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So, last night I was watching this thing on NASA and their Office of Planetary Protection. I found it comforting, intriguing and amusing. Such off the wall ideas existing such a well funded, socially acceptable form?

It got me thinking. There are appear to be a growing number of INTPs who study physics. I think of a physics degree as a nice luxury, but about as practically marketable as a philosophy degree. Am I wrong about this? Even if these physics people don't end up working for NASA, might their skills be transferable? If so, to what?

I've witnessed business bosses shaking their heads at CVs and saying, "No, too boffin" and I wonder where a person would venture with a physics degree.

*Any budding physicists out there, please don't take this comment personally, because it's not. I just wonder if listing physicist on all those career lists should have come with a disclaimer or assessment tool, or what the Plan B is.

 
Side note: Unintentially recognizing NASA's web content platform at a glance: priceless. :kitteh:
 
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Business bosses are quite right to reject job applications from Physics grads. They're no more capable than any other person when it comes to that kind of clerical, trading, up-selling malarkey. If a Physics graduate complains there are no jobs like that available, then it's their fault for getting a degree in the wrong subject and not pursuing it properly.

Also I think, personally, that education should always have been primarily academic before being about employment and career. University should be a place to aid curiosity and build knowledge and understanding. What I mean is, there should not be this subconscious assumption that a university education will guarantee a good job, especially the assumption that a 'hard' degree will provide any greater level of certainty with that. People should study for the sake of learning and interest. I'm pretty sure most of history's great discoverers didn't get into their field just because it paid well! So yeah, I agree with business bosses turning down the over-qualified. I'm going to be doing a Theoretical Physics degree in September and have accepted that I may have to work sucky mundane jobs to get me by while I continue to push myself (hopefully) to the top of the field. However that may not be the case because, in answer to the main subject of the thread:

Regarding actual jobs, or areas, for Physicists, it stretches wayyyy beyond the glitzy high-tech NASA space stuff. Here are some examples of things that you can only really known about, and therefore work with in depth, by studying Physics:

Electronics - quantum computing, superconductors, super-capacitors, magnets (eg date storage), and other fiddly circuitry type things (mobile phone technology, etc)
Optics - cameras, lenses, televisions, and all things to do with manipulation of light.
Medical - X-ray, MRI, CT scanning, keyhole surgery equipment
Energy - Some of this might also require an engineering or chemistry degree, but areas such as nuclear are really physicist territory.
And then of course the standard NASA stuff.
Plus the high amounts of research done by paid physicists in labs and universities around the world, which then filters down into the various related fields for other physicists and co-workers to manipulate.

There's plenty more stuff. Most modern technology came about through various levels of physics! So it takes Physics grads to understand and 'look after' the more nitty-gritty aspects of the things most people take for granted. Did you know GPS wouldn't work without applying the theory of relativity to their function? Otherwise they'd be dysfunctionally inaccurate! Ok Einstein is a fairly bog-standard example, but there's plenty of physics in the world, and if it exists, then we're gonna need people to know about it how it works.

Regarding your original confusion about what physics is for, I actually do sort of understand where you're coming from though. In everyday life I genuinely don't have a clue where to look for these sorts of jobs, but they must exist - In the UK there's a gaping shortage of Physics grads at the moment, or so I'm told?!
 

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Regarding your original confusion about what physics is for, I actually do sort of understand where you're coming from though.
I'm not confused about what physics is for. I'd just never want to tie myself to a single direction so solidly, in case the market fell out of the industry. Similarly, it's not that the physics students are overqualified for business, rather that they're not qualified at all or may see there to be no intricacies in business that are worth building skills for. Seeing it as "up-selling malarkey."

There are many double/triple degrees that combine multiple industries simply because there is rarely any such job that wouldn't benefit from an expansion of skills beyond its stereotype. The practicality (in cost, time and information relevance) and real marketability of multiple degrees is questionable, but the concept is sound.
 

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Oh right ok sure. I thought you said you considered it to be about as employable as a philosophy degree? I mean, there will be a hell of a lot less physics jobs compared to business jobs (because yeah, business is everywhere, and it does require an understanding that I think most physicists lack), but certainly there are plenty of fields you can go into, and plenty of areas where a knowledge of physics is paramount.

I do think, though, that Physics is vast enough for it to not need to be combined with anything else. But that's just an opinion. I guess it depends on what area of work a person wants to go into. The world isn't all about business and trade and telling people what they do and don't want. Science is about research, understanding, repair, update and application of discoveries. I don't think the market for Physicists will ever really suffer until a huge extra chunk of the population decided to study it too, but these days it seems to be going the opposite way - in the UK at least - the sciences are in decline, massively. But I won't start ranting now about the lost, consumerist, self-deserving nature of British society, hah.

It does make sense to take on an extra subject, but most basic physics these days are so broad that they take 4 years as they are, compared to the usual 3 for most. I genuinely (or maybe just hopefully) think that there isn't such a need to broaden your skill set when you study Physics, because it really does cover enough - as long as you find it interesting, there'll never be a shortage of areas to try out.

Edit: Also I'd say the double/triple degrees cover more of the frontline skills of society - management, HR, teaching, etc, - 'soft' skills. The Sciences aren't often in combined degrees because they're more direct and can't really be mixed up with other things anyway. If I want a scientist, I won't want the scientist who can also run business, I'll want the scientist who is the best at science, simple as that, if that makes sense.
 

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Oh right ok sure. I thought you said you considered it to be about as employable as a philosophy degree?
The words I used were "practically marketable" which is not the same as "employable." This is why you and I should stay away from each other. :p To me, words and specific meanings matter, whereas you perceive this as "just semantics." I don't see the point in chasing tails trying to communicate without definition or specificity. We've both got things we could be studying right now.

I mean, there will be a hell of a lot less physics jobs compared to business jobs (because yeah, business is everywhere, and it does require an understanding that I think most physicists lack), but certainly there are plenty of fields you can go into, and plenty of areas where a knowledge of physics is paramount.
This is more the point of this exchange.

I do think, though, that Physics is vast enough for it to not need to be combined with anything else. But that's just an opinion. I guess it depends on what area of work a person wants to go into. The world isn't all about business and trade and telling people what they do and don't want. Science is about research, understanding, repair, update and application of discoveries.
Science is about those things, but unfortunately it can rarely stay living at home with Mom and Dad, i.e. it's never far from being in business' bed. In many ways its outcomes are highly corruptible and rarely, if ever, exempt from politics. It is, in itself, a business which is dependent on many other businesses for its bread and butter. Science is no more pure than art is.

I don't think the market for Physicists will ever really suffer until a huge extra chunk of the population decided to study it too, but these days it seems to be going the opposite way - in the UK at least - the sciences are in decline, massively. But I won't start ranting now about the lost, consumerist, self-deserving nature of British society, hah.
Where economies are in decline, R&D is usually one of the first hit areas. This is one of main reasons for the original question.

Edit: Also I'd say the double/triple degrees cover more of the frontline skills of society - management, HR, teaching, etc, - 'soft' skills. The Sciences aren't often in combined degrees because they're more direct and can't really be mixed up with other things anyway. If I want a scientist, I won't want the scientist who can also run business, I'll want the scientist who is the best at science, simple as that, if that makes sense.
I'd disagree. Over the last decade, business has crossed into the world of science. I've seen this attitude gradually spread, though it may not have taken root in all cultures or age groups yet. In a place frequented by presentations, papers, grants, politics and persuasion it's becoming more important to cross-pollinate "science" with business, communications, marketing and law. Similar cross-cultural strengths are infecting other streams as the connected world spins faster, corners are cut and economies challenged.

I think it's a misnomer to imply that a person cannot be a good communicator and also good at science, and probably a kind of internal conflict of interests to assume that it should be any other way.
 
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I know someone with a Masters in chemistry who is being trained to be a actuary. He will earn much of the moniez.

I think the problem with a lot of degrees is people think 'if I get a degree, I can get a job' and then they aimlessly dedicate 3 years of their life to nothing. Yes, I agree, degrees should be used to expand your knowledge and develop key skills, however, I think you also need to know what you want out of them.

It's not so much you have a degree in physics, it's more you have a degree in physics and no relevant work experience. I am giving up a 3rd of my summer to do a placement. I gave up two days a week of my last summer to get some semi-relevant work experience that could help me get that placement. If I complete this placement successfully, the company will train me. If the company trains me, then the company is more likely to employ me. If I'm employed, then the last 4 years of my life hasn't been a total waste.

Then again, I didn't pick a degree out of interest. I picked it because the job market is good, especially around where I live.
 
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CV's? Boffin?

Note to self - @Ista is British. *scribble scribble*
Note to @qingdom: @Ista's boss was Mr Bond. Shhh. You'd think he would have more respect for boffins, really. My language comes from many a land, ye fair core (though in this case the language was his ;). Can you tell me when we're NaNoWriMo-ready?
 
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The very reason I dropped out of Unversity, Computer Science is just lame beyond belief and since I rather just program (motherfucker!) all the jazz is irrelevant to me. Especially math and physics. I don't aim to be an engineer - although I certainly bring the requirements onto the table as far as abstract thinking goes. Inevitably University offered me nothing of interest but mundane knowledge I either already had or deemed impractical for what I want to do.

May have been a different story in a different country, but since University here is pretty much 'Learn for and by yourself' I might as well do shit I like at home, without giving anyone my moneh. Granted, there won't be a degree for it, though.

If philosophy wasn't as impractical as it is in terms of making some cash it probably would have been something to consider. Psychology, too, if the focus wasn't so narrowed down to the extroverted approach.

As for your question however, a degree in physics is probably quite worth-while for as long as you strife for practical application of said knowledge. Engineering/Designing machines, tools etc. is nothing but Physics inevitably (e.g gearshifts in cars) - when sticking solely to the field of scientific/theoretical/experimental physics then yes, it probably becomes a rather futile attempt to make the big moneyz. Inevitably however it's important to do something you like, as that beats the income any day. If you got enough for what you need/want, then it's plenty fine and you're good.
 

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Physics is a degree in which you are pretty much required to go to graduate school. If you don't necessarily want to go that route, the best option is to double major: get a B.A. in physics (particularly applied physics) and a B.S. in some field of engineering. An alternative is to get a B.A. in English and a B.S. in physics; if you go this route, you'll have the right education for technical writing or patent law (providing you of course go to law school.) I've seen other physics majors go on to medical school (they do the best on the MCAT), and one biophysics major went back to school to get a nursing degree.
 
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I almost majored in physics in grad school. I even switched all my courses, which, at a major state school, was a pain, but then I stayed with CS, mainly because I didn't want to take an extra year to graduate.

If physics is what you love, then do it. That's all there is to it. It doesn't matter what the job prospects are. The job prospects for physicists is probably better than philosophers, especially if you pick up some programming skills, but there's no ready-made job market. If you get a Ph.D., the job prospects are excellent. In any case, it matters more that you are focused on what you want than what the market is like. If you go into something because it's easier but you don't really like it, you'll be sorry.

If you want more versatility, applied mathematics is the way to go. You can do physics, computer science, biology, pretty much anything where mathematics can be applied (isn't that just about everything?) That's probably why I got a Ph.D. in it. I did my thesis in computational physics and then got a job doing mostly operations research but pretty much anything mathematical that I can get funded to do (that's the hard part).
 

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That's why I plan on minoring in Physics (specifically studying Quantum Physics) as my minor and double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. I know I'm not likely to get a job as a physicist, but there's always a need for therapists.
 

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If you want more versatility, applied mathematics is the way to go. You can do physics, computer science, biology, pretty much anything where mathematics can be applied (isn't that just about everything?) That's probably why I got a Ph.D. in it. I did my thesis in computational physics and then got a job doing mostly operations research but pretty much anything mathematical that I can get funded to do (that's the hard part).
I just googled Operations Research. Would you say that the description of it from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook more or less describes what you do?

This is actually super timely, since I'm halfway through a Ph.D. in mathematics (pure or applied, no distinction at Minnesota) and have been rethinking what I want to do with it -- I honestly didn't know that anything like Operations Research existed until this moment and it actually sounds really interesting. What's the job market like (for math Ph.D.s) doing things like that, and how would I get a clearer idea of what that entails and whether or not I'd enjoy it?

(If it's relevant, I'm actually really into communication skills and group process -- I read books like "The Skilled Facilitator" for fun, and discovered through activism that I'm one of those weirdos who can attend three hour meetings and be frustrated that they weren't longer because they didn't give us adequate time to fully hash out such and such an issue or whatever.)

EDIT: I just said "real or complex" instead of "pure or applied." That's how you can tell I do pure math. >.<
 
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I just googled Operations Research. Would you say that the description of it from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook more or less describes what you do?

This is actually super timely, since I'm halfway through a Ph.D. in mathematics (pure or applied, no distinction at Minnesota) and have been rethinking what I want to do with it -- I honestly didn't know that anything like Operations Research existed until this moment and it actually sounds really interesting. What's the job market like (for math Ph.D.s) doing things like that, and how would I get a clearer idea of what that entails and whether or not I'd enjoy it?

(If it's relevant, I'm actually really into communication skills and group process -- I read books like "The Skilled Facilitator" for fun, and discovered through activism that I'm one of those weirdos who can attend three hour meetings and be frustrated that they weren't longer because they didn't give us adequate time to fully hash out such and such an issue or whatever.)

EDIT: I just said "real or complex" instead of "pure or applied." That's how you can tell I do pure math. >.<
That's a pretty narrow definition, but, if you replaced "business" with "military", it might be partly what I do. I tend to see operations research as finding optimal or near-optimal solutions to problems with a practical application. In my case, I don't do that myself. I create or work on software that does it in real time as data arrives.

My Ph.D. also had no distinction, but I was applied in all but name.

Operations Research is a huge field and the job market should be excellent relatively speaking. If you are more into the communication/group process stuff, I would suggest a business oriented direction. (Organizational psychology is related to this.) You also might be interested in management consulting.

This is the website for our major association:

https://www.informs.org/
 

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I'm starting a Theoretical Physics course next year!


Contrary to what most people have been saying, I've heard Physics graduates have huge employment prospects, I've even heard businesses prefer Physics graduates to Business graduates. Due to the increased difficulty of Physics and the wider range of 'transferable skills' (ugh) it demonstrates.

Careers in law/business/engineering/IT/finance beckon . Apparently lots go to the city (bankers) to earn their millions :dry:


Admittedly I may be suffering from severe bias subjected upon me from the universities I applied to.

They seem to have fairly solid %'s of employment after leaving although an abnormally large percentile go on to further study, such is the allure of understanding.


A link: (Options with your subject: Physics | Prospects.ac.uk)



Edit: Also yeah I would like large fries with that plz.
 
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I know I'm not likely to get a job as a physicist, but there's always a need for therapists.
Holy Mother of God. Utterly blown away. Surely only in the US could there be a greater need for Therapists than there is a need for Physicists. Is that actually true?!

Stiff upper lip! Tally-ho, what-what!
 

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Holy Mother of God. Utterly blown away. Surely only in the US could there be a greater need for Therapists than there is a need for Physicists. Is that actually true?!
Take a look at what the Occupational Outlook Handbook has to say about physicists and about therapists. 14% job growth for the former projected for 2010 - 2020 (which is exactly average) vs. 37% for the latter (which is waaaay above average).

I'd actually be surprised if this ratio weren't worse elsewhere in the world. I mean there should be R&D everywhere in the industrialized world, but different industrialized nations specialize in different things and as I understand it New Trade Theory would predict that small nations would have less physics-y R&D for whatever that's worth -- whereas the US is like the worst place in the industrialized world for health care so lots of people who should be in therapy aren't. So shouldn't it be worse in the UK? :p

Not like I know anything, and all my statistics are from the US specifically, but might be worth looking up some UK labor statistics before committing too hard to a major. :p

Operations Research is a huge field and the job market should be excellent relatively speaking. If you are more into the communication/group process stuff, I would suggest a business oriented direction. (Organizational psychology is related to this.) You also might be interested in management consulting.
Aha. Speaking relatively to other things to do with a Ph.D., or to people doing operations research without a Ph.D., or to the US job market as a whole? And I've read a fair amount of organizational psychology by now, but is putting that or business on my CV somehow the only way to signal that I've any skill with that stuff? And is that really useful, in the labor markets you're familiar with? (I hadn't really planned on management or anything -- I was really just imagining some kind of math-y private sector thing, and communicating well while doing it.)

Sorry to bombard you with questions on this but I guess an emu avatar makes you seem less intimidating than the applied math professors. :p (Though I should probably go talk to them too now that I know that this is a thing that exists -- I guess I imagined that all applied mathematicians worked on teams with engineers or whatever.)
 
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Aha. Speaking relatively to other things to do with a Ph.D., or to people doing operations research without a Ph.D., or to the US job market as a whole?
I don't think I understand. I think OR is generally an in demand area. The info on the informs site is probably better than what I could tell you.
And I've read a fair amount of organizational psychology by now, but is putting that or business on my CV somehow the only way to signal that I've any skill with that stuff? And is that really useful, in the labor markets you're familiar with? (I hadn't really planned on management or anything -- I was really just imagining some kind of math-y private sector thing, and communicating well while doing it.)
You could apply to management consulting groups like McKinsey or Boston Consulting. There's also finance and lots of government contractors.

I got my job through the Joint Math Meetings, so be sure to sign up for their employment center. There are always a few companies.

Sorry to bombard you with questions on this but I guess an emu avatar makes you seem less intimidating than the applied math professors. :p (Though I should probably go talk to them too now that I know that this is a thing that exists -- I guess I imagined that all applied mathematicians worked on teams with engineers or whatever.)
My students also felt it less intimidating to deal with an emu. Go figure.
 

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Take a look at what the Occupational Outlook Handbook has to say about physicists and about therapists. 14% job growth for the former projected for 2010 - 2020 (which is exactly average) vs. 37% for the latter (which is waaaay above average).

I'd actually be surprised if this ratio weren't worse elsewhere in the world. I mean there should be R&D everywhere in the industrialized world, but different industrialized nations specialize in different things and as I understand it New Trade Theory would predict that small nations would have less physics-y R&D for whatever that's worth -- whereas the US is like the worst place in the industrialized world for health care so lots of people who should be in therapy aren't. So shouldn't it be worse in the UK? :p
Wow. Those stats say a lot about the state of US society! You guys really like your therapy, huh? In the UK, if you ask an average person what a therapist does, they'll have an idea, but really nobody at all considers that kind of thing when they have some sort of personal issue to overcome. Like I said in in my other post - stiff upper lip! Tally ho! whatwhat! That stereotype is truer than you might think.

I guess it really is all a cultural thing. Definitely being a pure science grad is much more useful than being any kind of therapist in the UK. Psychology students are ten-a-penny here, and therapists are few and far between.
 
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