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What should I do between graduating and applying for PhDs? (UK)

  1. Jul 8, 2014 #1
    I applied for PhDs in astrophysics/cosmology last year and got a few interviews but with no successes and now I've just graduated from Durham with a 2:1 in physics. So obviously now I need a proper job!
    Since there are a few attractive graduate programmes, I'm wondering whether I should try to get one of these and then apply for PhDs starting afterwards. This would leave me with a good fall-back in case I get rejected again.
    Will this delay affect my chances? Or should I just stick to finding a short term job which I can leave next year for a PhD?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Well, I'd find a job because you need to eat. It should be a job that uses your best skill set like if you know how to program then find that kind of job.

    The next issue is that once you get a degree in Astrophysics or Cosmology then it will be hard to find a job once again.

    When I thought about traveling this route in the 1980's, I was told 1 in every 10 people get jobs in the field but that was quite few years ago and things may have changed though I don't think all that much.

    So my suggestion is to have a good longterm backup plan too.

    Anyway, here's a link on prospects:


    and here's a PF thread that discussed the issue awhile back:


    You might try to contact some of the PF mentors listed there if you need further guidance.
  4. Jul 10, 2014 #3
    Thanks for the quick reply.

    I'm tending towards a job in programming and software development. Do you know if that would be seen as a asset in a PhD application or should I look at something more related to physics (even though they are pretty hard to find)!
  5. Jul 10, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Its really hard to say but I don't think you'll get much traction from any job with respect to PhD applications unless it was supercomputing and cutting edge computational physics.

    I think students are ultimately selected for graduate school based on a lot of things mostly academic but if one prof had a project that needed computational work and he/she saw that on your application then it might tip the scale in your favor.

    Commercial programming is considered a trade more than a science by nearly all academics even CS profs.
  6. Jul 10, 2014 #5
    I had a feeling that's what you'd say.

    But do you have any recommendations yourself on what to do in the next years like an internship (still need a job though) or other part time things?
  7. Jul 10, 2014 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    If you can stay in grad school and try for PhD programs that might be a safer bet, but I'm no expert here. You could do applied math geared for physics to make your skills stronger. You could do some supercomputing or maybe get a job at a univ that has one.

    The Univ job idea means you become staff and not faculty and you'll be treated differently than a grad student and might be excluded from things somehow especially if thats the school you want to go to for a PhD.

    Perhaps your school academic advisor or Physics profs could advise you better. They must know or have run into similar circumstances and did something to survive and get a PhD.
  8. Jul 11, 2014 #7
    If you want to do a job that involves physics and is useful for a Ph.D application in the UK, that you can also ditch at reasonably short notice, I would suggest serious contemplation over being a private tutor in GCSE* physics - possibly mathematics as well.

    Where I live, it is not uncommon to find mathematics graduates tutoring adults and children, one-to-one for around £30 an hour. This should keep your basics rust-free, improve your teaching and communication skills, should funded Ph.Ds arise that offer teaching work you are now at an advantage, and will be a good back-up in later life whether you wish to tutor again or become a teacher. Plus, you are your own boss and almost certainly will not have to get up early!

    *Or A-level, of course.
  9. Jul 14, 2014 #8
    If you've failed this time what makes you think you'll succeed in applications next year? A 2(i) may not be enough in such a competitive field. You need to up your game! There are ways...

    Why not follow the "attractive graduate programme"? Bird in the hand and all that! At the same time, to keep the PhD option open, why not take a part time MSc?

    http://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/pg/2014/taught/1617/30499 [Broken]

    I should think any programming experience would be looked upon as an asset, but taking the part time MSc in Cosmology would show that you are really keen, and might just give you the edge (if you do an excellent project, and pass all the courses with 1st class grades!)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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