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Unsure if I want to continue with Physics

  1. Jul 13, 2010 #1
    Recently I've been questioning my decision to go into Physics. I really like Physics and have enjoyed my classes but in my experience so far I haven't really enjoyed doing research. Also the prospect of spending my 20's as a graduate student with no money and no time to enjoy myself sounds awful to me. I only have one more year of undergrad left and at this point I kind of wish I were going out into the real world to get a job rather than grad school but it seems like it's almost too late to change gears at this point. I've spend the last several years completely focused on getting into a good Physics PhD program and I have a 3.9 GPA from a pretty good school so I could probably get into a good school but I'm just not sure if that's what I want for myself anymore. I've been working so hard for this but it's been at the expense of having a social life and being able to have fun in college. At this point I probably will just end up going into a PhD program because I feel like it's too late for me to change course but I'm interested in exploring other possibilities because I'm worried I'll end up dropping out. What other options are there for someone with an undergraduate degree in Physics? I've heard that a lot of people with Physics degrees go into programming but that sounds awful to me. How hard would it be for me to get into engineering? I think that electrical engineering sounds kind of interesting but I don't really know very much about engineering. Maybe this is just a passing thing and I'm just kind of burnt out from working so hard last semester but maybe I really shouldn't go into Physics. Has anybody else had this experience?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2010 #2
    If this is how you would describe getting a Ph.D., then it probably isn't for you, not that there's anything wrong with that. Also, there are many threads describing job prospects for those with a B.S. in physics, and they all look pretty good.
  4. Jul 13, 2010 #3
    I somehow don't really see many graduate students "with no money and no time to enjoy" themselves. Sure, I do sometimes see graduate students working like slaves, and they probably aren't getting paid a lot for the amount of work they are doing. On the other hand, they are studying on a subject that they really enjoy with other people who also enjoy studying that subject. And I think they are getting along really well with other grad students in the department as well, so there certainly is a time to enjoy yourself in a grad school.

    I do understand your feeling though; I am a math major and I want to go to a grad school, but after hearing how competitive it is to get a tenured-position in academia (from this forum), I am a little afraid to go to a grad school now. But who knows? Competitiveness might change in next 6 years.
  5. Jul 13, 2010 #4
    I took the grad school path (going into 2nd year), so I can't really comment from personal experience on other routes. However, I think you will find that grad school is very different from undergrad.

    For one thing, I found my grad classes much more interesting and satisfying than undergrad classes. Also, I live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle on the money I receive from the physics department (something like 25k per year). I didn't have much free time during undergrad either (or in the first year of grad school, for that matter). If you get the right supervisor, though, you'll find that you have some temporal flexibility when it comes to research.

    Anyway, it sounds like you've put in the required effort in undergrad. You might as well give grad school a shot. If you hate it, leave. It's always more of a hassle to go back later - or so I have heard.
  6. Jul 13, 2010 #5
    I know where you're coming from. I'm about to be a junior and I feel pretty similar...I do love learning about physics, but research is a completely different process, a lot slower and more tedious and with far less immediate returns (in a semester of physics you could be introduced to a hundred crazy, crazy new ideas, whereas a semester of research later you're still running some boring analysis).

    I'm not averse to the hard work of grad school, and honestly I look forward to staying a "student" with all its implications...

    So the path I've been thinking about a lot is law school. Intellectual Property lawyers are often science undergrads. And physics kids kill the LSAT. With a 3.9 and a high LSAT you can pretty much get into any top law school. Like, Hahvuhd is in your league. Of course, that lifestyle might not be for you. It might not be for me either. It's just another road.
  7. Jul 13, 2010 #6
    Have you considered either a Ph.D program outside of (but related to) physics? How about a masters degree in a field you'd like to work in?

    There are paths other than "Physics Ph.D." and "job."
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