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Why should I go to grad school?

  1. Jul 15, 2009 #1
    i have a much better question, that doesn't often get asked: i have a high gpa, excell in my classes, could probably score very well on the gre and pgre, but i hate research so far. and yet i still feel like i should go to grad school. what am i to do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2009 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: stuck with a B.S Physics and no job

    Why do you feel like you should go to grad school? By that I mean, what specific benefit(s) do you think you will acquire by obtaining an advanced degree (MS, PhD, or whatever variant you are thinking of)?
  4. Jul 15, 2009 #3
    Re: stuck with a B.S Physics and no job

    I agree with Andy. It's very important to ask yourself why you should go to grad school. What is your long-term goal? If that goal requires or strongly suggests grad school of some sort, then go with. Just "going because you feel like it" is probably not a great motivation. Let the end justify the means, not the other way around.
  5. Jul 15, 2009 #4
    I don't think anyone that does well in a subject should go to grad school. It depends on the person of course. Grad school will be about research, and if you hate research, it should be a blessing to you. You know what you don't like. Now is the time to save yourself a lot of headaches and struggles for something you don't even like.

    Take a year off. Study for the PGRE a little bit, but pursue some other options (if you can, I am not sure if this is plausible for you). Clearly you are able to tackle hard problems and excel, this is a very valuable skill set whose value may not be maximized in grad school. Try to get an internship somewhere, see what really motivates you. If you find nothing, I would give grad school a chance.
  6. Jul 15, 2009 #5
    It might be helpful to know what sort of research you're working on. Me personally when I first started out I didn't care too much for what I was doing, but it's been one year and I understand the project much more and I enjoy what I do a lot more.
  7. Jul 15, 2009 #6


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    If what you want to do in life doesn't require a graduate degree and you don't find yourself wanting to advance your knowledge in physics, then you shouldn't feel like you need to. Take some time to think about what you want to do and whether or not an advanced degree will be worth it. If you just want to be a high school teacher or work in industry where an advanced degree doesn't grant you a higher paying salary or anything like that, then I don't see why you should.
  8. Jul 16, 2009 #7
    I agree with others that it's important to consider why you would want to go to graduate school (and in general graduate school for the ph.d. in physics is about research... and admissions committees look for research experience and interest in the applications).

    I think there are also all kinds of possible terminal Master's degree programs that you might want to look into... for specialized fields: such as medical physics, optics, science education, etc. While there is usually some project involved and some thesis, such a project is likely to be much more applied and to help you when it's time to seek a job in the field. In fact, you might also find better monetary satisfaction too. While a Ph.D. is generally funded, the stipends are low, and post-doctoral salaries aren't that high.

    In academia (after a ph.d.), you generally get to balance research with teaching and academic service, but this route requires some contemplation too. In the current economic climate, many institutions aren't hiring new faculty... and for those that are, they're actually usually looking to snatch up (for cheap) superstars that are frustrated with their present institution. Who knows how the situation will look five-seven years from now... but even before the current economic situation, I was seeing many institutions in the Chronicle of Higher Education (for example the University of Washington) looking to hire more non-tenure-track faculty (i.e. hire instead "term faculty" for a set term of two-five years).

    Other routes after the ph.d. include working in industry or at a notional or military research facility... but that is, again, research, so you'd better be in a field you're interested in. These do pay decently and have decent benefits, but perhaps not much better than having found such a job at a lower level after a terminal master's program -- and spending some time accumulating hours of experience and moving up in the ranks.
  9. Jul 16, 2009 #8
    because i want to be challenged and it will make me a learned person.
    for me it's the other way around, something like that cliche quote it's the journey not the destination.
    but i do, or math at least, or something at least. i want to know explore one of my interests to that degree.

    terminal master's isn't a bad idea.
  10. Jul 16, 2009 #9


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    But you just said that you ".. hate research...".

  11. Jul 16, 2009 #10
    how do those two sentiments conflict? i like to learn, i do not like to toil away on pointless experiments/proofs/etc
  12. Jul 16, 2009 #11
    If that's the case, then you could consider going to grad school and toughing it out through the research and then shooting for a professorship at a liberal arts college where there is more emphasis on teaching/learning than on research.

    Or a terminal masters program would provide most of the coursework of a Ph.D (hence the learning) without the pressure of a original-research oriented thesis.
  13. Jul 16, 2009 #12
    I'm in exactly the same boat as you. I'm doing really well in classes but not sure that I want my life to be all about research, but I also want to advance my knowledge and be challenged by new material. If grad school were just more classes, I'd jump at an instant.

    At the moment, I'm considering a terminal master's degree; those seem to end in decent-paying jobs and don't necessarily wind up in research.
  14. Jul 16, 2009 #13


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    Pointless? The point is to learn, no? Does one like to do homework?

    The idea of a Master's degree is to perform supervised research, usually research originated by a faculty member.

    The point of PhD is to perform 'independent' research, i.e. one's original research, with the objective of adding to the state of the art.

    Otherwise, just take the baccalaureate and get a job like every other graduate.
  15. Jul 16, 2009 #14
    give me a break. i'm sitting here right now taking data - what am i learning? this data will then be spun into a paper that states vague implications about completely useless phenomena.

    in fact i do like to do hw.
  16. Jul 16, 2009 #15


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    Ideally the research one does should not be "about completely useless phenomena".

    Look for patterns in the data, or a better way of analyzing the data, which shows trends or dependencies that are rather subtle. I do this on a daily basis. It's not trivial, but rather challenging.

    I would recommend finding research that is more challenging, rather than discounting research.

    I found homework tedious most of the time, because the answer was already known, i.e. the problems had been solved before.

    The research I do now is always new, and it pushes the envelope.
  17. Jul 16, 2009 #16
    i thought you were a nuclear engineer? what research do you do?
  18. Jul 16, 2009 #17

    Andy Resnick

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    How do you decide what is pointless and what is not?

    I ask that question seriously- when performing research, one does not know the eventual outcome (or even if a particular experiment will work properly.). Fact is, most of science research *regardless of topic* is full of troubleshooting and second-guessing.
  19. Jul 16, 2009 #18

    Andy Resnick

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    If you are spending your valuable time doing tasks that you either don't understand or consider to be a waste of your time, then you have no-one to blame but yourself.

    While it's perfectly normal to get bored now and then by the minutiae inherent in research, it's not okay to think that's what research *is*.
  20. Jul 16, 2009 #19
    i was just being snarky to astronuc. point is i don't care about the research i've been exposed to and i don't see there being any kind that i will care about. i stated it succinctly in the first post and astronuc decided to argue semantics: i don't enjoy research, i do enjoy going to school, studying, intellectual discourse with professors/peers, etc.
  21. Jul 16, 2009 #20
    because magically i will the freedom of a tenured professor the day i step into a grad program?
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