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Which of these 3 masters has the greatest career prospects?

  1. Dec 29, 2015 #1
    I recently graduated with a first class degree in physics. The problem is that I'm still having difficulty finding employment. It's not all bad, I've had my fair share of interviews, but I always seem to fall at the last hurdle. It is because of this that I have warmed to the idea of a masters degree, hoping that it will give me a bit more of an edge when applying for jobs. I applied for and have been accepted by 3 MSc programmes which I have listed below with some pros/cons and possible careers paths.

    Edinburgh University - MSc Acoustics and Music Technology
    Courses on acoustics, musical applications of fourier theory, digital signal processing and computer modelling of acoustic instruments. Involves a lot of programming in matlab, C++ and java which is always uselful, and also some nice electives in computer game audio. Possible careers would be an audio programmer working in a games company or an audio plug in developer, however these seem like niche fields.

    University of York - MSc Fusion Energy
    Full training in inertial and magnetic confinement fusion along with various other classes in plasma physics. An extremely interesting programme that could potentially be very rewarding, but would almost definitely lead to a PhD if I wanted to work in fusion. I'm not sure I want that. Again, seems very limited job wise.

    University of St Andrews - Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices
    Courses on lasers, optics, semiconductors and fibre optics, with interesting electives like biophotonics. Lots of practical work along with a summer project at an optics company which could be very helpful when finding a job. Seems like it could lead to a wide variety of jobs and PhDs.

    My problem is that I find all three of these areas interesting and can see myself quite happily studying them. The biggest issue is that I don't want to do it and find myself in the position of not being able to find a job. Does anyone have any experience in these fields or can offer any advice on their career prospects? I'm 28 now, not a young lad anymore, so being employable is a priority for me. I suppose forgetting a masters all together and continuing to look for a job is also an option.

    What should I do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2015 #2


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    Ultimately I would agree that the Photonics program is probably the most most applicable, but I wouldn't rule out the Acoustics either. I am a BS Elec. Eng. that focused on DSP and fourier/wavelet stuff, and I found myself in a job (that I love) at a hospital processing MRI and PET data. Can't really say much about Fusion 'cause I don't know jack about that, but I've taken optics classes. They are not too difficult, and extremely interesting, at least to me.

    Though the fact that the optics program includes a summer 'project' at a company is major ups. You probably need to get some stuff on your resume, ASAP.

    In the meantime, I would consider revising your resume and perfecting your interview skills. The best way to do this is by doing real interviews, so apply to as many relevant jobs as you can.
  4. Dec 29, 2015 #3


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    Can you elaborate? What do you think is happening? I have had similar experiences, so I may be able to give you some tips. I was rejected from like 20 jobs before I found one that fit, and thank goodness because I couldn't see myself anywhere else right now. 4 months in and it's still as exciting as the first week.
  5. Dec 29, 2015 #4
    Your job sounds great, congrats on finding something you love. You're right, I desperately need something on my CV. Since I'm an older graduate, I do have a few years as a network administrator on my CV but that isn't really related to what I want to do. It's better than nothing. I've also had to take a temporary job at a department store here while I search for a 'real' job, again not something I want to do, but I need the money.

    I've applied for graduate positions in various roles, ranging from medical physics and nuclear engineering to patent attorney and examiner. I've gotten through the testing and filtering stages and made it to the final interviews for quite a few of these positions, but unfortunately that's as far as I have gotten. I don't feel like anything went majorly wrong in my interviews, I've remained quite calm and tried to come across as friendly, so my conclusion is that there was just someone better qualified. I of course could be wrong, perhaps I'm a terrible interviewer and don't know it! It is a little encouraging to know that I was only one small step away from landing a job.

    I think I can safely say I've ruled out the MSc Fusion Energy at York. The mandatory PhD and lack of post-grad positions/jobs in this field makes it too risky. Still struggling to decide between the other two as both have advantages. I'm leaning towards the Photonics degree but the amount of programming in the Acoustics one could also be very useful.
  6. Dec 29, 2015 #5


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    You might consider going in to your school's career center. I know you've already graduated, but my school gave support to recent graduates. They may have leads on jobs, ask if they have a website for job postings - that's how I found mine. They may also be able to give you tips on your interviewing skills. It's probable that there just happened to be someone that edged you out, but don't give up. That one job you don't apply for could end up being the one that hires you, and that you really like.
  7. Dec 30, 2015 #6
    What kind of jobs are you looking for?
  8. Dec 30, 2015 #7
    I'm open to any job that's interesting and challenging. There isn't any one thing specifically that I'm interested in, more like a list of topics I enjoy and would be quite happy working in. The three masters I listed above were my best attempt to narrow down what I'd like to do. Something related to acoustics/audio/programming, nuclear power or optics.

    Right now I'm leaning towards audio programming because I think it would increase my chances of finding a job more than the other two. My main goal is employment
  9. Dec 30, 2015 #8
    Have you looked into accountancy/finance? Software development? Both of which are popular destinations for physics graduates. I think that, unless you want a job that really needs a specific masters, there isn't really any point in doing one as it'll cost you money and delay your entering into your hopeful future career.
  10. Dec 30, 2015 #9
    Thank you for your reply, you completely echoed my fears. I don't want to waste time and money unless it's necessary.

    I've applied for several programming jobs but gotten no where. Most of them asked for skills and experience beyond what I had but I applied anyway. I think software development is something I can work on in my own time, it costs no money, and if I keep trying I will probably get a job eventually.

    I haven't tried accountancy, the closest thing to that would be actuarial positions, but again, no luck there. It's sounding like I just need to keep trying.
  11. Dec 31, 2015 #10
    Oh well, keep trying, I suppose. Physics does overall have good employment figures.
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