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Soon to be third year undergrad student looking for advice.

  1. Mar 9, 2013 #1

    Student100

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    Hey all, so I'm kind of confused about what to do in terms of school to actually land a job on the outside doing what I'm interested in doing. I'm currently a plain ole physics b.s. hopeful, no specializations attached. My plan since going back to school has always been to get a phd in physics; however, I'm not entirely sure if that will land me where I want to be.

    What I really wanted to do is more in line with using theory and basic research to then apply those to find novel ways to solve problems. Something almost between basic research and engineering. I heard of applied physic PhDs but haven't actually talked to anyone or know someone who has one, or even if they're junk degrees or not.

    I'm not really concerned about making money, or having a cushy job. I had those when I worked for the DoD as a technician and quit to finally try to do something more in line with what I want and beneficial to society. I'm most likely locked into the physics bs which is fine, since I could still do a ms in EE or something if it came to that. (From what I understand from the counselors here at uc San Diego) I have a 4.0 GPA which will probably drift down somewhat since I'm about to actually hit the harder stuff, but generally I'm not to concerned about that.

    Is a physics phd still the best course of action?

    Honestly I hope this question makes sense, and that there is something out there for me. :p
     
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  3. Mar 22, 2013 #2
    The bad news: I think there's a vague sort-of-consensus on PhysicsForums that a PhD is not a solid career investment. Many physics PhDs do have cool jobs and/or collect large salaries. The question is whether they have better careers than if they had just worked in private industry for 6-7 years. Even if the PhDs do make more, it's a volatile investment with substantial risk of ruin. I know you said money isn't your primary concern - but if your net worth drops far enough below zero, then money becomes your main concern by force.

    The good news: if you really want to do something useful for society, there are many opportunities for you in physics! You'll probably have to go through 2 years of hazing - er, I mean classes. But after that, you really can do useful things until you run out of money or your department does. Some of my colleagues work on protein-folding models which might lead to treatments for Alzheimer's disease. Some of them write programs that simulate galaxies colliding. Some of them travel abroad to hunt for neutrinos. I get to read about Very Big Questions like "Is the arrow of time a statistical illusion?" Of course, we mostly sit on our asses in front of computers and grade homework. But the questions are genuinely interesting, and sometimes we even partially answer them.
    More good news: all the PhD candidates I know fit that description. That includes me, and by most measures, I'm the most theoretical / basic-research-oriented student at my department. (We had someone even more math-y and less experimental, but he graduated.)
     
  4. Mar 23, 2013 #3

    Student100

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    Hey, thanks for the feedback NegativeDept! Your comment was reassuring and enlightening, the PhD idea was to open more doors than would be available otherwise, after further reading there dose seem to be a consensus that a PhD could actually have a completely opposite effect. I'll have to think things through a bit more and make a decision, still have time though.
     
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