Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

dedicateddan
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:55 pm

Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby dedicateddan » Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:42 pm

With graduate school applications due soon, I'm looking for some advice on where to apply and what to do after I graduate. I have a strong academic background with a high GPA from a good school. I am a bit light on research and work experience, but my professors seem to think that this won't matter too much. My complete profile can be found here: http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4274&p=38859#p38859

I think that I will try to set myself up for the best career I can after I graduate. My most important criteria are salary, free time and helping society in some way. I am pretty flexible and pragmatic about these criteria though.

The two main options seem to be PhD programs and jobs. My default would be to apply to the top 10 or so applied physics PhD programs, since that is my undergraduate field of study. I have one job offer from John's Hopkin's Applied Physics lab that pays 66/year and will pay for a masters degree from Johns Hopkins. I'm really know how good this offer is because I don't have other offers to compare to it.

I'm looking for input on which options are best and how to evaluate them. I'm looking for some sort of plan that will end with a good career. Are there any particularly promising careers for bright young physicists? Are there any particularly good career fields to move into after a PhD? Are there any particularly good fields to specialize in like medical physics?

tl;dr: What are particularly promising career paths for a bright physicist?

Minovsky
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:05 pm

Re: Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby Minovsky » Tue Dec 13, 2011 6:12 pm

For reference, $66k/year is well over twice, or even three times what you'll be paid as a PhD student in physics. If you want a PhD, it shouldn't be too hard to get into a program after your paid-for masters at Johns Hopkins. You could always apply to schools right away and see where you get in and then decide. Or do you have to take the Hopkins offer now?

vttd
Posts: 53
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:23 pm

Re: Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby vttd » Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:08 pm

Hey I know quite a bit about APL from people who work there and I'm also a current graduate student. PM me if you want to talk more in detail

dedicateddan
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:55 pm

Re: Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby dedicateddan » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:39 am

Thanks for the replies.

Getting a job and then still having the option of doing a PhD does seem pretty attractive. In practice, however, it seems like many people end up staying at their jobs. Is starting with a PhD a better long term investment?

bfollinprm
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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:55 pm

They stay at their jobs because they already found what they wanted. The ones that don't go back and get their PhD. Under no circumstances, however, is a PhD in physics (applied or not) a sound investment financially. The opportunity cost (6 grueling years at 24k) is way out of whack with the economic returns (which are minimal). I would take the job, and if after completing your masters you feel like doing more academic-oriented lab work and jumping through the hoops of a PhD*, then you can always apply to PhD programs. If you find you don't want to do that or are happy with your work environment, then stay in your job, and don't sweat any perceived missed opportunity.

*I just realized this sounds harsher than I mean it to. What I mean is that a PhD has to be an end in itself--the feeling of being a recognized expert in the field, the satisfaction of taking your physics education to its final terminal, the desire to be a knowledge expert in physics (professor, lab director, etc.), are all good reasons to complete a PhD. It's perfectly possible to want to jump through the hoops and participate in 6 years of essentially slave labor, I'm breathing proof (I rejected a job with similar pay, though mine would have taken me out of the field and likely precluded the PhD option).

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grae313
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Re: Need Help with Graduate School/Career Choice

Postby grae313 » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:23 pm

dedicateddan wrote:Thanks for the replies.

Getting a job and then still having the option of doing a PhD does seem pretty attractive. In practice, however, it seems like many people end up staying at their jobs. Is starting with a PhD a better long term investment?


No.




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