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Two main ideas how to find a career that might combine the two?

  1. Dec 10, 2011 #1
    Hi everybody,

    It's been quite a while since I have posted on here, but I used to cruise around and read quite a bit and answer a question every now and again. Now I have a question that I have been trying to answer myself, and it isn't an easy one, and I just remembered this forum and all of the people that could potentially be so helpful with my situation...

    Basically, to make a long story short, I am graduating from Purdue this coming semester with a Bachelor's in Physics. I am heading to graduate school now, but I'm not exactly sure what for. I have done a ton of soul searching over the last year or two trying to figure out what I want to do, and it has come down to two things that keep coming back for me:

    1. I love the idea of getting people excited about physics/science, and teaching them about it (basically giving them what was given to me - the awe and excitement). When I think about this I think of people like Walter Lewin, Brian Cox, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, etc. etc. I would love to be someone like that, and I know that a degree/career in physics directly allows for that. Unfortunately I've come to realize I'm not necessarily interested in doing "true" physics research. Something about the way it is done these days... I'm interested in the results, but not necessarily being the one that does it (much the opposite of what I "thought" I would feel like a while ago...)

    2. I also love space, and the idea of space exploration. Knowing that we live in a time so immediately following the first time humans ever left Earth, and knowing that I could take part in some of the first space exploration EVER by the human race also really exhilarates me. This would be something I would be interested in doing for "work," rather than something like real true physics research (basic type research).

    So what I am wondering now, is if there is any way to combine these... What do you think? Is there any way of achieving both? As of right now I am planning on applying to Aerospace Engineering at some schools, Applied Physics at Cornell, and possibly a physics program or two other places (and maybe astrophysics/astronomy at somewhere like Penn State).

    Do you have any advice or recommendations? Thanks for any help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2


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    If you don't want to do research, don't apply to physics or astronomy graduate programs. Maybe look into getting a job at a museum, or an observatory, or teaching high school - something more about sharing what you know than having to come up with something original, which doesn't interest you. And if you're not interested in what you're doing, you won't be able to make yourself work 60 hours a week at it for 4-8 years, which is what a PhD will require even if you aren't attending a top school - and don't take a spot in those programs away from someone who actually does want a research job.
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3
    It sounds like you should teach high school and/or community college.

    If you are not interested in research, I would strongly, strongly, strongly, advise that you don't go to physics graduate school. You might consider getting a masters in education. One problem with physics graduate school is that I don't think it's possible to get a Ph.D. without getting a little (or very cynical) about physics.

    1) Become a lobbyist
    2) Become a high school teacher

    If you can brainwash future voters into supporting space research, you've done a lot. The problems with getting people into space at this point are not technical but political.

    You might consider not doing physics as a career. You can do something for love. You can to something for money. If you try to mix the two, it usually doesn't work out well.
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