
    -Most of my 20s would just be spent doing physics and little else
    -Would have very little time to socialize and meet people
    -From what my friend in grad school tells me, there are basically no chances to meet girls, which isn't a huge thing for me, but still something I'd like in my life
    -I wouldn't really get to travel

    I dunno...I basically have to decide now. Any more advice?

  5. Sep 8, 2010 #4


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    I can comment on your cons.

    Sure, but is that really a con?

    True, but at least it will challenge you.

    These can all be debunked in one: it's a myth that grad students have no time to do anything else. I, and those I know, work during the week, usually keeping office hours, but spend the weekends doing our own thing.

    That's certainly not true: this year alone I've been to three different continents, and about 7 countries for research visits/conferences (all expenses paid).
  6. Sep 9, 2010 #5
    That's good to hear, I guess. In reality, I probably wouldn't mind staying in one place for a while if it was a good city and I had friends, but I really like the idea of traveling around for a while.

    Should I have ANY idea what part of physics I might want to specialize in by now? I've done research in a few areas, and I've mildly enjoyed it all, but I haven't found anything that has totally grabbed me. So I don't know what I'd look for in a grad school.
  7. Sep 10, 2010 #6


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    Staff Emeritus
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    I'm from the UK so probably not best to answer this. Over here we go straight from undergrad to PhD research under a specific faculty member (i.e. we don't have the years of coursework and qualifiers). In fact, when applying for a school, we apply to work in a certain group, and usually get interviewed by 2 or 3 faculty from the group, and end up working with one of them.
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