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Which specialization is most employable?

  1. Dec 15, 2011 #1
    I'm looking at some of the CSUs in california for a MS in physics or applied physics, with a few questions.

    I am getting a BS in Chemistry this year from a decently ranked University of California campus, and look to get a MS in physics to help my career prospects. I chose physics because it is closest to my existing interests and research in materials science, and would be more flexible compared to a straight materials science degree, which I've found to be actually less employable.

    my knowledge background includes significant physical chemistry and mathematics. I've taken 4 quarters of calculus, 1 quarter of linear algebra, 1 quarter of differential equations, and am about to start 2 quarters of upper division mathematical physics. my physical chemistry background includes 3 quarters of physical chemistry (quantum chemistry, statistical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics), 1 quarter of biophysical chemistry (mostly on physical analytical techniques in biology including x-ray diffraction, spectroscopy and NMR) and 1 quarter of reactor design.

    my major problem is that i have very weak programming skills, so would prefer experimental work to computational.

    My question is: which specialty within condensed matter physics would be closer to chemistry, and which would be more employable:

    optics and photonics, hard materials science (crystalline solids, semiconductors, magnetic materials, etc), or soft materials science (colloids, polymers, biomaterials)?

    I've looked at some publications in optics, and i couldn't really understand them! their experimental methods and instrumentation were totally unknown to me. this is despite the fact that there is a professor in chemistry that does research in nonlinear optics at my school. however, if optics is the most employable, then

    i looked at some publications in hard materials science (in rare earth superconductors), and because i took quantum chemistry, statistical thermodynamics and solid state physics for engineers, i could understand them at least partially. however, i'm worried that as i get deeper into quantum physics and solid state physics, there would be 2 problems: 1.) my chemistry background will get wasted and 2.) the math will get extraordinarily harder and 3.) employment.

    my current research is in polymer dynamics. however, at the CSUs, there is only one school that has any sort of polymer/biophysics experimental research. usually, this sort of research is carried out at larger, PhD granting institutions which I can't join due to my low GPA. even though this fits my background, i am worried about employment in this field, because outside of pharmaceuticals and printing machinery, i don't know any applications for polymer physics.

    this is not very urgent but i'd like some guidance so i can pick coursework better in the future and write a better application letter.

    thank you.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2011 #2
    i think you could make a lot of money with a phd in materials science & engineering
  4. Dec 15, 2011 #3
    1. they won't take me due to my low GPA
    2. i have little background or interest in some of the research they do in standard materials science and engineering, such as extrusion machinery or solid mechanics.
  5. Dec 15, 2011 #4
    yeah but if you did a ms in something else, you could get good grades and apply after that . . .
  6. Dec 15, 2011 #5


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    Something like 70% of physicists who are not in a University are employed as condensed matter physicists.

    But you should seriously consider getting a PhD
  7. Dec 15, 2011 #6
    i'd like to get a MS first, because my undergrad GPA is kind of low.

    i know that condensed matter is most employable, but which subset of condensed matter?
  8. Dec 15, 2011 #7
    google.com + wikipedia.com or figure it out when you get there
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