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Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late?

  1. Jan 31, 2012 #1
    Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    Hey I am 22 yrs old and graduated from School with pretty good grades, but due to certain problems had to discontinue my education and had to start working. Although i tried not to lose touch with the books.

    I have been working for the last 5yrs as a construction worker, so this is nothing connected with physics or any thing academic, I recently got a promotion and things are finally looking up. But I have always known that I was meant to do something more than this, am I being unrealistic in assuming that I can contribute to the field of physics or is it possible. have I wasted too many years cause I would have to now enter under graduate school to get a degree in physics at the age of nearly 23 yrs. and hopefully later get a Masters degree & a Doctorate.

    does any one think it is possible to turn my life around or am I being unrealistic, should I just continue it as a hobby. is it too late?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2012 #2
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    I'm only a couple years older than you, but I was once at that point where I felt like continuing education was too late because I looked around at everyone in my high school graduating class, and some are already getting their PhDs as I type this, while others are being accepted into medical residency programs to become physicians/surgeons. Meanwhile, I felt like I did nothing with the past almost decade of my life since I graduated high school.

    I think as long as you have good reason for the hiatus and do well as an undergraduate, graduate schools won't look at your age negatively. At least that's what I'm hoping, heh.
  4. Jan 31, 2012 #3
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    22 is young so that isn't a problem. The biggest barrier for most people is the math, so I can't tell whether it is realistic for you to go to graduate school or not since I don't know your math ability, but that's got nothing to do with age.

    If you have the math skills then getting into graduate school isn't incredibly difficult and you'll be doing research there, but getting any sort of research position after graduate school is extremely difficult, so even if you get your Ph.D., you'll likely be doing physics as a hobby afterwards. I strongly suspect that you are making more money now than most graduate students (and "student" is something of a misnomer because "students" do much of the research grunt work) and your pay is comparable to most post-docs.

    So I'd say planning on a career in physics research *is* somewhat unrealistic, but that's got nothing to do with your age. If you were 16 and a math/science prodigy with everything going for you, I'd still advise against thinking of physics research as a career, and that you should learn some other skill (like construction work).

    The other thing is that it will help you a lot to take things one step at a time. I'm pretty sure that taking some intro calculus and physics courses and learning some computer programming is going to help you a lot at making more money in construction, and once you've done that a lot of other paths will open up and some of them may be more attractive than physics.
  5. Feb 1, 2012 #4
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    No, it is not too late. I don't think even if you were 32 that it would be too late. But I think at 22, you are still young and have the opportunity to explore what you really want.
  6. Feb 1, 2012 #5
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    Definitely not late, but you'll need to work extra hard to make up for the time you haven't touched on math. I spent 3 years without doing anything math related before I started college at the age of 21. I struggled at first but I did what I needed to do and did well.
  7. Feb 2, 2012 #6
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    Age is not an issue if you can imagine ;)
    The math won't be too difficult b/c you only need to calculate, not remembering theorems and understand the proofs like a mathematician.
    You should be fluent in differential equations above all.

    I am a computer engineer that is starting to hate everything about how software is written in these days (i am 25 years old) and because of this I have started to relearn the "hardware" part including getting deeper in electronics (in faculty I specifically focused on the software part including algorithms and data structures).
    I don't think I will be working as a hardware engineer in the near future but I still like to know it at an engineering level.

    I have also started to relearn/learn math in a more rigorous way (theorems, proofs) because I like it very much.

    Way am I telling you this and the first sentence is because it depends only on yourself if you can succeed !

    I often feel awful about my age and the so called lost time in advancing in math because I would really like to have a contribution in this field but i try to get pass this.

    For you the math will not be crucial but time will. If you can manage your time it will be perfect.

    Btw I always interpreted Einstein's famous quote about math in a different way; he works with more advanced math so he has more troubles with it then the average person but it seems that he actually had problems with it. He even divided by zero and after he got famous he usually had a person with him, a mathematician (at least this is what i read).
  8. Feb 4, 2012 #7
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    If you have a good job and things are looking up, why change it? I did physics to MSc level but still had feelings "that I was meant to do something more than this". After reading some philosophy & evolutionary theory I realised this was "just a feeling", a feeling that one should accept or ignore. You can do that just as well as a construction worker.
  9. Feb 4, 2012 #8
    Re: Wanted to Change over careers to Physics Research at Age of 22 is it too late??

    I got my Ph.D. in astrophysics, and I've found that having more letters behind your name makes these sorts of feelings a lot worse. Imagine the feelings that you will have if you spend a decade of your life working for your Ph.D., you get it, and then after all of that you end up right back to where you started as a construction worker.

    It's been my experience that success just makes these sorts of feelings worse. Once you've done something and gotten praise for it, that just increases the pressure to top yourself, and it just increases the frustration and bitterness that happens when someone or something gets in your way.

    One thing that I've learned is how important feelings are. There is no such thing as "just a feeling" since feelings create the reality of one's daily existence. One reason I have a strong interest in history, was that I was able to piece together "who brainwashed me and why". Something that I figured out was that growing up, a lot of people in my surroundings were people that had some insurmountable obstacle thrown in their life, and they saw me as a proxy by which I could do what they couldn't. One reason I *had* to finish my Ph.D., was because my father couldn't. He never mentioned this, and I didn't realize that this was the real reason he acted in the way that he did, until I found some very old letters after he died.

    Similarly I had some interesting teachers in high school. A lot of talented people whose lives went in a bad direction end up teaching high school and end up living through their students. When I read the obiturary for one of my high school teachers, I found out that he was a decorated war veteran who became a diplomat and was starting a promising career in politics, when something happened and he ended up teaching high school. Pretty much everyone I knew in a position of authority had something similar happen to them.

    So I got brainwashed into believing that my destiny was to complete the great things that they didn't. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it's made my life rather interesting.

    Or maybe not. A few years ago, I got stuck in a dead end job, and I knew that I had to make some radical changes in my life in order to keep from going totally insane. I'm still not the most level headed person in the world, but things are manageable.

    All this matters for physics, because people just don't successfully study physics on a whim. There's got to be some very, very strong emotional reason for you to study it, because if there isn't, you aren't going to finish.
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