# Work opportunities for physicists

• Physics
I wonder what everyone would think about having a stickied thread that linked to other threads, and that could be a single place for the conversation to take place. The goal would be for that specific discussion to take up less bandwidth, not more.

It would be helpful, I think. It would certainly cut down on the repeat discussions that most of us have read in full that while do go off on interesting tangents, they rarely help the OP's situation (ie: I want a job/a job better than the high school-level job I currently have and cannot find it) or anyone in the same shoes.

It would be great to have a central resource for people who are already on their way in a BS program and unsure of pursuing grad school, because almost invariably IME, they are likely running headfirst unprepared into a fussy and picky job market that has little patience for the inexperienced, never mind the generalist. Or for dissuading prospective BS students in Physics, more pessimistically. The best I can do so far besides parroting "network" is re-post the "companies that have recently hired new Physics BS graduates" APS page for ideas. I wish I had better advice to give to the OP after a year of applying to jobs (unsuccessfully), but I don't. The story has a happy ending though, I got into a promising graduate program.

I also agree that making a grossly distorted caricature of people's situation is not fair, in fact it is quite sinister. Let's try to provide a solution for the people who worked hard to get into college, often working at the same time to defray the costs, finish, try to find an entry level job etc. instead of turning our back on them or attacking some straw-man argument about entitlement issues. How about some benefit of the doubt?

Last edited:
1 person
What was that job? Did you have to go grad school to improve your job prospects, or did you go to grad school because your job prospects were poor?

Also, what about considerations of paying off college loans? Was that different then and now?

Here is some data showing how time unemployed is different now then in the 80s. Obviously people would feel better if their longer time unemployed compared to the 80s ended with not being underemployed.

Another plot which is for all college graduates not just recent grads which would be ideal.
http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BC416A_NUMBG_NS_20091201220755.gif

The bereau of labor statistics has been discussing underemployment (look up "The Nation’s underemployed in the “Great Recession” of 2007–09""). It shouldnt be written off if the people keeping track of these stats see it as an issue

1 person
Choppy
I also agree that making a grossly distorted caricature of people's situation is not fair, in fact it is quite sinister. Let's try to provide a solution for the people who worked hard to get into college, often working at the same time to defray the costs, finish, try to find an entry level job etc. instead of turning our back on them or attacking some straw-man argument about entitlement issues. How about some benefit of the doubt?

So let's go back to the question that the original poster posed - a question that is asked here rather often... you have someone who is considering a physics degree, reads threads like this one and sees a lot of people giving blanket advice such as "a physics degree is useless" and "do engineering instead of physics" and who then feels a certain degree of apprehension about a personal decision.

One of the things about these threads though is that the original query comes with the opportunity to state conditions that are particularly important. Then people can reply, factoring in the stated concerns on an individual basis. (Not that they always do, but they can.)

The facts of the matter are that different posters are going to place different values on the problem, largely based on personal experience. Some have had a hard time finding employment after dedicating years their lives to this field and so of course it's going to be important to them to warn others of what they see as mistakes. Others, like myself, have had things turn out quite well, and it's important to me to point out the positives that come with following a physics degree. I think anyone with these concerns benefits from hearing both sides.

In my experience the ones that did very well with their degree did what you did - they went to graduate school for medical physics. I think that is a thing most here can agree on. Physics is a degree best complimented with a graduate degree. By coupling it with the right graduate degree one can get specific marketable skills.

Often these types of threads are by students trying to get a career with only a BS. In that case I think the best advice is to go to graduate school, or consider engineering if you don't want graduate school.

In my experience the ones that did very well with their degree did what you did - they went to graduate school for medical physics. I think that is a thing most here can agree on. Physics is a degree best complimented with a graduate degree. By coupling it with the right graduate degree one can get specific marketable skills.

Often these types of threads are by students trying to get a career with only a BS. In that case I think the best advice is to go to graduate school, or consider engineering if you don't want graduate school.

Exactly. If you do risk mitigation after getting a physics BS you can turn out fine but you are going to need to get another degree whether it be a PhD in Physics, a masters in something else like medical physics or engineering. The simplest way to think of it is that a physics bachelors is like an engineering associates degree when you think about how far from employable you are when you get the degree.

Also nobody has said a "physics degree is useless" so there is no point in building that strawman.

computer science, engineering, architecture, nursing, medicine, physiotherapy, law, accounting, statistics (to a lesser extent)

To be fair, the strength of physics is that it can be used for advanced studies in fields where the BS may be irrelevant upon completion of advanced programs. Law and Medicine is the most obvious example of this. And most architects are now having to get advanced degrees to stay competitive. I dont know much about physiotherapy, so else may need to comment on that one.

For those unfamiliar with my story ( which most common posters already are) I got a BS in Physics because I was struggling with my previous major. Fortunately, I managed to get into an MS in EE and am one year from graduating (might stay another to do research ??) . Personally, I think Physics majors typically can find some opportunity to do well.

I dont know how common my experience is, how many Physics majors end up getting Advanced degrees in Engineering , Computer science, or other applied fields and wind up making great careers out of them. Pure physics routes seem beneficial if you honestly want research opportunities ( unless you want  in which case Nuclear or Medical may be your calling).

I try to encourage people like the OP to think of Physics like Nano-systems, Biomedical Majors, or Pre-Med. They have technical backgrounds but mostly use them for Graduate or Professional School anyway.

Exactly. If you do risk mitigation after getting a physics BS you can turn out fine but you are going to need to get another degree whether it be a PhD in Physics, a masters in something else like medical physics or engineering. The simplest way to think of it is that a physics bachelors is like an engineering associates degree when you think about how far from employable you are when you get the degree.

Also nobody has said a "physics degree is useless" so there is no point in building that strawman.

Your advice is generally accurate ModusPwnd, I will only add that it may be a factor of your institution as well. I chose a different institution when I went to Grad School for Engineering and I am relatively happier. It may be rare, but some times location or the reputation of your institution could be limiting your growth.