adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:45 pm

adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby dude » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:29 pm

There may be nobody in a situation similar to me, but I thought I'd give it a shot:

I have been teaching high school physics for 15 years and am considering a change of profession by going to grad school. I have a wife, 1 son, and a home. I have a BS in physics from Penn State, some research experience, and a M Ed from Penn State too. I had a low undergad GPA :oops: (~3.1) but that was a LONG time ago and I know I could do much better now. I currently live somewhat near Lehigh university and am considering taking the GRE and applying there.

Are there any older students, that have done something similar?

What sort of hours does a typical grad student have? 8, 10, 12 hrs per day? Weekends?

What do students do for health insurance?

I would have to live off campus and commute. That's not all that unusual is it?

Depending on the field that I enter, I would probably have to be willing to travel/relocate my family after I graduate, right? Maybe unless I just wanted to teach at some small local college.

Any comments, suggestions, advice? Am I just crazy for considering this? :?

Posts: 200
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:01 am

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby geshi » Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:59 pm


Scroll to the bottom under:
1.2 "I've been out of school for a long time. Can I still go to graduate school in physics?"
A couple links you should check out there.

A couple brief answers:
Yes other older students have done this before (check aforementioned thread).

Health insurance - schools usually have decent health insurance plans that will cover you, your spouse and dependents. Check with individual schools for more info.

Living off campus - I'd guess the vast majority of physics grad students live off campus.

User avatar
Posts: 402
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:08 pm

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby zxcv » Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:14 pm

Schools generally offer student health insurance, but in contrast to geshi's statement, in my experience it generally DOES NOT include coverage for dependents.

User avatar
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby twistor » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:37 am

I think you'd be ill-advised to leave a steady teaching job in economic times like these. Why do you want to go to graduate school, anyway? If you want a career in research then you should know that most people leaving graduate school don't end up in research and the situation would be more difficult for you. Plus why put strain on the family? It's likely that no matter where you go your stipend will be a mere pittance compared to what you are making as an experienced educator with an M. Ed.

If you just want to know more physics then consider self-study. If you really must do research then good luck.

Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:45 pm

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby dude » Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:35 pm

First off, I appreciate everyone's comments. :) I've read them all carefully, and done a lot of extra reading on my own.

For those that think I'm nuts :? for leaving a fairly lucrative career teaching high school physics, I'm considering leaving due to the wildly changing nature of public education. For example, in my current teaching position:

1. physics is becoming a 9th grade, no math, watered down general science class.
2. teachers must teach exactly how and what is in the prescribed program/text, each teacher must do exactly the same thing and give exactly the same tests, there is very little freedom and creativity in teaching.
3. teachers are required to allow students to do test retakes with very few limitations.
4. there are many bad situations with special education where teacher are held responsible if the student doesn't succeed. My current superintendent said that no special education student will EVER fail.
5. the current trend follows the national no child left behind (NCLB) where all students will do well, period!
6. in general, there is very little emphasis on academic achievement. :cry: Instead, there is great attention to covering your butt at the administrative level.

(sorry about the ranting, I needed to get it out)

I would hope to scrape by economically while earning a PhD and then teach at the college level and/or do research. I really do love teaching, but I think the university setting would allow me to concentrate on teaching, and not all the other garbage.

I am going to continue researching my options, talk to some local professors, and hopefully talk to an acquaintance that went from teaching high school to a PhD. I will also look for other high school teaching positions to switch to, but the tough economy typically forces schools to hire teacher right out of college (lowest salary).

Please continue to comment on my original post, or shoot holes in my reasoning.


Posts: 381
Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 11:34 pm

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:55 pm

Well I'm going from teaching algebra based physics at ITT to working on a PhD next year.

Research positions are very competitive. It probably requires that you attend a top school or get in with a first rate adviser, both of which are difficult. To rate your chances you might look at the comments of the students who got into physics grad school this year. This is from clicking on the "results" tab:


So given your test scores, GPA, and amount of research, you can some sort of idea which schools might be interested in taking you in.

Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:45 pm

Re: adult (non traditional) phys grad student concerns

Postby dude » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:10 pm

If research positions are hard to come by, how about positions that are more teaching? I would guess these would be at the smaller colleges...

What do all the students do that don't get research positions? Temporary post doc positions? industry?

Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 5 guests