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What can I do with my undergrad Physics degree? I'm freaking out

  1. Jul 15, 2010 #1
    So I'm going into my senior year as a Physics major and I always thought that I wanted to go into a Physics PhD program. I have a 3.9 GPA and could probably get into a good program but I'm having second thoughts now. I've always loved my Physics classes but I'm starting to realize that I don't think I really like doing research very much. Also, the idea of going to school until I'm almost 30 terrifies me. I've started looking into other possibilities but it's all very intimidating to me because I've never even considered anything but Physics grad school until very recently. What can I do with my degree? I've been thinking about trying to get into engineering but it's very intimidating to me since I have no engineering background at all and don't know how to go about getting into the field. I'm also open to other suggestions but I would like to do something that is somewhat mathematical and problem solving oriented.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2010 #2


    User Avatar

    Nuclear Power Plant,
    Space flight navigation / space physics
    Computer Science / Game programmer / artificial intelligence
    Electrical engineer
    Radiation / medical physics

    http://www.physics.org/article-careers.asp?contentid=435&pid=404&hsub=1" [Broken]

    hope that helps
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Jul 15, 2010 #3
    First of all, don't panic. It's not like you will have a philosophy degree. Two options are getting a Master's degree in engineering, or applying directly for an engineering job.

    A masters, in electrical or mechanical engineering, should be doable given your GPA, and can be done in two years of full time study.

    You could try to find a job as an entry level engineer. A physics degree with a good GPA guarrantees that you have the fundamentals, and fundamentals are more important than anything as an entry level engineer. You can convince an employeer that you can offer diversity to any engineering team.

    Note that, if you have a knack for engineering, the exact degree you have is not always that critical. My father became an engineer with a major in history and a minor in physics. Of course, it came naturally to him and those were different times, but the possibilities are still there if you believe in yourself.
  5. Jul 16, 2010 #4
    You sounded just like me a few months ago. After getting my BS in physics and being unemployed for a few months, I finally got 2 job offers from aerospace/defense companies, one of which is EE/ME-related. However, it took me about 5 months to get these offers. BUT, I did get plenty of interviews for software engineering/analyst/programmer positions, because I had listed I used C++ on my undergrad physics research projects. I could've gotten those jobs if I had a stronger C++ background.

    So my point is that while its much harder for physics majors to get jobs in say EE or ME than engineering majors, its not impossible. It's all about how much programming, experimental/lab skills, powerpoint presentation skills, and other skills you have that matters. I've written an article about this.

    If you don't like to do research, then you shouldn't go into ANY phD program. phD programs are all about research.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  6. Jul 17, 2010 #5
    There are thousands of different areas you can go into with a physics degree. Remember: employers are looking for skills, not necessarily knowledge. When you apply to a graduate position with, say, an engineering company - they want to know you're comfortable learning things at pace, and not put off by things like programming or mathematics. The physics degree you'll get shows you have this skill. Most of these engineering companies do the 'knowledge' part of the training on the job. Sure, you might have to do bits and pieces of reading to pick up some of the terminology you hear flying around - but no-where near to the level you would at university.

    The reason engineering companies are interested in taking physics graduates is many-fold. First: the problem solving abilities I mentioned before. Second: physics graduates don't know engineering. For some companies and fields, this is actually an advantage - they want you to learn how to do things their way and since they'll be introducing you to the field they can mould you in whichever way they wish.

    Physics graduates are extremely employable.

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