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Unsure 10th Grader what to do for the future.

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone, let me introduce myself: you may call me Jorge (or George, whichever you fancy) and this is my first time posting on here, but I have been lurking around for about 2 or 3 months. Obviously I am in the 10th grade and is very unsure of what to do for the future. I have always been interested in Physics ever since I was 5 (16 right now) and slowly changed my interest from astrophysics to quantum physics. As of right now, I have not taken Calculus, but will self teach myself Pre-Calculus (Pre-Calculus by Sullivan 8th edition) and Calculus (Calculus by Gilbert Strang, free pdf from MIT OCW) before the end of this spring semester. I am not worried if it might be rigorous because mathematics has always been my forte, by far.

    Currently, I am enrolled in an Early College High School - meaning I get to take normal high school classes in my Freshman and Sophomore year and be enrolled as a full-time university student my Junior and Senior year. My local university happens to have a pretty good physics program; in fact, the ARICEBO radio telescope in Puerto Rico can be remotely controlled from there by students. Not sure if this is pretty common among universities or this is a blessing.

    I seem to be unsure of what to do with my physics degree - if I do manage to go after one, which is very likely - knowing how difficult it is to get a position in academia. I should mention that my parents are not too economically stable, so if I go after a degree - they say - it should in a field where I could get a job. Engineering is definitely something I have considered, albeit to a lesser extent than physics. If I do manage to go into engineering, I have decided it should be between biomedical and computer, for they are interesting to me.

    Please post some insightful comments to help me decide. I'd really appreciate it. Thank you. :)

    Edit: I forgot to mention: I have read the "You want to be a Physicist?" article.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2012 #2


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    Hey jorgerocha and welcome to the forums.

    In my opinion, if you want to help employability focus on areas that people pour money into.

    People need engineers to design iPods and iPhones, statisticians to make sure drugs are up to standard, programmers to drive all the machinery and software that we all use and so on.

    I'm not saying you can't get applied work with a more theoretical degree like pure mathematics or theoretical physics/particle physics but the thing is you will have to do a lot more convincing to the guy behind the desk than the other person if the guy behind the desk has more of a down to earth understanding of what they do/have done and what they know.

    If I were to give advice I would pick up subjects that focus on some kind of regular communication component whether that includes writing reports (especially for a non-technical audience), giving presentations (possibly with slides), and possibly working in interdisciplinary teams (that is, people with different skillsets to you).

    Also I would recommend doing anything with a project component, the longer the better if you are keen on a particular field. Long projects mean that you can stay at something for a long time which means that you are less likely to flake off one month into something.

    Also be willing to learn new stuff, even if it isn't technical, mathematically abstract or doesn't fit in with your major. If you don't do this, or don't want to do this, it will come across in an interview and someone else will get hired that has a more positive attitude.

    From the above, there are quite a few areas you can get into that range from engineering to computer science to applied mathematics to many sciences in general. You mention physics so obviously some of the above choices are not as 'palateable', but the advice still stands.

    I hope you enjoy it here at PF.
  4. Jan 17, 2012 #3
    I'd suggest going into engineering, get hired by a large organization that also hires a fair number of physicists. (In my case, it was the US Navy Department.) After a couple of years of good performance, you should be able to be working with the physicists on difficult problems, and eventually you can transfer into a physics lab type environment, if that's what you want. To me, this seems to be the most efficient and employable-friendly approach. I've never noticed an advantage to having a PhD, positive work experience seems to count for more, is quicker, and they pay you instead of you paying them.
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