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Too old at 22

  1. Nov 12, 2006 #1
    Hi folks,

    I'm wondering whether to return to academic physics from industry. :smile:

    I finished my physics degree with a minor in astrophysics over here in the UK when I was 19 years old. At the time, I applied for a few PhD studentships but didn't get offered one. Instead I was offered several masters places but I didn't accept - primarily because I was snobbish about having to take a masters rather than a PhD, and 'cause I felt I couldn't afford an unfunded place.

    The long and the short of it is that I've been in industry doing computational science and nature inspired computing R&D since graduating, but all the time longing to be back doing fundamental physics.

    However, there are a few funded masters degrees starting 2007 :biggrin: so I'm considering a return to a physics again. I'm 22 at the moment and would be 23 by the time I started the masters. Is that too old to be starting an MSc if the only aim of it is to get on a PhD program, in order to be a professional academic? :confused:

    Am I going to have trouble getting post doc positions and faculty jobs because I worked in industry for a while?

    It'll be a year for the masters and three for the PhD, so I'll be 27 by the time I'm a Dr and probably 30 before I can look at a lecturer/assistant professor type position. The prospect of earning less in 5 years time than I did for my first job out of uni isn't appealing either, and I don't much like the idea of just starting my PhD when the folk I graduated with will be finishing theirs. On the other hand it's only going to get worse if I leave it and I'll be forever moaning that I never got a doctorate, and I do love physics. What do you all reckon? Thanks in advance. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2006 #2
    You might as well give it up, 22 is far too old to start working on a graduate degree. :rolleyes:
  4. Nov 12, 2006 #3
    ummm....I'm not sure if this thread is a joke or not...

    most people do not finish their BS until age 22. At 22 you are definitely NOT too old to do a PhD or MS.

    Most people do not finish their PhD until around age 28 and do not get a tenure track faculty position until they are 30 or so. You are not too old to do these things...

    I am wondering how one would get a BS in physics with a minor in astrophysics at 19 to begin with.

    And who gets a PhD at 22???? WTF? I guess you guys in Europe do things much differently.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2006
  5. Nov 12, 2006 #4


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    Matt, your smiley didn't register for some reason. I know you were being facetious, but the OP may not, although the OP is a bit silly. Starting a Masters at 22 means he might not be the youngest student in the program but almost certainly won't be the oldest. A good friend of mine returned to school at the age of 35 to get her masters, then put her husband through law school. Age is just a number. :wink:
  6. Nov 12, 2006 #5
    The question was so outrageous that I assumed it was a joke, but I guess the OP might be serious....perhaps they do things differently in the UK.
  7. Nov 12, 2006 #6
    How long do you expect to live? 100 or 120 or so? So umm, even at the age of 40 it wouldn't be too late.
  8. Nov 12, 2006 #7


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    I'm 22 and I don't expect to even be done with my undergrad education until I'm 23.

    But in Amherst (median age 22) I am middle-aged:rolleyes: .
  9. Nov 12, 2006 #8
    I didn't start grad school for my Ph.D. until my LATE 20's because I was doing other things (teaching high school and getting an M.Ed., and working for the Air Force Research Labs while getting an engineering MS.) I know people in the Air Force who went back to grad school -- engineering at Princeton -- when they were in their mid-late 30's with some kids). A lot of grad schools look on age is a benefit.. particaullarly if you were doing a research job somewhere.
  10. Nov 12, 2006 #9
    I'm going to get my BS at the age 22, so I think that you are now well ahead of me. :bugeye:
  11. Nov 12, 2006 #10

    Thanks for the helpful responses. I'm a bit surprised by some of them! :uhh:

    A number of the astro profs at my former university used to say that the moment you stepped outside of academia you were worthless to them and that it was pointless taking you back - "contaminated minds" they said. It seemed the view in other parts as well, especially if you didn't go straight from a bachelors to PhD, at least at my old uni - I can't speak for any others as I have no experience there! Condensed matter and photonics seemed a bit more welcoming of people who'd spent time in industry, as did medical physics. The theory and astro groups didn't have anyone who'd ever had a job (even part time) outside of a university though.

    With regard to how to get a degree by the time you're 19, in my case I ditched traditional schooling as I didn't like it and went for a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_school" [Broken] approach, then started uni early. There were others in a similar position (although not physics) who finished at 19 or 20. At the time, I was the youngest known graduate from my university's physics programme though.

    Most of my friends who are working on their doctorates will have finished by the time they're 24 or 25, there's only one exception and that's because he's doing an MD and took a year out (he'll finish at 26), perhaps now you can understand my concern.

    Sorry if I offended anyone - it really was (and is) a genuine question.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Nov 12, 2006 #11
    The theory that your mind is contaminated once you leave the university for a couple years sounds like total bs to me. Go for it! Even if your 30 when you graduate, you have lots of time. One thing that may be of importance though is to review if you can, you said you got your degree at 19 and are now 22. You should at least try to do some review, but the beauty of the human brain is that I am sure it will all come flooding back to you once you start. Good luck with your future studies, I hope everything works out!
  13. Nov 12, 2006 #12
    I know academics who completed their phd's in thei 50's. I think you're okay. I also no academics who worked in industry then returned to academia. Either way, I think you're good. :)
  14. Nov 12, 2006 #13
    Last spring an 85 year old woman got her bachelors degree at my school, and my geology teacher said he once had a student in her 70s working towards a degree in geology because when she first went to college, she was told geology was a masculine discipline and pushed into botany.
  15. Nov 13, 2006 #14


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    What a brave person.
  16. Nov 14, 2006 #15
    To give even more support to this thread, I am 27 and currently applying for a second undergraduate degree in physics. I started out as a physics major but switched to behavioral science. I regretted it every day after I graduated. So hopefully after I earn my B.S. in physics, I can then get accepted at a reputable Ph.D. program and hopefully become a prof by the time I am 35 years old.
  17. Nov 14, 2006 #16


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    too old for what? diapers, maybe.
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