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Physics What career options that pay well can I get with a MS in Physics

  1. Nov 24, 2016 #1
    So I'm currently enrolled in an MS physics program thesis option.This is my first semester and I have realized that I will not pursue a PhD. I know my university offers ms in physics with a profesional track to which I will have to do some form of internship. In the case that I decide to finish with the thesis option, what career options I have that will get me started with a good salary? Anybody have experience with the profesional track? I've heard that following a traditional track to PhD it will do nothing but allow me to get few limited positions, however, due to the fact I'm turning 30 next year, have tons of debt, and would really like to start paying it as soon as I graduate, as well as meet the love of my life to which I would eventually marry some day. What do you guys think is the best career option after finishing the masters degree?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 25, 2016 #2


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    First off, I would recommend checking out the data on PhD graduates, and then make sure that you understand a few details. Generally speaking, those who obtain PhDs in physics end up doing quite well for themselves. The issue is more that it's rare for them to end up working as specifically as academic physicists. They usually end up leaving academia.

    Secondly, there's a lot that you *can* do with an MSc in physics, but not a lot that it specifically qualifies you for. With a subject like physics, you have to remember that you're getting an education in physics. If you want something that is going to train you for a specific profession, you need to look at some kind of professional degree or vocational training.

    Probably the best information on where you can go with the professional MSc that your school offers is to look up the data on graduates of the program itself. What fields have they gone into? Where have they been hired?
  4. Nov 26, 2016 #3
    Banking & consulting pay the best by far, and if you know programming, software engineering (especially modeling of various physical phenomena where your physics background gives you a competitive edge, eg computational fluid dynamics) is high paying too.

    But for sure choose something that you're interested in, then you'll do well regardless of where you go.
  5. Nov 26, 2016 #4
    This is the best advice to follow. There are really two issues involved: (a) How useful is a MS Physics in general, and (b) How useful is a MS Physics from your specific school program. For (b), follow-up on the career paths of alumni. As for (a), with respect to industry and government positions in the US, an MS Physics is somewhat nebulous. An MS EE or MS ME, for example, is advantageous for landing a role as a lead design engineer and as a springboard for a management position; that is, an MS in those fields gives you a substantial advantage over a BS. Lead R&D positions for physics slots, however, generally require a PhD; that is, an MS won't give you a substantial advantage over a BS. Part of the problem is that an MS Physics is often a consolation prize for grad students who wash out of their PhD Physics programs.
  6. Nov 28, 2016 #5
    This is a false dichotomy. First there are lots of degrees (statistics, computer science, operations research etc.) that are not professional degrees or vocational training, but typically do a great job preparing candidates for specific careers. Secondly, there are a few physics programs out there that do a solid job preparing one for work in the semiconductor industry, materials science, health physics or other areas of physics that have reasonable employment opportunities. These programs are not vocational in nature, they just happen to teach areas of physics that are useful to employers.
  7. Nov 28, 2016 #6
    I don't know - what can you do? Are there specific scientific instruments (SEM, AFM, etc.) you can use?

    Are there programming languages you learned?

    Are there other skills (sample etching, labview, vacuum technology) that you picked up?

    The good news is that there's a lot of places people with a masters in physics sometimes end up. The bad news is that you won't be qualified for most of them now. You might be able to change this going forward.

    Personally, I went into actuarial work and then into data/decision science. It's been fun and lucrative for me, but it may not be for you.
  8. Nov 29, 2016 #7


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    Calling my point a false dichotomy is incorrect. It would be correct if I had claimed something along the lines of "all post secondary programs are either vocational training programs or not, and only those classified as vocational training programs will lead to employment." I have made no such claim.

    Physics programs in general are set up to educate students in physics. The fact that some programs give students some more specific marketable skills doesn't change this.

    My point is to make sure that students like the original poster, when making a decision on which program to enroll in, understand these programs are not specifically set up to train them for a specific job the way professional degree programs are. They will educate the student and then the student has to figure out what to do with that education on his or her own.

    And I agree that there is a spectrum between academic and vocational training.
  9. Dec 1, 2016 #8
    It's implicit in your post. The line I quoted from you seems spectacularly clear on the point, and I don't see how it can be interpreted any other way.
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