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What can you DO with a physics grad degree?

  1. Mar 20, 2008 #1
    Hello I hate to start a thread on this, but I have read the "so you want to be a physicist" article and various threads and none of them adequately answer my question.

    My situation is - I'm majoring in physics and computer science - I "guess" I'm a junior. I'm currently managing a 3.95 GPA.

    I am toying with the idea of going to grad school for physics BUT, from what I have read all you can do with a graduate physics degree is

    - Be a teacher (professor/highschool/whatever depending on whether you have a PhD or not)
    - Work for DOD or some other government organization
    - Work in a field other than physics (miscellaneous engineering, journalist, termite extermination, etc)
    - Work in semiconductor industry

    All these things are either something I don't want to do, or are a waste of a degree in physics.

    What sort of jobs would one pursue with a graduate degree (or just an undergraduate degree for that matter) in physics? Or, where/what would I look for to find out for myself?

    Is there any sort research that goes on outside of academia? From the article apparently there are national labs or industrial labs such as bell labs that you can do a post-doc at, but from the sounds of it there are very few openings for permanent personal at those places.

    Basically I'm trying to determine whether its going to be worth the effort or if it will be useless stint that costs me a lot of money and time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2008 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Er... when you decided to major in physics, what did you think you wanted to do with that degree? Most people, I would think, would want to work doing physics, which is what a lot of those people you listed (professor, work for govt agency, semiconductor, etc.) do. A national lab is considered as a "govt. organization".

    If you want a definite guarantee that you will get jobs doing physics research, then no one can give you that. If you want the type of jobs that may be available to you after you obtain your Ph.D in a particular field, then the best way for you to gain any info on this is to look at the job openings listed in several issues of Physics Today.

    BTW, Bell Labs is no longer the hot-bed of physics research as it once was.

    Last edited: Mar 20, 2008
  4. Mar 20, 2008 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    At research-oriented universities, many professors spend most of their time doing research, and have limited teaching duties. Many universities also have research positions that don't involve teaching, called "research professors" or something similar.
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