1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What kind of job can I get while working on my degree?

  1. Feb 9, 2015 #1
    So I was curious if there is any kind of jobs, besides internships, that a physics major might be suitable for. my gpa is pretty sad due to a combination of bad professors and me not dropping their courses. but I am not going to quit just because of my gpa. my advisor recommended graduate school, so I will probably get my Master in Applied Physics. But I would like a decent job right now. is there anything (besides mcdonald's) that a physics student might be qualified to do.

    edit: I also have my associate of applied science in Industrial Technology.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2015 #2
    Most physics undergrads where I'm at either TA (teach a lab section) or tutor for money. You can get some serious cash for the latter, whether you do it privately or work for an academic center or something.
  4. Feb 9, 2015 #3
    I've been avoiding that option out of fear, but I'm gonna give it a shot. I already spend time hanging out in the tutor center helping people for free lol.
  5. Feb 9, 2015 #4
    If you already are a tutor for free, why are you afraid of tutoring and getting paid?
  6. Feb 9, 2015 #5
    Because when I do it for free I do not feel... liable for the results of the students. I'm just trying to help. If I am getting paid 30 dollars an hour, I feel accountable. Like if they don't do well it is my fault.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  7. Feb 11, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Tutoring is one of the more desirable jobs you can get in a university as a student. It's relatively easy. It's related to your subject of study. It's right there on campus. And it looks reasonably good in your resume when you apply for jobs or admission to other degrees.

    Usually when you are getting paid it is because you are doing the "boring work" for a prof. So you would be running the tutorial for a class, presumably one you have already taken yourself, and did very well on. Or you would be marking homework or quiz answers. But the point is, you will most often be doing this while working closely with a prof. So you will have things like a study guide or written notes from the prof. And when you are marking you will have a marking guide that tells you what to look for and what to take marks off for.

    Another thing you may get to do is invigilate exams. So you get to walk up and down the rows of students writing the exam and make sure nobody is cheating. This is one of the most boring three hours you are likely to spend.

    Tutoring was, for the most part, rewarding and enjoyable. The only time it's annoying is when a student is just not getting it no matter what you do. Usually the thing to do in that case is to try to explain things differently. And don't be afraid to start right at the beginning and say it all over again, possibly several times. This is less annoying if you have more than one student listening so that you are actually helping several people.

    Also, they may try to cheat, as they did in the lab I taught. So part way through the term I had to institute a policy of requiring them to get their data signed by me before they left the lab. And as I was explaining this one of the students put up his hand and said "So one guy's bad behavior spoils it for everybody?" Right, I said. Sigh.

    So go ahead and tutor. Just brace yourself to be patient and good natured about the whole thing. But at the same time be ready to take any evidence of cheating to the prof the instant you notice it.
  8. Feb 11, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    I just went back and re-read your original post.

    I am not sure what "associate of applied science in Industrial Technology" means. But it sounds like big-time lab work and hands-on experience. If that is so, then it opens many possibilities for short-term and part-time work at a university. Many profs will be looking for people who can set up and monitor equipment. This is especially true if you can be useful at things like setting up complicated lab equipment such as electric motors, sensor devices, chemical systems, etc. So you should make the rounds of the profs with experimental research programs and see if any of them could make use of your skills.

    The best result of such a position might be that you get your foot in the door, so to speak, in an interesting research program. You never know, you might even get your name on a journal article.
  9. Feb 11, 2015 #8
    I tried getting a lab job in microbiology, mol. bio or analytical chemistry, after 2 years of being trained in these skills at the top lvl of our education system.
    Apparently, microbiology is an impossibility because I am not at the lab for two complete consecutive working days.

    The only pure lab company near my parents house offered me to oversee their automated lab/conveyor belt for 10 hours each Saturday(ie staring at the conveyer belt and solve problems when it jams/stops).
    They were really eager to get someone 'completely overqualified' (not that I had a real qualification) to be there as well their usual employee's, generally without a qualifications and no knowledge about the theoretical underpinnings of FACS, NIR, and whatever more they had there in their conveyer belt setup.
    Now I can barely fix my own bicycle tire, I feel completely atechnical. Of course I wasn't going to develop any lab skills on this job and I don't feel like I would excel inside a process technology setting.
    They did promise me that when I did my job well that after a year or so I could also work in a real lab on free workdays together with working said job on Saturdays.

    Sometimes I wish I was inside an area full with interesting companies. There are some where my uni is, but I imagine they get a lot of offers from students to work there. I think I am going to try for a summer internship, which is very unusual here.

    I think I am going to try to get said 'boring job' at one of the graduate schools. Lab skills still depend on hand dexterity and you can only learn though practice, not from books. I don't mind plating out 200 samples on late evenings when otherwise I would just be sitting in my dorm room.

    Is this really normal practice to try to get such a job? I fished for something like that before, but I never heard of something like that existing. Here, we do two thesis before we get an MSc and I want to try to get a spot on our iGEM team, so I have to fit whatever job I can get in there somewhere.

    So far my experience with getting a job as an undergrad.

    Tried being a tutor as well, though an online service. Got no offers, but I live in a sparsely populated area.
  10. Feb 11, 2015 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Something else to consider is that not every job you do has to be related to your field of study. Ideally sure, you can use a job to further your career goals. But sometimes a job can be just a means to pay a few bills, and it can also give you some down time that gets your head out of the books for a while. It can also help to diversify your skills set, gain experience in different fields, network, and meet new people.

    If you're not having any luck with getting a lab assistant position, go for the money or the experience. Consider something in the service industry - waiting tables for example. That kind of experience can really help you to develop your "soft" skills.

    One of my favourite jobs as a student was working as an auxiliary officer with our campus security. This has absolutely nothing to do with my future career plans, but it was a lot of fun, brought in some cash, and let me see a side of the university I didn't normally get too much exposure to.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook