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So I will never ahceive any research in Physics?

  1. Aug 25, 2009 #1
    So I will never ahceive any research in Physics?

    Is the question that comes to my mind when I read around physics research on the internet.

    Is it impossible to do research in physics?

    I've done two Psychology research investigations at school. Nothing groundbreaking I just looked up a few journals and created a newer unique way of conducting the investigation. And in psychology there are thousands of areas to do research in.

    This is what I saw on the internet.

    From http://www.43things.com/things/view/128980/get-a-phd-in-physics [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2009 #2
    Hmm, I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. However, as a PhD student in physics I have to admit that I'm quite dissatisfied with the seeming employability of physicists. To be fair, almost every physicist with a PhD that I know has a job of some sort (the exception is a former postdoc from my research group who now lives with his mother in Japan, but I think that's more because he only looked for a very specific set of jobs). I wouldn't go so far as to say that physicists can't be employed in industry. But most of us will probably get jobs doing financial analysis or other number-crunching which has nothing to do with physics. So it's not that you'd be unemployed as a physics PhD, it's just that you'll have a non-physics job. And if that is the case, then one has to ask why you should bother getting a physics PhD instead of going the engineering route. As PhD students we all want those coveted few tenure-track faculty positions. But there are a few hundred faculty positions available in the nation every year. On the other hand, APS reports that there are about 1100 physics PhDs awarded in the nation every year. And that's not including post-docs and other physicists who are gunning for these jobs. It doesn't take a physics PhD to do the math.

    Personally I've all but given up hope on getting a faculty position after graduation. I'll get in trouble for saying this, but as much as I love physics as a field of study, I think that majoring in physics as an undergrad was one of the bigger mistakes I've made.
  4. Aug 25, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the reply. I'm from the UK and I looked at what graduates go into. And the most highlighted bit of the chart was finance.

    How is your PHD going? What are you doing it on?
  5. Aug 25, 2009 #4
    About physicists going into finance... I believe that this trend probably has a lot to do with supply and demand. Finance companies are looking for talented analytical thinkers. They recruit from math, physics, computer science, engineering etc. The fact that physics has a reputation for supplying lots of quants probably has more to do with a relative oversupply of physics phds within physics. Goldman Sachs doesn't care if your phd was in quantum field theory or number theory.

    Please correct me if you have any actual data about physicists in finance though, this is just the impression I've gotten.
  6. Aug 25, 2009 #5
    The part about finance doesn't surprise me. A lot of physicists end up working as quantitative analysts for banks and other financial institutions, due to our mathematical ability. Another common field is computational biology. Again, same problem: physicists can get jobs, but not in physics (which still begs the question of why one should bother majoring in physics). It's easy to get a postdoc, but much harder to get a permanent position. If you go the academia route, you'll end up jumping from postdoc to postdoc, rolling the dice every time you apply for a tenure-track job. If you're lucky you might get stuck as a staff scientist, but probably you'll end up being a programmer or something.

    As for me, my field of study is particle astrophysics, and I just started my third year. My PhD is going fairly well. I've made progress on my research, and passed the department's qualifying exams that are required to begin PhD work. Grad school is certainly a lot of fun; you get to do interesting research, and you even get paid for it. The only problem is that at some point you have to graduate.

    My recommendation: if you like physics and are good at it, you can go ahead and major in it. But definitely do a second major in engineering or some other highly employable field; I recommend something related to health care. If you absolutely must go to grad school in physics, I'd recommend studying condensed matter, since this at least opens up the possibility of industry jobs that involve some amount of actual physics. The whole "do what you love" philosophy sounds great on paper, except for the part about paying the bills.
  7. Aug 25, 2009 #6
    Your right about the finance bit. I've seen the stats.
  8. Aug 25, 2009 #7
    I was thinking of taking half computer science and half physics or just programming modules alongside physics. This is because I've done some programming and system architecture. Although with a physics degree I should be able to pick it up. And maybe be able to land a job in programming.

    On the health bit, the university I've applied to do:

    Physics with medical physics

    Which I'm guessing is health care related. It sounds like a good course.

    I need to do some research on job prospects with physics in my local area. I've allways believed in the philosophy "do what you want" lol but having second thoughts now!
  9. Aug 25, 2009 #8
    Actually, medical physics is one of the few areas in which employment rates are currently very high. But from what I've seen in terms of job postings, it would appear that you can get a medical physics postdoc with an engineering PhD. As for computer programming, I don't have any statistics there, but I would imagine that it is a fairly employable field.

    In regards to "do what you love/want." It's a nice idealization, sort of like the massless springs and frictionless pulleys that we have stashed somewhere in every physics building. Unlike the guy in the link you posted, I'm certainly not telling you to "run the other way." Physics is really a very interesting subject to study. Just consider all of your options before you dive into a major, and give employablity some serious weight. Majoring in something you like won't give you personal satisfaction if you end up having no job security.
  10. Aug 25, 2009 #9


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    Really? This is quite contary to what I've seen. If this person could show me some statistics to back up his or her statement, I'd be willing to consider that there's some truth behind it. But he can't because he's propagating a myth.

    Here's some data.
    Unemployment rates for physics degrees:

    American national unemployment rates:

    I would argue that the physics unemployment rates correlate very well with the american national average unemployment rate. Maybe someone out there has some better graph-reading skills than me?

    This is because physics is an academic discipline, not a profession. It's not an HR person's job to figure out what you covered in your degree. It's up to you to figure out how to effectively communicate and market the skills you have.

    So instead we're supposed to trust random internet posters who claim to have a PhD? Show me some proof. The AIP reports are published and, to my knowledge, include their methodology.

    Somehow I doubt this person took the time to investigate 7000 positions, tailor his or her resume to each job, call the employer to learn about the position and see whether his or her skills would be of interest to them. I suspect instead that this was nothing more than a shotgun approach to job hunting that ended up with 7000 applications going to positions that the poster wasn't qualified for or had no interest in.
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