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Sick of being underemployed!

  1. May 14, 2012 #1
    I have a 1st class Physics degree and a PhD, but I'm only earning £18,900 per year in my current computer programming job even though I've been in the job for 4 years (possible due to the company having cash flow problems last year).

    Does anyone know how I could find better paid work in North East England, preferably more appropriate to my academic background? I don't want to relocate unless I have absolutely no alternative.

    For more information, you can view my CV at gcarty (dot) awardspace (dot) com (slash) cv (slash) CV (dot) html .
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2012 #2


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    What options have you explored? Chances are that you can make more money (if that is your main goal) in another position, but chasing that goal might not be best for you in the long term.

    Career is more important than job, IMO. The problem is that it can be hard to differentiate them. I jumped from one job to another over the years but ended up with a pretty lucrative career (overall). Luckily, I have a wife who was always willing to roll with punches and stick with me. We always did pretty well, and years of making 6-figure incomes fattened up our retirement funds pretty well.

    If you want more income and expect to spend it as you earn it, you'll be no better off, overall. Just my opinion.
  4. May 14, 2012 #3
    What was your PhD on? Your link does not work for some reason :tongue: I am an engineer, but from my experience physicists can get paid quite handsomely for some types of lab/experimental experience. Also, physical modelling skills can land you a decent job as well. I am moving to England this year, so I do not yet know very much about the north part, but I have read that you can land pretty decent incomes in the industries in the south (but you probably know that already).

    Regardless, it seriously depends on what you know, and what you want to be doing in your life. For example, I have been 2 years in a pretty bad-paying job, just to beef up my CV, and now I'll be doing a PhD, so income will be low for the next 4 years. I plan to cash my PhD in gold once i finish though :biggrin:
  5. May 14, 2012 #4
    Good luck with that. I don't many physics phds who even got to keep doing physics- let alone actually make a decent income doing it.

    To the original poster- you have programming and mathematical experience, look into data mining. There are lots of job postings, and currently openings seems to be growing faster than job seekers, so opportunities are good once you have a foot in the door.
  6. May 14, 2012 #5
    Indeed, but I am not a physicist :smile:

    Good suggestion. PhDs are also becoming increasingly popular in managerial tasks because they are considered to be adaptable and naturally oriented towards solving problems not encountered before. As far as I know, pure programming does not usually pay well anymore, since there is vast amount of cheap labor from India, China etc. Without looking at your CV I can't really say, but you probably know much more than a programmer, so try to make use of this. You could search for a job in an R&D department (where having a PhD is becoming the norm), or do simulations in the industry. Since you didn't mention it you are probably not interested, but post-docs in England can earn about 22,000-33,000 pounds a year, or in some cases more, depending on the project (at least in London, where I know some examples).

    I have been employed in several different (Mechanical, Industrial Design, Chemical) engineering faculties, so my 3 cents is this: don't stick to physics jobs just because you have a physics degree. Check jobs that are advertised for other disciplines as well, if you think you have the qualifications :wink:
  7. May 14, 2012 #6


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    meldraft, I have just manually entered the OP's link and was able to view his CV without any problems, and his PhD was in physics (GCarty, from the title of your thesis, it sounds like you had focused your research in condensed-matter physics -- correct me if I'm mistaken, as I'm not a physicist).
  8. May 14, 2012 #7


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    GCarty, besides your current employer, are there many other technology companies in the North East of England? I have read elsewhere that many technology firms in England are heavily concentrated in London and the immediate surrounding areas, with sizable clusters also in university towns such as Oxford or Cambridge (with emerging hubs in Bristol and Liverpool) -- am I correct about this?

    I'm also curious about whether you contacted any of your past colleagues in graduate school about possible opportunities. Perhaps networking with them might provide some other opportunities that you can explore.

    I would also suggest that you explore opportunities with LinkedIn and other online job sites and see if there are technology companies out there that might provide you with the option of telecommuting (the previous firm I worked for had a large IT department based in Maidenhead, England, but with employees from across the UK, with many working from home).
  9. May 14, 2012 #8
    Ah yes, the link was case sensitive, I can see the CV now :tongue: You have a really cool job, I'm a little shocked that you get paid so little for this, but I guess that this confirms what I have been reading about competition from India, China etc.

    If you want to remain in the video game industry, maybe London and the surrounding area is a better choice, as StatGuy suggested. I think Eidos and Square Enix are based in London and there are also developer studios in Essex, Luton and Shefield. The larger the studio, the larger the budget and, of course, the fees (usually).

    In your line of work you probably already know where the big players are, but just in case check this out:


    Given your background though, if you are interested in a career shift, you could really try to capitalize on your studies. I would bet that there are many more people who know about graphics engines than about modelling superconductors. People with your profile often find great positions in software companies that develop simulation/scientific software, such as ANSYS, Solidworks, or even Mathematica. With institutions such as Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial, chances are that there is a big (or elite) developer in England.

    The last thing that comes to mind is, again universities. With so many universities in England, you can probably find a better paying job even as a post-doc. I would bet that you would be very welcome in a computer science faculty, or any engineering faculty that deals with graphics. In my previous faculty, we were using NVIDIA SLI to run code for aircraft optimization, and we could have really used someone who knows the API. This is a very promising and developing field in numerical optimization, so check it out :wink:. Try checking engineering faculties and see their research subjects. Maybe this is your best chance of finding something in North England.
  10. May 15, 2012 #9
    The main reason I focused my job-hunting (starting at the beginning of 2007) on IT was because I though my chances of finding scientific work or post-doc opportunities in North-East England were virtually nil. Durham University -- where I did my PhD -- is the only local university to even have a physics department for example. Is my lack of geographical mobility THE main stumbling block to me getting a better job in your view?

    My parents STILL don't want me to leave them even though I'm now 32, and they depend on me to get their groceries anyway, as since January I've been the only driver in the house (my dad had a stroke which left him unable to drive).

    To be exact, I was running computer simulations of superconductors -- different from the rest of my research group who experimented on the real thing :p

    I know Ubi Soft has an operation in the North East, and Sage (which does financial software) is also based in Newcastle, but you're right that the majority of UK technology companies are based in London, Cambridge or the M4 corridor -- at least that's the impression I get from the recruiters who have phoned me up after seeing my CV online...

    Yes, I've registered with LinkedIn (as well as putting my CV on Monster and JobSite).
  11. May 15, 2012 #10


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    It's tough to be a caregiver, or at least the one person who is generally depended upon. But you also have a right to your own life. If this is the only thing that's stopping you, one option might be to move your entire family. First find a job you're happy with. Then find a place that's close to it. If your parents need/want your help, they can move with you.

    As another tip, it's important to remember that this is passive job-hunting. There are much more active methods of job hunting that are likely to generate more desirable results faster. These include job-shadowing, attending conferences, volunteering, even cold-calling.
  12. May 15, 2012 #11
    Something that I found to be true is that high paying Ph.D. jobs tend to be clustered in certain areas. In England, there are a ton of jobs in London.

    How is the commute between London and NE England. One thing that I found out was that it was feasible (and in fact cheaper than moving there) to commute between Texas and NYC.
  13. May 16, 2012 #12


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    I may be mistaken about this, but from what I understand, it is very rare for people who live cities/towns in the northern England (geographically and to a certain extent culturally closer to Scotland than to London or the rest of southern England) to commute to London for work.

    I have always had the impression that the English have very deeply rooted cultural ties to the particular city/town/region they are born in, to a far greater extent than Americans or Canadians (in fact, it is more common for people from England to emigrate to the US, Canada, Australia, or elsewhere than to move to different cities within England).
  14. May 16, 2012 #13
    Isn't it obvious? C'mon dude - you earn only 30% more than pizza delivery man and you are a programmer. Programmers are gods of job market nowadays so your situation is kinda pitful. Do you need to starve in order to move on?

    And why did u choose gamedev in a first place if you have no passion for that? You could earn much more money with web/business programming.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2012
  15. May 16, 2012 #14
    Your post makes a point, but this (and other things) are uncalled for. Love for one's parents is nothing to be ashamed of.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  16. May 16, 2012 #15


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    Rika, your post is both rude and uncalled for. A close friend of mine has elderly parents with health problems and being an only child she feels that she has a responsibility to help care for them, so I understand the OP's desire to live close to his parents and look after them.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2012
  17. May 16, 2012 #16


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    I never moved from here in part because I love Maine, and in part because my father is a widower in his mid-80s and my wife's mother is alone and in her mid-90s. We have to attend to family. The social "safety-net" that that the right (in the US) wants to eliminate really doesn't tend to the poor and the elderly like it should. They earned the help, and they are not getting it.
  18. May 16, 2012 #17
    I really like this sentence :approve:. I don't think we are helping the OP any more though :confused:
  19. May 16, 2012 #18
    Welcome to the world of science. You're lucky you have a full time job. Many companies in industry now only higher temp workers. That way they never have to pay for health insurance or retirement benefits, meanwhile you have to roam around like a nomad from job to job every six months to a year.
  20. May 16, 2012 #19
    This is pretty grim. Even now, there are a lot of opportunities for permanent employment, especially for people with a PhD (hell, you can be employed for life if you are tenured).
  21. May 16, 2012 #20
    It's extremely difficult to overstate how utterly hellish my mother's life is! I have an autistic sister (now 24), and my father hasn't worked for 20 years. He was reluctant to look for work initially because he felt he was needed to take my sister for hospital appointments etc, and ended up making himself unemployable!

    On the one hand I feel an inordinate yearning to get my own place and escape from the madness of my home life, but on the other I feel that to do so would be in effect to knife my mother in the back. She had no part in my father's fecklessness (including that which led to his brain haemorrhage -- both she and I sensed something was wrong and were begging him to go to the doctor) and she always spends money on myself and my sister to the near-limit of her ability. She'd probably think "I've done everything I could for you, and now you want to run away when it's time to give something back in return?? How dare you!!"

    If I got my own place but stayed in the North East I'd still be willing to take her for groceries, but she's started dreaming about nice houses and I know I almost certainly couldn't find a well-paid enough job locally to buy her a house and pay for (either mortgage or rent) a place of my own!
    Given what houses cost down south, how could I possibly afford this? My dad's been unemployed for 20 years (see above). Anyway, I wish I could get away from my family. I looked at some houses in Peterlee (nearest town) thinking that if I could buy them a house there (within walking distance of shops) they wouldn't need me anymore to take them shopping and I would be free to find my own place. However, I printed a list of about 60 properties within my budget and my mother said none of them was big enough! She also suggested that if I left they couldn't afford to even maintain the house even if I bought it outright for them, and that they didn't think I'd be capable of living independently anyway (probably because of various mental health issues I have -- nervous behaviours such as biting fingers being one of the main ones...)
    I'm no environmentalist (check out some of my posts in the pro-nuclear power blogosphere) but even I would shudder at the carbon footprint left by a Texas-NYC commuter!
    True, and nowhere more so than the North East!
    My mother has often taunted me by saying that I'm barely better off than my cousin (who's in a minimum wage job) once my commuting costs (25 miles each way, more or less) are taken into account. And back in last July, when I put my CV back online as I was expecting to be made redundant -- I got phone calls from recruiters saying "you could be making over £30k/year down south"...
    I didn't really "choose gamedev" per se.

    My first attempt at getting a job after my viva (that's "thesis defense" for you Yanks) was at Scott Logic Ltd, which writes financial web applications. I was there for two months on trial at the end of 2006, but failed to keep the job. Perhaps it's because even back then Lehman Brothers -- then Scott Logic's main client -- was in trouble. Perhaps it's because banks were increasingly moving development in-house, or perhaps my own soft skills weren't up to scratch. I'm not sure which was the most important factor...

    In 2007 I got about half a dozen interviews for IT jobs, in various fields. I think my hobby of developing freeware instrument panels for Microsoft Flight Simulator (in the portfolio linked from my online CV, you'll see some screenshots of these -- alternatively google "Historic Jetliners Group" for samples of my work) may have helped me get my foot in the door with a games developer.
  22. May 16, 2012 #21


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    If it is not practical for you to relocate away from the North East England, then perhaps seeking telecommuting positions may be your best option (telecommuting is quite common in the IT sector and is increasingly common in both Canada and the US, and as I've indicated earlier, it is becoming more common in the UK as well). Speak to recruiters and inquire about such opportunities.

    Of course, another option would be to seek positions in and emigrate from the UK, bringing your entire family with you, to places like Canada, Australia or New Zealand (all countries that are doing relatively well given the current economic climate, and with a long-standing history since the colonial period of absorbing immigrants).
  23. May 16, 2012 #22
    There is really no need to defend your position, your reasons are your own and well-respected. I really feel that it's not my (or anyone's for that matter) place to tell you what to do in your life, but since you are stating your problem to us, I would like to share my experience with the hope that you will find it helpful.

    The one useful point that Rika's post made was (although very badly stated) that at some point you will have to make a choice. It may not be today, or in 5 years, but if at some point you want a family and a life that is truly your own, you will have to satisfy your yearning. And it will be even harder to leave home as more years pass, because your parents will grow older.

    I come from a country that is slowly being destroyed, and I can tell you first hand that leaving your parents back home while things are going crazy is not easy, and you never really stop worrying about what might happen. My mother told me however to go, since I cannot make my life based on what they might need, but based on what will make me happy. So I left the country for a place with more hope. I wish that my decision had been whether I should move to a different city or not. I do not just let them fend for themselves, and if they ever truly need me more, I will either return to help them out, or move them abroad with me.

    I am certain that your mother loves you and wants you to be happy, so she is very unlikely to think that you are stabbing her in the back. You can still help and provide financial and moral support, even if you are living further away. The only thing you are truly risking in my opinion is the chance that you might turn bitter in a few years, thinking you were held back and spent some of the best years of your life in something you didn't really want. Besides, setting up a career and getting better salaries would help you ensure a much better life for your parents and that is your goal, isn't it?

    In any case, this is the end of my little rant, I would just like to give you an advice: Discuss your problem with your parents, see what they think. You might be surprised at what they tell you :smile:
  24. May 26, 2012 #23
    I've also asked about these problems of mine on WrongPlanet.net (it's in The Haven, and the thread title is "Is there anything I can do about my mother's life of hell?"), in case anyone wants to cross-reference the threads.

    As if things couldn't get any worse, the council will be ripping the house apart sometime in the next month to upgrade the heating! (And given how tightly packed the upstairs rooms in particular are with stuff, I don't see how we can cope at all!)

    My mother gets angry with me because I don't want to spend time with her! (But that's because I have a feeling that she just wants to use me as an emotional punching bag...) She often says "why do you think you can put things right by throwing money at them -- money which you HAVEN'T EVEN WORKED FOR! It's TIME and AFFECTION which I want!"
    Last edited: May 26, 2012
  25. May 26, 2012 #24


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    meldraft said it best that at some point you have to make a choice as to whether you want to give up all your ambitions for the sake of your parents, or start to make some ambitions for yourself and live your own life. After all, you are still able to support your parents financially even if you don't live with them.

    If your mother does not understand your need to do this at this stage, then I'm afraid she may never will, but you cannot let that hold you back. Obviously, if you can find better employment close to where you currently live in the North East of England (which might be difficult given the current UK economy), then all is good. However, if you have no other choice but to relocate for a better work and life for yourself, you should not hesitate.
  26. May 26, 2012 #25
    Is there anything I could do before I got my own place to ensure that my mother would still have someone to talk to (other than my dad with all his mental problems resulting from the brain haemorrhage)? Her parents are both dead, her brother and my dad's parents want nothing to do with us, and she has no friends...
    Last edited: May 26, 2012
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