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What to do first: grad school, or job

  1. Mar 14, 2012 #1
    hey, i am a undergraduate student earning a degree in physics. im a little unsure as to whether going immediately to grad school, or trying to get a job with a BS in physics will benefit me more when eventually attempting to pursue a career in physics. i understand that the physics careers are almost reserved for PhD's.

    i would also like to point out that this is my 4th college and from transferring, my credit totals are equivalent to a sophomores because i changed majors from computer animation to physics. i have accumulate a substantial amount of debt, prob around 50k and i have to admit i am getting a little nervous as to my future financial situation. any advice???
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2012 #2
    If you want to do physics stuff, get a masters degree now, its harder to go back to school after you've been out in the workplace for awhile. It's likely you will need it in the future anyways. You will just be in debt like everyone else, which is not that big of a deal, and some companies may even pay it off for you.
  4. Mar 14, 2012 #3
    Physics isn't a career so much as a lifestyle. If you want to join the priesthood, it's best to go straight into the Ph.d. program, since physics Ph.D.'s aren't set up for working professionals.

    As a physics graduate student, you will be working as an indentured servant in which the graduate school pays you. This is a good thing since it means that you won't get into any further debt. Also, a lot of student loan programs will defer interest if you go to graduate school.
  5. Mar 14, 2012 #4
    As a physics graduate student, you will be working as an indentured servant in which the graduate school pays you. This is a good thing since it means that you won't get into any further debt. Also, a lot of student loan programs will defer interest if you go to graduate school.[/QUOTE]

    i dont believe all schools graduate programs pay you, do they? from what i understood graduate school has tuition costs and if you are lucky a company (usually through internships) pays for you graduate schools tuition.

    if the school does pay then does that exclusively cover tuition or is there additional money to make a living off of?
  6. Mar 14, 2012 #5
    i know that it depends on the company of course, but does it happen often that the company pays off schooling?
  7. Mar 15, 2012 #6
    Most do, and if you get an admission without funding for physics, that's considered a "friendly rejection." Different subjects have different funding systems, and in physics, you get through the system by being cheap labor.

    There are Ph.D. programs in which are set up for career professionals to take part time (i.e. education and petroleum engineering). But physics Ph.D.'s are not set up that way. Part of the reason is that there is a perceived glut of physics Ph.D.'s, so no one is in a hurry to make it easier for people to get physics Ph.D.'s, and no one is going to make a ton of money issuing Ph.d.'s.

    Compare that to MBA's or law degrees.

    There's enough money to survive. You'll have to squeeze every penny, but you won't starve.
  8. Mar 15, 2012 #7
    Also, absolutely, do not get a Ph.D. for "career" reasons. I'd compare getting a Ph.D. in physics to joining the Marines or becoming a Catholic priest. There are career implications, but career shouldn't be your main goal, since if career is important to you, getting a physics Ph.D. is almost certainly a bad idea.

    One thing that you should ask yourself is suppose I told you that after getting a physics Ph.D., you'd be shining shoes for the rest of your life. Would you still do it? If you have to think about the question, then you should almost certainly reconsider whether or not to get a physics Ph.D. The Ph.d. should be an end to itself and not part of a "career plan".
  9. Mar 15, 2012 #8
    From my experience I would like to suggest you to study first that is complete your Ph.d first or as few have suggested you can opt for Part time courses.
  10. Mar 15, 2012 #9
    I just want to offer the other side here, which is that debt is NOT something to be taken on lightly, particularly in this job market, and particularly for a degree such as Physics B.S., where the jobs are not particularly lucrative.

    On the other hand, "well I better immediately quit school and get a job waiting tables to pay off this debt" is probably not the best line of reason either :)

    There is likely some happy medium: take measures to stauch the flow right now - summer and school year jobs (ideally paid research (including REUs) or TAships). Try to condense your degree into as few additional semesters as possible. If you are on a meal plan and living in a dorm, chances are your living expenses are higher than they need to be.

    You are essentially correct that jobs actually doing physics are reserved for PhDs, so plan on grad school.

    As Twofish says, you will receive a full tuition waiver and a living stipend. Your stipend will be entirely sufficient to live on and to begin paying off your debt. For example, my husband's stipend is ~ $2,200/month (12 mo. / yr). And our living expenses are around $1450/mo - that's for 2 adults and a dog!!!! Just on his stipend alone we could pay down 9k a year in debt. If you have student loans, they likely will not accrue interest while you are in a PhD program, meaning you could come out of it pretty debt-free with your shiny new doctorate and at least the chance at a job where you get to do physics :)
  11. Mar 15, 2012 #10
    Yeah, but if you work first you can save up some money so you don't have to live like a grad student. I know plenty of grad students that are driving their 1995 cars hoping everyday that it doesn't break down. To me, that's a very unneeded stress.

    Although leaving a well paying job and going back to student status isn't the easiest decision and many people question it.
  12. Mar 15, 2012 #11
    hm...all very interesting inputs. while i would still like to do a career in physics i am willing to be flexible as to what my job will be considering there isn't a 100% chance i land the job i want. as a back-up i am considering engineering, but i don't know exactly what type of engineering i would do. there are many types of engineers, so there are many jobs, and a good paycheck to boot.

    twofish's comment does help me considering i would be doing something completely different in my life if i was willing to make the necessary sacrifices, however, ive accepted that i am not willing to do that. i do enjoy physics a lot, for what it is, and what it can achieve, but the idea of basically doing indentured servant work as i try to simply acquire another degree that most likely wont be necessary considering, i probably won't become another Brian Greene, or Michu Kaku, or even work for a place like MIT or CalTech.

    im so lost...it gets really frustrating sometimes.
  13. Mar 16, 2012 #12
    http://www.datasea.info/avatar1.jpgAs a physics graduate student, you will be working as an indentured servant in which the graduate school pays you.
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