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Undergrad searching for marketable skills

  1. Feb 11, 2012 #1
    I've read all about how it's next to impossible to find a job in academia after grad school. Frankly, after all of the horror stories, I'm still not sure what to do. Being a professor still sounds like my dream job, but if the prospects are really that poor, I don't know if I could move around the country in search of postdocs my whole life.

    Anyway, I'm still pretty conflicted, but I'm trying to do some research into what sorts of skills I would need to pick up to work in industry. I still want to get a Phd for sure, but I don't want to fall into the trap of only being qualified for academia. Since I'm only a first-year physics undergrad, my hope is that I'll have enough time to develop a more balanced skillset if I start early.

    So, to the point, my question is this: What could I do as an undergrad to develop marketable skills for the tech industry?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2012 #2


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    Hey Opus_723.

    This is my opinion for what its worth, but some importance skills I see include a little programming, a little statistics, a lot of communication skills that are both technical and non-technical, and basically a good attitude to do whatever needs to be done.

    The non-technical stuff is important because in a lot of jobs you will have to tell someone who doesn't know what an integral is what your analysis really means. Whether is done with a written report, a powerpoint presentation, or an oral delivery of some kind it still is important.

    Also again the ability to pick things up as you need to: very important. If you don't want this kind of environment and want to have something more relaxing, then I don't recommend this route.

    Also if you are talking about programming or dev/analyst jobs, then get a project or two of some moderate complexity under your belt.

    Look for opportunities that work with other people, where you read and modify other peoples code, where you write your own code, and where the repository consists of many different technologies (external libraries, multiple code bases, custom languages, scripting, etc) that are used. This is how modern software gets developed: the best tool that is available gets used and things move quickly. You might find that some decisions end up making people have to fix a lot of things and make changes down the road, but you need to understand that when stuffs need to get done by X, then that may come at a cost. This is just the nature of the software industry and although different companies and different industries have varied expectations, at some point in many industries this is how it is.
  4. Feb 11, 2012 #3
    I'd definitely consider learning some programming languages, ideally something popular like C++, Java, or C#. You can find all sorts of jobs just knowing one of these,
  5. Feb 12, 2012 #4
    Luckily some C++ is required for my Physics bachelor here. I'm taking that class right now, and I'm planning to continue with it on my own afterwards. I figured programming would be an important skill, and it's good to hear that C++ is a desirable language. Any other skills besides programming that would be good to know for some sort of industry science position?
  6. Feb 12, 2012 #5


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    What role did you have in mind?

    Understanding the role in any detail that you can will give you a good idea of things like a) who are you working with and who you are working for as well as b) what will be expected of you in terms of prerequisite training (among other prerequisites) as well as specifics relating to the job.

    The a) part also takes into account specific communication skills. These specifics again will depend on who you work with and for. If you work for someone who has a completely different focus from the usual scientist, then this is important to know. If you are working more or less for people with technical backgrounds and your work has a majority technical focus, then that will change things once again.

    It can help to know this especially if you get an interview, because chances are that the people you will end up working for in some capacity will be at the other end of the table and amongst other things it may end up being the difference between you getting hired against someone else.
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