1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Theoretical Astrophysics - Still a route to go?

  1. Feb 17, 2013 #1
    Hey all,

    I've been reading tons of story on theoretical physicist not having a job, and end up going to other fields such as finance etc. While we do still earn a living, the situation is pretty hard: why bother to spend ~7 years for a phd to end up in somewhere else? I mean there're better degrees to take - like Masters in Financial engineering. Hence my question:

    For those who got a phd in theoretical physics and currently working (inside/outside academia), will you still recommend an enthusiast student to pursue their career in theoretical physics? Why/Why not?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2013 #2
    People still try to join the music industry even though there isnt a great chance it will work and they do so because they love it enough to try.
  4. Feb 18, 2013 #3
    This is why I do it.

    Hopefully, one acquires some skills along the way that are transferable to regular or semi-technical day jobs in case one doesn't have any other choice (math, electronics/optics, eloquent writing and basic programming).

    IMO, it is still a lot safer than becoming a virtuoso musician, what can they do with their skills other than be instructors if they fail to secure record/tour deals?
  5. Feb 18, 2013 #4
    I can't claim the wisdom of years quite yet, and I'm not sure just how hard it is to get an academic job, or will be in the future, but I think there's an easy litmus test:

    If you couldn't get a job as a professor or researcher, would you still be happy to invest all that time and learn all those things? If you ended up in another industry, would you still be glad that you have that knowledge, or would you think of it as a waste? Of course, your opinions may change over time, but since you can't know the future, my feeling is that the answer to that question is the biggest indicator of whether or not one should pursue a higher degree.
  6. Feb 18, 2013 #5
    Hmm.. this is a good test! My first instinct now is no... Although I enjoy learning something, I don't like seeing what I learned get flushed down the toilet...

    I should seriously reconsider my decision..
  7. Feb 18, 2013 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Indeed, the decisions of your life are not merely a means to an end! If you truly enjoy the process of research and such, then the choice is between getting to do what you love for several years or simply not doing it at all.
  8. Feb 18, 2013 #7


    User Avatar

    This is a very apt statement. Like you I don't know much about the subject, but in my opinion a good scientist goes through all of the trouble of grad school simply to learn more about the universe we live in. In that case grad school is its own reward, and if it isn't perhaps science in the right path for you.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook