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Working after graduation then switching grad schools

  1. Jul 26, 2008 #1
    currently i'll be entering my 4th yr of undergrad, but plan on staying 4.5 - 5 years in undergrad. i've been thinking about this plan for awhile and what was wondering if its a good idea or not and what i have to do in order to achieve the best success with it:

    say i graduate with a degree in physics (and get a minor or double major with pure math), and then go for an engineering company for a couple years or so. then i decide to go to grad school in pure math

    does this plan sound feasible?
    and what will i have to do in order for the top grad schools to accept me in math? if i choose this plan, i probably wont be able to take many, if any, grad-level math courses. i suppose i can start now doing undergrad research for a math prof, considering that my physics REU this summer is my first experience with undergrad research
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2008 #2


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    Why would you want to disrupt your studies by a couple of years of work in industry before entering grad school? Unless you need the money, I don't think it's advisable to do so because you'll have to basically catch up on everything you've learnt two years back before entering grad school.
  4. Jul 27, 2008 #3
    because i would like to see if i enjoy working as an engineer. i may enjoy it so much that i'll forgo grad school in math or physics.
  5. Jul 27, 2008 #4
    I don't know how well this actually works in practice, but I've seen a little bit of anecdotal evidence that, so long as you did well as an undergrad, are able to do well on the GRE and subject GRE, and are (this one's important, and I would imagine quite difficult) still able to get strong recommendations from professors, then taking a year or two to work in industry is something that actually helps separate you from the pack of applicants.

    I'd say, from the people I know who've done it, they say it was a positive experience... but I think it's also a tough line to walk, since you absolutely must stay active enough in science or math to get some non-industrial recommendations.
  6. Oct 23, 2008 #5
    does anyone else having any experience with this and offer any input?
  7. Oct 23, 2008 #6


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    It doesn't seem like a bad idea if you wanted to go to grad school for engineering. It does sounds like a pretty awful idea if you want to do grad school in pure math.
  8. Oct 23, 2008 #7
    why? it sounds to me to be a better idea than to go to grad school in math, and waste a few years before decidign its not right for me
  9. Oct 23, 2008 #8


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    But you don't have an engineering degree. How do you intend on getting a job as an engineer without any relevant experience?
  10. Oct 23, 2008 #9
    ive heard from this forum that plenty of phyiscs majors find employment in engineering, do they not?
  11. Oct 23, 2008 #10
    I think it's a great idea to try to do something else between your undergraduate degree and your graduate degree(s). I taught HS physics and chemistry for two years, then I worked for the Air Force Research Lab (WPAFB). Of course I used that time to get some Master's degrees too (They were paid for by grants etc.)... so I never really stopped having a student experience fully. When I decided to go to grad school for my PhD, I still rocked classes (well above my "peers") and I knew I wasn't just there because I didn't have another plan. There are a fair number of students in grad programs that are there because they didn't know what else to do (and they often drop out after a masters or muddle their way through).

    Recall, however, that you will need to have skills to get employment (as Cristo mentions)... the economy now isn't the economy I had then (in the 90's boom) and I also did have both research skills and teaching skills from my undergrad experience.
  12. Oct 23, 2008 #11


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    That was my thought too. Though, beyond that, from the perspective of someone who DID take a year off to work after finishing up undergrad, I'd highly recommend it. It gives you a year to reflect on what you really want to do rather than just being in that constant "study, exam, attend lecture, study, exam..." with no time to REALLY think about your next step cycle. Another nice aspect of a year off was simply getting to spend a year working a 9 to 5 job (more or less), having evenings to just relax, and enjoy that year to reenergize before jumping back in to the long hours of graduate school. I think it gave me an advantage over those who headed straight into the graduate program and were already worn out.
  13. Oct 23, 2008 #12
    If you don't have any industrial experience and want to become and engineer (not a mathematician) then I would highly suggest you work for a little bit. I think getting out into the real world before grad school should be a requirement for every engineer. Working in industry really opens up your eyes and will teach you a lot of valuable lessons that will benefit you in grad school. In fact, if it wasn't for my work experience I wouldn't even be in grad school.
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