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Stressed about jobs with a physics degree for sciences jobs

  1. Apr 21, 2015 #1

    in two weeks, I am going to send my application to a university to get a degree in physics (I live in Europe
    so it is going to last 5 years, 3 years for a bachelor's degree and 2 years for a master).

    At the moment, I am a 27 years old software developer (I have a bachelor's degree in software development).

    I love physics and maths (but not pure maths if that makes any sense, I love using maths to solve problems) and
    I really would love to work in a scientific field when I graduate in 5 years.

    The problem is that I am not sure I will want to get a PhD in physics, I honestly don't know what I will do when
    I am 32 years old with a master's degree in condensed matter physics (assuming I reach my goal).

    Unfortunately, the more I read about a degree in physics (without a PhD), the more I can see people talk about programming or finance.

    I like programming but I want it to be a tool to solve problems and not just build software for the sake of getting a salary.

    Will it really be hard to find a job in sciences with a master's degree in Condensed Matter Physics (that's what the university offers) ?
    Will I be "forced" to get a PhD if I want to be sure to work in a physics related area ?

    I could get an engineering degree instead but I don't particularly like building things so that's why I think engineering is not for me.

    Computational physics is really interesting, I don't know how the job market is though.

    Would you have any advice/experience to share ?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2015 #2
    I am finishing my Masters this year and have recently been accepted for a PhD in theoretical physics with a stress on "by-hand" calculations. I considered getting a job, in related areas and I found some related jobs to physics rather than finance.

    I would point out that a PhD, would give you a headstart in the job market over masters graduates. This has been pointed out by older friends but also my dad, who got a PhD in organic chemistry and now works in business.

    I would also point out engineering isn't necessarily building things but designing things, such as bridges, submarines, satellites, weapons and novel electronic devices. In fact engineers in those areas often have physics backgrounds, where programming/simulations are crucial ( your background will probably suit that). As a physicist/software engineer you will be highly employable.

    An example of a physics job I was pitched was the repair of a nuclear reactor which involved various physicists, engineers and biologists working together. The company itself just consists of consultants in physics, engineering as well as managers. So these people use their physics on a regular basis which I assume is what you want.

    To be an academic, as in lecturing and conducting research, you are "forced" to do a PhD yes.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
  4. Apr 23, 2015 #3

    thank you for this answer !

    At the moment, I have no idea if I might like working as a researcher or not. I guess I will figure that during my studies. I know that I will get a master for sure (that is, if I don't fail my studies but I worked so much for the past year that I would be really disappointed if I were to fail).

    I want to solve problems using physics, maths and programming. I love that.

    I don't doubt that with 2 degrees like that, I wouldn't have too much trouble to find a job, I just want to make sure that this future job will be in sciences.

    I love learning everything I can about physics so I want to work in that area.

    Thanks again.
  5. Apr 24, 2015 #4
    If I could offer a different perspective: a PhD experience is less like a degree and more like a job, a very low paying, stressful, unstable, fairly flexible research job. The first two years will be like schooling, but once you get past that, it's nearly entirely research. It's that experience as a doctoral researcher in condensed matter physics that will essentially be your entry-level condensed matter physics research job. So if you want to work in condensed matter physics as a researcher, why not pursue a PhD after your master's? If you're leaving your current job to go back to school, I assume you're not worried about lack of a good income for a few years.

    If you decide that you don't want to be a researcher, than the alternative careers you read about here are open to you. Myself, I'm in aerospace operations. There are always options.
  6. Apr 24, 2015 #5
    When you say a job in the sciences, what kind of job do you mean? To be a scientist you need a PhD, post-docs and luck. In the US a masters in physics is a failed PhD, its not a good thing. I got a masters in physics and it was extremely hard finding a job of any kind. After years of looking and going back to school for engineering I got a job as an engineer.

    I think that you should shoot for the PhD and post-docs if you want to be a scientist or study physics for fun and realize you will not get a job as a scientist.
  7. Apr 27, 2015 #6
    Thanks !

    my initial passion is astrophysics but I don't want to struggle to find a job later. That's why I chose this university, they have a normal bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Condensed Matter Physics. At the moment, I have absolutely no idea if I would prefer a job in research or not, that's why I am hesitating. I don't want to plany my next 8 years with the goal to get a PhD if I don't like it and struggle to find a job related to physics because I have a master without a PhD.

    I will be 32 years old when I finish my master so a PhD is gonna be 3 more years, then post doc. I am highly motivated to get a degree in Physics, that's what I really want but I don't want to be 35+ and see my applications being rejected.

    Maybe I am just seeing a very dark picture when I shouldn't be.

    I am in Europe and the way of thinking is quite different.

    But anyway, thank you. I guess I will get the bachelor's degree first and try to discover what being a researcher really is. If I love it, I will continue with a master and PhD, if not, I can still get a master's degree in Engineering, that's very common in Europe.

    For the last 5 years, I've worked for money and I hated it. I had a really nice salary and all but I wasn't excited at what I was doing in finance/IT. I spent so much time of my free time in front of physics/maths books and I loved it.

    For the jobs, I don't really know. I can see myself developing simulation about physics (in general) for example or research if I like it, I really love solving problems and if they are sciences related, that's even better. I don't know if that makes sense or not.
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