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Physics What kinds of jobs with a Physics degree?

  1. Sep 18, 2009 #1
    I'm currently set to major in Physics. I'll be starting my Junior year next Fall, so I have some decisions to make. Above all, I need to be employable. I'm not the brightest star in my class and am tired of being poor, so I'm definitely not going the Physicist route. Probably not Astrophysics, either, although that's what I'm really interested in.

    So, what are the top career choices for someone with a Bachelor's or Master's in Physics? My school has a 5-year accelerated Masters program that I will likely be taking advantage of. I'm still not sure which branch of Physics I am most interested in. I just know I love learning about the way the universe works and the intricacy, order and chaos of it all. I'm also an excellent writer, have good people skills, and have a good work ethic.

    Basically, I'm just still not sure exactly what I'm getting into and what options are out there. I don't really have the engineering mindset, and when my DH starts talking engineering my eyes gloss over. I would probably be a good programmer, as I am very logical and good at organizing, but it is rather boring and isolating to me. I've been doing receptionist work for years and I'm sick of being chained to a desk. I want a job with some variety.

    Thanks for any input you all have.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2009 #2

    Math Is Hard

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    I think you're a pretty hot commodity. You're studying physics and engineering, so you have geek skills. You write well, so you have communication skills. You have worked as a receptionist, so you have people skills (I assume). It's kind of a rarity to find people that have all three.

    Some ideas for you are:
    programmer ->technical project manager->CTO
    science writer/journalist
    sales for a technical industry

    But what are you passionate about?
  4. Sep 19, 2009 #3


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    If you are looking for a career with money in mind I would suggest you ask the engineers on this forum what their daily grind entails and possibly consider that. From most of the threads I've read on here from the same sorts of people, typically the science route is not one thats tied to monetary success.

    Also note that you can pick up a lot of skills that can be used in conjunction with what you will acquire from a physics/math/statistics/computer science/engineering degree. I'll list a few examples.

    If you think you would like the challenge of management an engineering degree plus experience in an already suitably organized company would do you wonders. If you like inventing and the processes of law a patent attorney coud be an option for you.

    If you end up taking a liking to statistics then actuarial or pharmaceutical industries might get your attention. If you end up doing physics and get lured into the financial industry you might consider modelling or quant work of which many look for existing PhDs.

    If you are a natural born salesperson you could consider becoming a technical consultant or a salesperson or even become an entrepreneur if you are that way inclined. It can be quite a risky endeavour and be extremely demanding on all of your available resources but can be highly rewarding making a positive dent with your contribution to society as well as being your own boss.

    I have mentioned a range of jobs and for good reason. Nowadays many people will try many different things in their lifetime and it seems this trend is going to see us widen our range of options during our lifetime rather than having it contract.

    Good luck with your choices and hopefully you can become exposed to something which will spark something special for you and get you excited.
  5. Sep 19, 2009 #4
    I was originally going for an English degree, with the hope of becoming a science fiction writer, but circumstances have turned out that I might become the sole breadwinner. As I mentioned, I'm tired of being poor and would like to retire someday, so using my brains to the utmost in an interesting job that pays well is what I'm looking for.

    I've actually got some management experience (retail, mostly) and am a natural born leader. Some people might call it bossy. I just know how to delegate things and prioritize so things get done. I've got people skills, so I can do it without offending or upsetting people. Some kind of project management might be fun. I don't think I'd like the actual grunt work of engineering, but I'm not sure because I've never done it.

    I'd love to get involved with the space program somehow. I'm also open to business, mostly because I'm pretty familiar with it already. I like variety and change, so I'll probably do something and then change it up somehow. I figured a Physics degree would give me some good flexibility. I just want to know some options and if there is anything I should do ahead of time for it. It sure would be a bummer to decide I really wanted to become an engineer but didn't apply for and get the degree in that major.

    Thanks for the input so far!
  6. Sep 22, 2009 #5
    It really is hard to answer your question, but based on your interests, I'd say that you should see if you can find a mentor with Lockheed, Boeing, etc.

    You should be able to find a good job in a R&D group with an industrial company.

    Just as a way to give you some ideas, I'll tell you how I got where I am. I got my BS in physics from a big ten university, but I really didn't know what I wanted to do with it. I ended up in the medical device industry designing components for xray and CT tubes. It's not a very glamours job, but it pays decent and I do get to use quite a lot of my physics background. My actual title is 'electrical design engineer' so you can get an engineering job with a straight physics degree.

    I also worked for several years as an application engineer with a software company that makes simulation software for electromagnetic fields.

    So basically, if you want to work in industry, there are positions out there.

    Good luck.
  7. Sep 23, 2009 #6


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    Do you mean that your degree had no Engineering courses in it, even as your own personal choices of electives; that you have a physics degree but with no Engineering courses?
  8. Sep 23, 2009 #7
    If I recall correctly, the only engineering courses I took was a drafting course. But tried to take all different aspects of physics, one biophysics, a chem e course. I just didn't know what to do.
  9. Sep 23, 2009 #8
    Just to elaborate. Yes, I pretty much had only limited engineering courses. But I really do wish I had taken a few electrical engineering courses. I think that in most industrial settings, at least in my experience, physicists usually work on the electrical side vs the mechanical side.

    When I was an application engineer at the electromagnetic simulation software company (small company, only ~30 employees) about half of the 'engineers' were physicists and the other half EE's.
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