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Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  1. Mar 10, 2013 #1
    I'm a Junior, about to be a Senior, majoring in Physics at a California State University. I am terrified about my career prospects.

    I am a fairly good student (3.5 GPA) and really love physics. I've taken Quantum I, Modern Physics, Thermodynamics and a couple E&M classes and I have enjoyed all of them. I dabble in astronomy as a hobby and am interested in science in general.

    I don't want to go to grad school. I love learning about Physics but I don't know if I can stand putting my life on hold for six years to keep learning. I would like to work in a lab or do some sort of electronics/mechanical design work, but my degree isn't in engineering. I am not financially in a position to move to an E.Eng. or M.Eng. major this late in the game, nor do I want to spend another two years playing catch up. I don't want to seem like somebody blaming the world for their problems, but I have been told for the last twenty years of my life that a bachelors in any science degree would guarantee me a bright future. Obviously, that isn't the case.

    I'm really just stuck between a rock and a hard place here. I can either graduate next year and face a job market that hates any resume without "engineering" on it or I can suffer through six years of grad school, assuming that I can even get into one (and then face the exact same job market).

    Many of you are involved in industry, academia and other careers that you have built with a degree in Physics. Perhaps you can share your experiences, or maybe some encouragement and a push in the right direction?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2013 #2


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    1. You still have one year left. Maybe it is time to start tailoring your program so that you increase your "employability".

    2. The most obvious option right now is to increase your computational skills. Do you have enough elective credits to add more computational courses, numerical analysis, etc.?

    3. So you don't want to go to grad school in physics. But would you consider going to Law school? Law degree holders with a physics background is not common and has some serious potential.

    4. Are you adverse to being a teacher?

    5. Talk to your academic advisor. Tell him/her that you don't have plans to go on to grad school, and what does he/she thinks is the best course to take during your senior year to increase your chances of finding a good job.

  4. Mar 10, 2013 #3
    Best thing to do is start networking ASAP.

    Start looking into internships for your senior year.

    All it takes is one internship and someone to notice you.

    This is why I am doing EE.

    So much easier to get a job with a engineering degree.

    There is always academics.
  5. Mar 12, 2013 #4
    Well, I did some number crunching and figured out that if I were to make the change to Mech. Engineering today it would add three semesters to my expected graduation date. So, instead of one year to go I would stay another two and a half. Not as bad as I expected, though I have already been in school for four years (after this semester is over).

    I am seriously considering making the change to M. Engineering. If it will really increase my employability that much, it may be worth taking out a couple of extra loans to make it happen. It would cost me roughly $14,000 to extend my stay here, but there seems to be a reasonable chance it will perhaps nullify the need for me to pursue a graduate degree (at least until I am in a place I want to be financially).

    Is the engineering job market that difficult to break into with a Physics degree?
  6. Mar 12, 2013 #5
    There's more threads with people in a similar situation to you.

    I think staying for another 2.5 years and taking more loans (more than $14k, as you'll probably be eating too...) isn't a good idea.

    If you have $14k, you could to Munich (TUM - they also have other interesting master's taught in English, so check it out!) and do their 2-year master's in Applied and Engineering Physics and work in Germany. I mean, you don't have to go there, but I believe it is worth considering, seeing as you'd be borrowing $14k for tuition alone! And that too for another undergraduate degree. With that amount, you could live in a European city (might be more expensive in Munich btw), get a *master's*, and look for a job there.
  7. Mar 12, 2013 #6
    Two and a half years to change your major or add a second one?

    I dont think physics majors are able to get into engineering much at all. That path is overstated IMO. You can be a technician with a physics BS, but being an engineer might be tough. I think most physics BS who manage to land an engineering position get an engineering or applied science graduate degree on top of their physics BS.
  8. Mar 12, 2013 #7


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    What about finishing your BS in physics, then getting an MS in engineering? This can potentially be done in one year after the BS, and would probably make you a lot more employable.
  9. Mar 12, 2013 #8
    This makes a lot more sense. Why spend a 2+ years to get an engineering BS when you could just spend 1-2 to get a MS in applied physics or engineering?
  10. Mar 14, 2013 #9


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    One year? Not any program I'm familiar with. 3 semesters is certainly possible (though difficult), and 2 years is the norm.
  11. Mar 14, 2013 #10
    Consider taking a semester of graduate school over the summer....I did that many years ago: the summer whizzed by and I got to know a department head who needed a graduate assistant to teach labs in the following semester....so I did not have to pay for some subsequent semesters!
  12. Mar 14, 2013 #11


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    Learn to program in something that is in demand like Ruby or java. Get an internship doing some kind of programming even if that means you extend your graduation date by a semester or two. There is a lot of demand for programmers nowadays so you should hand a very good chance of landing a job after graduation.
  13. Mar 14, 2013 #12
    This is excellent advice. All of these points should be considered, especially numbers 1&2 in my opinion.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
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