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Uncertain about which road I should go down in physics

  1. Feb 20, 2016 #1
    Hello everybody!

    I've decided to study physics at the university this summer. I know, I want to study physics - it's just too damn fascinating to ignore.
    My uncertainty lies in what field of physics I should study. I have narrowed it down to Geophysics or Astrophysics, because they can be related (during and after the program) to space science, which is dream study field.
    I'd love to study astrophysics, but I keep hearing and reading about the risky job market and 1 out of every 10 student gets a job.. On the other hand, geophysicist seems to be having an easier time finding a job - perhaps not as a planetary geophysicist, but then there might be something to fall back on.
    Is the job market really that bad as an astronomer/astrophysicist?

    Program description from my university:
    Astro: http://studies.ku.dk/masters/physics/specialisations/astrophysics/
    Geo: http://studies.ku.dk/masters/physics/specialisations/geophysics/

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2016 #2
    Hey, breathe ok. Back to the basic and take a deep breathe. From your writings it is clear that you are confused. But why are you? Should we listen to others? Not on every case i guess. It's your life and no subject exist with out job facilities. Yeah, it's difficult sometimes but not impossible. Just keep focusing on your dream. First decide whether you want to be a billionaire or a physicist who found his peace in physics. Why are you worried about money? Study physics, things will be alright soon. And about astro physics and geophysics? Choose that which you love, for which you can study relentlessly, days after days and nights after nights. You should choose that subject which keep you awake at night and give you peace. Take deep breathe and empty your mind. Take a breathe and think over it again from the beginning. Ok, good luck..... and learn to do things alone and be brave. Take calculated risk. Write down your thoughts in a paper and make a structure of your life. Be systematic.
  4. Feb 20, 2016 #3
    Careful with how you word this and how you sell it to yourself. High school dropouts have lower unemployment rates than that... Most astrophysics grads do get a job. Many or most get an above average paying job. The common rough measure is that 1 out of 10 PhD graduates will get a job in astrophysics as a scientist.

    Knowing that you probably won't get a job as an astrophysicist, then you best and most likely chance of doing some astrophysics in your life is as a graduate student working on your PhD.
  5. Feb 20, 2016 #4
    From what I have gathered, you can easily get a high quality job with a degree in physics. That job, however, likely won't have much to do with research in physics.
  6. Feb 20, 2016 #5
    #2: I am not worried about money and didn't mention it at all, but I am, however, worried about earning a degree in astrophysics and not being able to "use" all the space related physics that I have learned. I think you can understand the disappointment of earning a master's degree (required in Denmark to do anything) in astrophysics and having to take a job in finance, for instance. Are you an astrophysicist yourself? If so what is your own experience?

    So if (roughly) 1 out of 10 PhD graduates becomes a scientist, do you know what the other 9 people become, because I fail to find any statistics?

    And thank you all for taking your time to answer my question!
  7. Feb 20, 2016 #6
    Without looking at the stats I would say the other 9 out of 10 PhDs become programmers, financial analysts, statisticians, engineers, managers, teachers, or consultants...

    You should be shooting for a PhD. Ending with a mere masters would be silly unless life makes that decision for you.
  8. Feb 20, 2016 #7
    Alright, so it is somehow safe to say that only a small percentage will actually get to study black holes, exoplanets or what you did your PhD in?
  9. Feb 20, 2016 #8


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    With something like geophysics there is an industrial demand for solutions to problems that they work on - particularly as they relate to things like oil exploration and extraction. While black holes are interesting, the only real demand for more information about them is academic in nature.
  10. Feb 20, 2016 #9
    That makes good sense.

    Thanks for all your advice - really gave me something to think about.
  11. Feb 20, 2016 #10


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    If you are just starting in physics, wait until you have taken about two years. Then you'll have more knowledge about what you like.
    Take what you like over vocational decisions.
  12. Feb 21, 2016 #11
    The physics program at my university wants you to choose a specific field after ½ a year, which you then will begin on 2nd year after the basic introduction.
    So I only have months do decide, but I think your point is correct. I'll get some impression of the specific fields when I'm studying and then I'll see what attracts me the most.
  13. Feb 21, 2016 #12
    With a B.S. in Physics, you are almost guaranteed an Analyst position on Wall Street. Starting salaries range from 75-90K with a 15-20K signing bonus. When I'm done doing my Post-Bac I plan on going to Wall Street for a year (maybe two) before applying to Ph.D. programs. I think it will be a great experience and networking opportunity.
  14. Feb 21, 2016 #13


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    What is this statement based on? The reason I ask is that this sounds like one of those rumors that has the potential to turn out less than true at a critical point in people's lives when they may be counting on it.
  15. Feb 21, 2016 #14
    I sincerely hope nobody would make a life decision solely based off of my comment. In the U.S. about 3,000 Bachelor's of Physics are awarded. In Fall 2015, 2.65 million jobs were created. The number of Physicists grows linearly where the number of jobs grows exponentially. With that being said, the Quantitative Finance (QF) community is rather small, and, of course, controversial. The point of QF is to reduce uncertainty in the market. You can either develop tools to analyze market data or you can flip a coin.
    I've decided to go to Wall Street (before applying to Ph.D. program) for personal reasons. I like to explore career paths and jump out of my comfort zone. When my exploration is over, I'll have one hell of a story to tell for graduate applications.
  16. Feb 24, 2016 #15


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    That is only true in the US and a handful of other countries (including Canada). If I'm not mistaken, many universities in Europe require the student to choose a specialization very early, and there is generally less flexibility in switching from one program to another. From the OP's comments (who is from Denmark), it appears that this is the case.

    To the OP: Are you open to pursuing a degree in engineering physics? I don't know much about Denmark, but I have known people from Sweden who completed their masters in that field. From what I've read and heard, in Sweden there technically is no "bachelor's degree" in STEM fields there, so all students end up finishing with a Masters degree. Am I correct about that? And I'm wondering if the educational system in Denmark is similar to that of Sweden.
  17. Feb 24, 2016 #16
    You are absolutely right about both things.
    If you want to change your program (or major) to a field which is quite similar, you have to start all over again.
    Well, there are "bachelor degrees", but I think I know what you mean. You (basically) can't get a job with a bachelor degree. You NEED your master's degree to have completed college in Denmark.
    I tried an engineering degree with a lot of physics, but figured out quickly that if I want to study physics, it has to be a (some what) "pure" physics. I'm considering software engineering - if I should choose an engineering degree - which also could be a way into the space industry, but it's a difficult choice :D
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