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This is a common question but

  1. Aug 7, 2011 #1
    I going on to do a second masters in the Uk in theoretical physics at imperial. My undergrad was in physics and masters was a astrophysics research masters in the USA. I'm aiming towards HEP, quantum gravity and astro-particle physics.

    My problem is the career outlook, I not sure academia is for me. Lets face it its hard work and you have to make sacrifices, which I'm happy to do if I have a good chance of getting a career out of it. But I don't want to work saintly hard throughout my PhD and the post docs - delay having a family or settling down (i.e chasing post docs all over the world) all to find that I can't obtain a university position, industry doesn't want me and I'm over qualified for most other jobs.

    I may have the opitunity to jump ship and go onto do applied mathematics (stats, modelling ect - which I do enjoy). But I'm torn I am very good at physics and feel I owe it to myself to continue. What is the career options like for theoretical or HEP outside of academia? I have considered becoming a quant - mainly because its a job that involves a lot of math, pays well and seems to be in demand.

    My ideal solution would be to do a Phd in HEP and if academia did not work out fall back on the quant position - years ago during the golden ages of physics this was an option but I think now a days this is unrealistic as many programs now train you to become a quant (i.e PhD finance ect). We all know of those who had a Phd project that just so happened to use the same maths and computer skills as that require to jump right in to becoming a quant but in general I doubt many Phd students are so lucky.

    I really need advice! I'm thinking of giving up on my dream of becoming a HEP scientists and steering towards an applied maths that would be more useful in industry. Mainly because I think my "dream" has been just that, a collection of ideas and mis-beliefs about what it would take to become a HEP scientist.

    Does anyone here regret doing a HEP Phd? i.e I know none regrets the time they spent doing it as they have a love for it - but once you graduated and tried to find a job did you think "dam I love HEP and the years I spent researching it during my PhD, but now I've come to find a job I sure wish I'd chosen a more applicable field so I could actually get a decent job!!"

    Cheers guys!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2011 #2
  4. Aug 7, 2011 #3
    Gotta give people more than an hour and a half to respond. Be patient and I'm sure someone with some knowledge on this will reply.

    From what I have read on this board if you pursue Theoretical Physics as your PhD and dont wind up in academia you'll likely be able to land a finance job.
  5. Sep 20, 2011 #4
    Does anyone have an answer to this question?!
  6. Sep 20, 2011 #5
    It's about time for two-fish to come and give you advice
  7. Sep 20, 2011 #6
    I feel bad, I would like for someone to come in and pitch advice. Because this topic is an extremely important dilemma for academia lovers (including myself).
  8. Sep 21, 2011 #7
    Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?

    While you are in graduate school, you will be doing physics research, and studying the universe will be your full time job. If that's what you want to do with your life, is it better to have done it for only five years and spend the rest of your life doing something else, than to never do it at all?

    The people that stepped on the moon were only there for a few days. If I could stand on the moon and look down on the earth for five minutes, that would be enough for me.

    That works. The one caveat is that markets change, and I can give you no assurance that finance (or anyone) will be hiring physics Ph.D.'s in a few years.

    One thing that I tell myself is that if I can figure out quantum field theory, I'll figure out the job market. If I can teach myself big bang nucleosynthesis then I'll be able to teach myself what ever the hell I need to learn to keep myself and my family fed.

    Investment banks do not lack money. If they didn't want to hire a physics Ph.D., they wouldn't hire physics Ph.D.'s. They hire physics Ph.D.'s to do physics work. There are a lot of things that masters in financial engineering people can do, but there are a lot of things that they can't or don't want to do.

    It's a happy coincidence that someone is willing to pay me money for something that I like to do. If this weren't the situation, I wouldn't be working in finance.

    When you are a graduate student, you will be a scientist. You get the Ph.D. after you've managed to convince people that you are a scientist.

    Lots of people. I'm a little unusual here because I'm one of the rather few people that doesn't regret going into theory.

    Not really. My philosophy is that if I can figure out neutrino diffusion, I'll be damned if I can't figure out the job market.
  9. Sep 21, 2011 #8
    That's true for 2011/2012. For 2015 or 2020 who knows?

    My advice is that if the most important thing in your life is to get a decent well paying job, then you shouldn't get a Ph.D. Now if the most important thing in your life is to get the Ph.D., and you just don't want to starve afterwards, that's a different situation.
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