chewy wrote:Would anyone else out there be happy with just at least getting a masters. People are in grad school for different reasons but nonetheless its quite a busy lifestyle. Always something due (usually several things) plus the TAing and research duties and classes. A masters would take about 2 years to accomplish. I usually take things one week at a time to stay alive, but I can't see myself doing this level of work (# hours/week and hardly any fun relative to everyone else I know my age not in gradschool) for 5, 6 or 7 years. Factoring how old I would be even if I did accomplish all this in 5 or 6 years, I would not be young anymore. Are there decent jobs out there for people with a Masters level of education in physics with decent pay?
I keep hearing about education inflation (now a days everyone has a bachelors... now you need a masters to stay competitive in the job market) and that is one of the reasons I went to grad school to begin with. I'm sure I'm not alone in this thought process. But I also have to factor in, this is my youth. The time to enjoy myself as well (which is impossible right now). Does anyone else feel like a masters would be enough for themselves as well or am I part of a small minority in this thinking?
Grad students in the sciences are the most generally unhappy group of people I've ever known. Grad school is a pressure cooker, especially the first two years, and a lot
of people don't deal well with that kind of consistent stress. So you're certainly not alone in your discontent. For what it's worth, though, things definitely settle down once you get classes and the qualifying exam out of the way and dig in for your thesis research. Then I'd say your work load is roughly on par with a demanding (but stimulating) "real job."
Regarding life with an MS vs. a PhD: I think whether you'd be happy with an MS is largely a function of why you entered your PhD program in the first place. Many folks take on a PhD program as a necessary step to a lifestyle or a job they know they want: academia, high-profile industry research, etc. Others go out of a sense of intellectual curiosity, a feeling that they haven't learned all they wanted to learn in undergrad. Many go out of what I'd call ignorance: grad school is the only well-defined post-graduate path for a physics major. In my experience, professors are usually terrible at presenting other career options to their undergrads, though options certainly exist. Some people go out of habit: school's all they've ever known. Some go out of ego or a need to prove themselves. And so on. Clarifying why you're in school will probably help you imagine what it would feel like to leave.
As for the practicalities? I'd say your odds of getting a job you're happy with are just as good with an MS as with a PhD - probably better in fields like business, engineering, consulting, or teaching at the high school or community college level. If you're dead set on being a professor, or doing cutting-edge physics research, then an MS probably won't cut it. Like vttd said, within academia the physics MS definitely has a "consolation prize" stigma, but if you move outside of the insular academic circles you'll leave that stigma behind, for sure.
Anyway, um, don't panic?
And good luck with whatever you decide to do.