Author Topic: What can I do with a physics degree?  (Read 10325 times)

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
What can I do with a physics degree?
« on: August 06, 2015, 12:09:15 AM »
Hello

I need some life advice. I went to a 4 year University without much of an idea of what to do once I got out. I should have studied engineering, but the college didn't have it as a course path. Hindsight is 20/20 and I really regret going to that particular college for that reason (it seems like engineers have no trouble finding jobs).

I ended up majoring in Physics because that's what I was good at in highschool (and the professor assured me that a physics degree is very versatile).

After graduation, I went looking for jobs. The job hunt was largely unsuccessful. I've been working long hours at a nearby factory for the last two years in order to pay the mounting student loan debt from college.

What should I do? Am I screwed because I couldn't find a job in my field inside of 2 years? I entertained the idea of going back to school to get a degree in mechanical engineering, but it looks like that would take another four years, so I'd be almost 30 by that time. I'm also 50k in debt and it's hard to get a job that pays much more than 30-40k a year where I'm at.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2015, 12:11:24 AM by Griswold »

vagon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Sydney
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2015, 12:42:14 AM »
Sounds like you still dont know what you want to do, which isnt a bad thing, but going back to study more wont necessarily help with this.

Is it just a higher salary that you're looking for?

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2015, 12:50:39 AM »
Yeah, more would be better. My loans are $500 a month minimum and I'm only making $30k a year. I'm not doing much better than the average paycheck-to-paycheck American.

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8329
  • Age: 62
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2015, 01:19:41 AM »
If you Google "jobs for physics majors", you will see many options. I also recommend using your college's alumni association or physics department to get in touch with alums who might have suggestions for you.

urbanista

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 222
  • Location: Australia
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2015, 01:41:30 AM »
Learn to code and become a data scientist.

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8329
  • Age: 62
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2015, 02:22:12 AM »
Good suggestion about coding! And if you do a search of this Forum, you will find many suggestions for learning to code without spending a bundle.

DeltaBond

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 526
  • Location: U.S.
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2015, 05:48:48 AM »
As a daughter of an engineer who worked for NASA, and having a chemistry degree myself... I strongly recommend you still look for jobs where you know engineers get jobs.  Government jobs, car manufacturers, NASA, jet manufacturers, etc.  You'll likely need to move for the job, but you'll enjoy working in your field.

chasesfish

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3084
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Texas
    • Years in the making, I created a journal!
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2015, 05:59:02 AM »
How stuck are you on your current location?  Do you have an ability to sell?

I also can't imagine an engineering degree would take four years with what you already have as an undergrad.

pom

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 288
  • Location: Paris, France
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2015, 06:15:12 AM »
You could become an actuary.

Nobody cares what you majored in as long as you show that you can pass the exams. Most employers will pay for the exams and give you time off to study. It is a big time commitment though, most likely many years.

Ziggurat

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 125
  • Age: 54
  • Location: Toronto area
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2015, 06:27:17 AM »
Have you considered medical physics?  Especially in radiation oncology physics, a two-year masters program followed by a clinical residency (paid) can lead to a high-paying career with a steady job market.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3057
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2015, 06:34:55 AM »
You could sign up for a few employment agencies in the nearest major city. As soon as you get a year of office experience in some job requiring a degree it won't matter that much what your degree was in.

SecretMinimalist

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 28
  • Location: Hong Kong
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2015, 07:21:05 AM »
What about jobs in finance?  Investment companies seem to want some of the skills that physicists have...

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jul/21/physics-graduates-gravitate-to-finance

eyePod

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 966
    • Flipping A Dollar
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2015, 07:25:25 AM »
I met a guy recently who had a PhD in physics and he is now an IT business analyst.

Basically, you have skills, and you've studied physics. As you work more, you gain different skills and can move from there into other new things that interest you.

I have an M.S. in Chemical Engineering.

Now I'm in an IT role and looking to get into programming/coding more.

The world is open to you!

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2016, 10:59:14 PM »
Old topic, I know, but I figured I'd put in an update.

I spent a year at the college studying mechanical engineering and was doing well for the most part.

Due to financial constraints I've decided to begin looking for "real jobs" in earnest. Fact is, financial aid only covered the cost of my classes and I can't work full time and go to school full time. Can't pay my bills with a $10 an hour part time job either (believe me I tried).

Does anyone have any tips for breaking into the finance industry? I've been on the college job search engine and it seems like they pay 60-80k a year.

I've updated my resume and have been applying to jobs such as data analyst and finance associate, but the only thing I'd have walking into the interview is that I can balance a budget and I have a strong grasp of math.

One of the posters on this thread suggested coding, I've learned MATLAB, AutoCAD, Creo Parametric 3.0, and have been messing around with Python for the last couple months. I have a rudimentary knowledge of C# but it's been years since I've used that.

What kind of employment agencies should I look for? All the ones around here that I can find are just for general labor and manufacturing jobs, nothing to do with degrees.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2016, 11:03:58 PM by Griswold »

chesebert

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 749
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2016, 11:08:09 PM »
Wall Street. You can be front office doing trading or mid office doing analytical or algorithms. Take a look at some of those job openings. The hours are not as bad as IBD and you can end up making a lot of money really fast. You can probably also use the opportunity to moonlight trading apps and what not (subject to your employment agreement)

Laserjet3051

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 735
  • Age: 91
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2016, 12:20:26 PM »
There are many large aerospace companies where I live. I can imagine that physicists are aggressively recruited.

Dee18

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1610
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2016, 01:29:41 PM »
I just read a new  book: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.  They have taught a class for years at Stanford helping young people plan their lives.  They mention that 75% of college grads work in a field other than what they studied in college. This book could help you generate some great options.

IrishMustacian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2016, 02:34:08 PM »
Hi, I also studied physics, and now work as a postdoc physics researcher (I also did a phd, but I don't recommend doing this unless you are obsessed with physics as I am!).

I have many friends who went in a lot of different directions after they graduated with a physics degree, and I honestly think that you are in a great position to get an interesting well paid job if you have a physics degree, provided you are flexible. Would you be willing to move to a different state for example? A good option could be to apply for intro level web development and other coding jobs, although this may require relocation. There is such high demand in that industry that you could have a shot at getting something pretty well paid with very little experience. There are also relatively inexpensive coding bootcamps (some are even free) that you could look into. These often set you up with paid internships and/or jobs after you finish a 3-6 month program.

I would suggest that in the mean time you try to earn a side income somehow so that you have a little more flexibility. An obvious side job for someone with a physics degree is to tutor high school math and science. You can pretty quickly build up a network of students and earn pretty good money in the evenings and on weekends. Use something like Wyzant.com to find students if you can't get any students more directly (note that Wyzant charge a massive 40% commission).

Good luck!







Beardog

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 202
  • Location: central Mass area
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2016, 02:46:58 PM »

... Does anyone have any tips for breaking into the finance industry? I've been on the college job search engine and it seems like they pay 60-80k a year.

I've updated my resume and have been applying to jobs such as data analyst and finance associate, but the only thing I'd have walking into the interview is that I can balance a budget and I have a strong grasp of math.

One of the posters on this thread suggested coding, I've learned MATLAB, AutoCAD, Creo Parametric 3.0, and have been messing around with Python for the last couple months. I have a rudimentary knowledge of C# but it's been years since I've used that.

...


How about taking some inexpensive, online college classes in data science? This is a massively hot field right now. 

FWIW, I was a physics major too (30 years ago!) but I have never worked in the field.  After many years in another career, I broke into computer programming by getting a computer programming certificate and then got a computer job at a non-profit.  If you are trying to break into a field you might try applying for non-profit, government, hospital or university administration jobs.  They can be a little less picky about your qualifications.  After you get your first job, you'll have no trouble moving to a more lucrative business if that's what you want.

As far as going into interviews, I recommend that you do alot of research and preparation.  You should never feel like '... the only thing I'd have walking into the interview is that I can balance a budget and I have a strong grasp of math.'  There is a great book called 'The Perfect Interview'.  It has a list of common interview questions.  Whenever I've gone on interviews, I've prepared written responses to many of these questions so that I could smoothly answer these questions when they inevitably arose.  The other thing you can do is research the company online and learn as much as you can about the industry they're in.  That will help you appear as though you are plugged in to the concerns of that business.  If you do these things, even if you lack experience the folks that interview you will be impressed.

Most people are really impressed by people who have the ability to major in physics.  Know this and use it to boost your confidence.


Joggernot

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 513
  • Age: 73
  • Location: Gulf Coast, TX
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2016, 02:52:37 PM »
Hello

I need some life advice. I went to a 4 year University without much of an idea of what to do once I got out. I should have studied engineering, but the college didn't have it as a course path. Hindsight is 20/20 and I really regret going to that particular college for that reason (it seems like engineers have no trouble finding jobs).

I ended up majoring in Physics because that's what I was good at in highschool (and the professor assured me that a physics degree is very versatile).
I have an engineering physics degree and got a job with the government at a shipyard that built nuclear ships.  Entry level with quick advancement.  Moved to private industry as a technical writer and then into the field of quality assurance.  Made good money.  If I had followed mustachian principles from the start, I would have retired way early.  As it was, I waited until I was 60.  My loss.

seattlecyclone

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4842
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2016, 03:20:31 PM »
Have you considered teaching? It seems like there's always a shortage of qualified science teachers.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2963
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2016, 03:58:12 PM »
Can you take out loans for the mechanical engineering degree? More loans aren't necessarily a bad thing if you have a clear job path.

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2016, 09:33:39 AM »
I will be looking into those lifestyle and interviewing books when I have the time.

As for right now, I decided to quit my job at the distribution center and to take out more loans in order to focus on school. I didn't want to take out loans, but I also don't want to redo this year either.

In the meantime, I have decided to apply to various jobs in finance and engineering, as well as internships where I can hopefully leverage a job.

Also, thanks for the advice concerning data science, I will look into that.

I'd really rather not have to teach, it isn't a lucrative field and I don't like dealing with people.




honeybbq

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1193
  • Location: Seattle
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2016, 09:38:40 AM »
You can do anything. What do you want to do?

Actuarial science
engineering
biomedical engineering
premed
software design/management
medical physics
finance
patent law

etc

I think a physics degree is really just a gateway. Perhaps you need an advanced degree, but maybe not. What do you LIKE to do?

MrMoogle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1114
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Huntsville, AL
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #24 on: October 06, 2016, 10:47:55 AM »
I must have missed why you're studying mechanical engineering, but a physicist can work as a mechanical engineer.  I work with many people with engineer titles that have degrees in physics and math.  If you have a US citizenship, DoD companies are usually willing to hire physicists in place of engineers, at least in my area.  I'd say stop going to college and start applying for engineering positions.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2182
  • Age: 25
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #25 on: October 06, 2016, 10:53:51 AM »
How good are you with math and computer programming? There tends to be a lot of overlap physics majors can use for those jobs.

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #26 on: October 06, 2016, 11:04:29 AM »
Feel free to get extra education if you want (I've done that too, so it would be hypocritical for me to say otherwise...). However, I certainly don't think you need any additional education beyond your physics degree to find a good job!

Your real problems are that (a) you need to decide what kind of career you actually want -- everything from engineering to finance to software development is open to you, but you need to pick something and focus on it -- and (b) you need to work on your self-confidence and "dealing with people" (even if you hate it) so that you can impress in interviews.

Schaefer Light

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1174
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #27 on: October 06, 2016, 12:50:43 PM »
I must have missed why you're studying mechanical engineering, but a physicist can work as a mechanical engineer.
That's exactly what I was thinking.  I took some mechanical engineering courses in college, and they were nothing but physics.

No Name Guy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 450
  • Location: Western Washington
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #28 on: October 06, 2016, 01:22:49 PM »
What can you do with a physics degree?

If you know Maxwells Equations, probably work for a radar / high end radio / broadcast electronics contractor.  Think Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Rockwell, etc.

Defense contractors also usually have plenty of positions where physics is a very applicable degree.

You just haven't been looking in the right places if you haven't explored these options.


Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #29 on: October 06, 2016, 01:48:55 PM »
@MrMoogle

I wanted to get into mechanical engineering when I started college, but the college didn't offer it.

Instead, they offered a 3-2 program where you study 3 years there and 2 years at a different school to get your bachelors in mechanical engineering.

However, I studied a foreign language in addition to physics, so I stayed an extra semester past that third year (studied abroad in Germany, best time of my life).

When I came back, my adviser told me that I could get a degree in physics with just one more semester. I then graduated, moved out of the house and worked a shitty job for two years because I had no motivation in life at that point beyond girls and partying and making stupid decisions.

Around this time I discovered the MMM blog and the early retirement extreme book, which I then applied to my finances and learned how easy it was to live on $15 an hour.

Decided last year to go back for mechanical engineering like I had originally intended. I've definitely learned a lot in the last year and don't regret spending some more time at school, but I'd rather have an income now and start saving for retirement.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6656
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #30 on: October 06, 2016, 01:52:25 PM »
Hello

I need some life advice. I went to a 4 year University without much of an idea of what to do once I got out. I should have studied engineering, but the college didn't have it as a course path. Hindsight is 20/20 and I really regret going to that particular college for that reason (it seems like engineers have no trouble finding jobs).

I ended up majoring in Physics because that's what I was good at in highschool (and the professor assured me that a physics degree is very versatile).

After graduation, I went looking for jobs. The job hunt was largely unsuccessful. I've been working long hours at a nearby factory for the last two years in order to pay the mounting student loan debt from college.

What should I do? Am I screwed because I couldn't find a job in my field inside of 2 years? I entertained the idea of going back to school to get a degree in mechanical engineering, but it looks like that would take another four years, so I'd be almost 30 by that time. I'm also 50k in debt and it's hard to get a job that pays much more than 30-40k a year where I'm at.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend this now, but...one of my *best* junior engineers in the semiconductor industry had a physics degree.  We hired him on as a technician to "learn the ropes" (because my management was cheap-ass).  After 2 years he got promoted to engineer, then a few years later got hired by Google.

Semiconductor industry not the best industry to be in.

My husband has a friend who basically does programming with a physics degree, so think, CS.  Well, now he's a director of other people.

jamesbond007

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 463
  • Location: USA
  • One penny at a time.
    • I'm raising $3500 for the Arthritis Foundation.
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #31 on: October 06, 2016, 02:11:04 PM »
@MrMoogle

I wanted to get into mechanical engineering when I started college, but the college didn't offer it.

Instead, they offered a 3-2 program where you study 3 years there and 2 years at a different school to get your bachelors in mechanical engineering.

However, I studied a foreign language in addition to physics, so I stayed an extra semester past that third year (studied abroad in Germany, best time of my life).

When I came back, my adviser told me that I could get a degree in physics with just one more semester. I then graduated, moved out of the house and worked a shitty job for two years because I had no motivation in life at that point beyond girls and partying and making stupid decisions.

Around this time I discovered the MMM blog and the early retirement extreme book, which I then applied to my finances and learned how easy it was to live on $15 an hour.

Decided last year to go back for mechanical engineering like I had originally intended. I've definitely learned a lot in the last year and don't regret spending some more time at school, but I'd rather have an income now and start saving for retirement.

Learn Python. I am not sure where you live. But here in the Silicon Valley there is an org called Insight Data Science that offer a data science program for 3 months (I think it's free). You do a project in data science, they'll get you interviews and a ton of contacts in the form of Alumni. I know a lot of Mathematicians, Astrophysicists, Physicists who became data scientists here in the valley. Hope it helps. Good Luck.

PS: They get paid by the companies so there is no cost for candidates. Just time investment.

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #32 on: October 06, 2016, 02:27:13 PM »
Decided last year to go back for mechanical engineering like I had originally intended. I've definitely learned a lot in the last year and don't regret spending some more time at school, but I'd rather have an income now and start saving for retirement.

Start applying for mechanical engineering jobs now. A BS in physics + junior-level ME courses should be more than good enough to get hired.

I see no reason to take even more classes to learn programming unless you really want to switch gears and be something other than a mechanical engineer.

Proud Foot

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1029
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #33 on: October 06, 2016, 02:39:45 PM »
Have you thought about going into the military? A quick google search brought me to this page http://www.careersinthemilitary.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.careerdetail&mc_id=101

I am sure someone else knows more about this, but I have heard of people joining the military after college for the benefit of having their student loans paid off.

GlobeTrttr

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 17
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #34 on: October 07, 2016, 11:23:18 AM »
My experience as food for thought:

I'm 33 now, graduated from a large Southern state university with a double major in political science and German 11 years ago with not a clue of where to go next. 

After a brief internship that led to 2 technical sales jobs, I'm now a sales manager for a company that manufactures mechanical power transmission components.  It's a role that is really best suited to a mechanical engineer, but I love what I do and my company trains its employees well (it has a fantastic apprenticeship program for students too). 

I also should have probably studied mechanical engineering but most 18 year olds have no idea what they're good at yet and sometimes it takes years for untapped talent to manifest itself into a well paying job. 

A physics degree is a great basis on which to build work experience and a career path without a higher degree.  If you have found your true calling and need an advanced degree to earn more, then go for it.  But networking and getting to know potential employers will really open up doors quicker without a load of debt. 
« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 11:26:58 AM by GlobeTrttr »

EngineerYogi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2447
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #35 on: October 07, 2016, 12:34:57 PM »
What is your GPA like? Where are you attending school now?

I am an engineer (if my username wasn't a giveaway) and I worked with several other "engineers" who had degrees in physics. Set your resume up well, apply for internships (which often pay $20+/hr) and apply for engineering jobs.

Christiana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 173
    • Zatera Ul
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #36 on: October 07, 2016, 01:19:38 PM »
Also look for small businesses in your area that do government SBIR and STTR research contracts. Physics plus some mechanical engineering would be attractive to many of these companies, although a PhD may be preferred because it looks better on the research proposals.

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #37 on: October 07, 2016, 01:29:49 PM »
What is your GPA like? Where are you attending school now?

I am an engineer (if my username wasn't a giveaway) and I worked with several other "engineers" who had degrees in physics. Set your resume up well, apply for internships (which often pay $20+/hr) and apply for engineering jobs.

At my old school, my GPA was 3.1. Here in southern Minnesota it's more like 2.8.

squatman

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 59
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #38 on: October 07, 2016, 01:38:48 PM »
Talk to your alumni from your school. Go on either your school's alumni page or linkedin and go through everyone who went to your school. Use some keywords to find jobs/majors/companies you might like (btw, as a physics major with iffy grades unsure of their next job but looking for reasonably high pay, a small consulting firm of some sort seems like a no-brainer to look into). If you see someone that looks cool, ask them for an informational interview! Learn what they do, find what you like, play the long game (ie don't immediately ask for a job), be responsive, and things will work out. There's obviously a lot to this than just "things will work out", but the idea should make sense.

I've gotten my last 3 jobs and plenty of other interviews using this general approach (I'm an engineer), and each time the process started with essentially a cold email. People want to help - just give them a reason to.

EngineerYogi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2447
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #39 on: October 07, 2016, 02:45:51 PM »
What is your GPA like? Where are you attending school now?

I am an engineer (if my username wasn't a giveaway) and I worked with several other "engineers" who had degrees in physics. Set your resume up well, apply for internships (which often pay $20+/hr) and apply for engineering jobs.

At my old school, my GPA was 3.1. Here in southern Minnesota it's more like 2.8.

Can you take any extracurricular classes to pad that like swimming or running? Eventually your GPA doesn't matter, but you really need it to be higher unless you have great internships or life experiences to back why it is low.

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #40 on: October 07, 2016, 04:21:17 PM »
What is your GPA like? Where are you attending school now?

I am an engineer (if my username wasn't a giveaway) and I worked with several other "engineers" who had degrees in physics. Set your resume up well, apply for internships (which often pay $20+/hr) and apply for engineering jobs.

At my old school, my GPA was 3.1. Here in southern Minnesota it's more like 2.8.

Can you take any extracurricular classes to pad that like swimming or running? Eventually your GPA doesn't matter, but you really need it to be higher unless you have great internships or life experiences to back why it is low.

We used a 4.0 GPA grading scale. You mean a B average is low?

« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 04:31:16 PM by Griswold »

DecD

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 298
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #41 on: October 07, 2016, 04:41:54 PM »
I did a physics undergrad.  Graduated in 1999.  At the time, I interviewed for a job with Lockheed Martin analyzing photographs of the Shuttle....not really what I wanted.

I went back and got a masters in Astrodynamics.  Which led to a job at JPL, eventually a PhD, and now a job in the space industry.

A physics degree is very versatile and teaches you to think- but  it's not incredibly practical.  But it's pretty easy to transition to a masters in engineering.  I have many colleagues who did physics in undergrad and went on to grad degrees in engineering.  A masters should only take 2 years, not 4. And usually, if your GRE scores and grades are good, they're funded.

Figure out what job interests you, and then go after the qualifications you need!

Nords

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • Age: 58
  • Location: Oahu
    • Military Retirement & Financial Independence blog
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #42 on: October 08, 2016, 10:36:40 PM »
Have you thought about going into the military? A quick google search brought me to this page http://www.careersinthemilitary.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.careerdetail&mc_id=101

I am sure someone else knows more about this, but I have heard of people joining the military after college for the benefit of having their student loans paid off.
Griswold, I have some more concrete suggestions for your career search, but let's address the military question first.

If you have even the slightest little bit of curiosity about the military, please take your physics degree and a copy of your transcript/grades to a Navy recruiter.  You could be a nuclear-trained submarine officer, an aviator, or a surface warfare officer.  Heck, you could even be a Marine artillery officer.  But the submariners are willing to pay you a lot more money because physics graduates understand neutrons.  I just mentored a physics graduate on this last year, and now he's reporting aboard his first submarine.

Post here or contact me if you have more questions about the military.  The military won't pay off your student loans, but your starting salary will be over $3000/month (plus benefits) and you'll be eligible for Income-Based Repayment as well as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Now on to other concrete suggestions:
Get on Linkedin, update your profile and your resume, and search for Linkedin groups in the industries you'd like to join.  Ask the members of those groups for networking interviews to help you decide on specific companies and career fields.  Eventually you'll develop those initial contacts to widen your network to people working at those companies, and possibly even to the hiring managers.  Use your university's alumni career offices for more contacts.  Contact recruiters and headhunters in those Linkedin groups (if they don't contact you first).  Find internships, part-time work, or even full-time work in the corporations/careers you want. 

When you get hired, ask whether they can pay you a relocation allowance or a hiring bonus to accelerate the payments on your student loans. 

MrMoogle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1114
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Huntsville, AL
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #43 on: October 10, 2016, 07:51:01 AM »
What is your GPA like? Where are you attending school now?

I am an engineer (if my username wasn't a giveaway) and I worked with several other "engineers" who had degrees in physics. Set your resume up well, apply for internships (which often pay $20+/hr) and apply for engineering jobs.

At my old school, my GPA was 3.1. Here in southern Minnesota it's more like 2.8.

Can you take any extracurricular classes to pad that like swimming or running? Eventually your GPA doesn't matter, but you really need it to be higher unless you have great internships or life experiences to back why it is low.

We used a 4.0 GPA grading scale. You mean a B average is low?
The 3.1 is fine, it's the 2.8 that's low, and since that's in the field you're applying to, that will probably have more weight.

That's the weirdest GPA scaling I've ever seen.  The two I've seen are simple: A's are 4, B's are 3, C's are 2, D's are 1; and +- scale: 93+ are 4, 90-92 are 3.67, 87-89 are 3.33 etc. 

GPA usually only matters your first 3-4 years of working, but after 9 years, I actually was asked it.

Something that still makes me bitter to this day, my first semester I got all 90+, and saw my GPA as like a 3.8, and was so confused.  No one told me we were on a +- scale, I could have easily gotten 93's.  I had calculated my grades and just stopped doing homework in a few of them.  Ugh!

terratek

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #44 on: October 10, 2016, 08:53:09 AM »
Personality and experience matter way more than GPA in most non-academic jobs.

Work as a teacher (about 50K per year) and take at least 6 graduate hours toward a master's in mechanical engineering.  This would also enable you to defer your SL payments should you not be able to afford them.  Though you should be able to afford to make minimum payments to you SL and still live a comfortable lifestyle on 50K per year.

Or join the military as others have suggested.  I'd advise only Navy or Air Force and only as an officer. 

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #45 on: October 10, 2016, 04:15:27 PM »
I have decided that my plan of action is as follows.

1) I quit my job in order to focus 100% on school. Any extra classes that I do well in will matter on the resume because they're junior level engineering courses.

2) I have been applying to jobs (and internships) in a fifty mile radius. The only thing I've gotten a call back about are sales jobs, but I'll keep looking.

3) There is a job fair in a few weeks. I'm going to do research on three to five companies, write good cover letters, do some investigation on them and try to bullshit my way into a job.

4) I'll be checking out those links for the military to see what my options are there, although I'd rather wait until after the election to see whether or not I want to enlist (haha).

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I have three exams this week (just took one a few hours ago) so I'll be busy as hell but I definitely plan on sifting through all the posts this weekend.

-Griswold
« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 04:17:28 PM by Griswold »

Goldy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 224
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #46 on: October 10, 2016, 04:49:56 PM »
I started my college career in physics also in southern MN and after two years I switched to a different science and have never looked back.  Two of my roommates were physics majors and after getting s masters in biomedical physics the one is a barista at Starbucks and the other is teaching middle school science. 

I think physics is a lot like getting a degree in history, extremely interesting stuff but you really need to get a bunch of letters to your name to make it work.

As for alternate careers, I would recommend looking into geophysics.  It's a moderately interesting area with good demand and excellent opportunity to travel.

Feel free to PM me for more info

EngineerYogi

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2447
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #47 on: October 11, 2016, 08:55:34 AM »
I have decided that my plan of action is as follows.

1) I quit my job in order to focus 100% on school. Any extra classes that I do well in will matter on the resume because they're junior level engineering courses.

2) I have been applying to jobs (and internships) in a fifty mile radius. The only thing I've gotten a call back about are sales jobs, but I'll keep looking.

3) There is a job fair in a few weeks. I'm going to do research on three to five companies, write good cover letters, do some investigation on them and try to bullshit my way into a job.

4) I'll be checking out those links for the military to see what my options are there, although I'd rather wait until after the election to see whether or not I want to enlist (haha).

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I have three exams this week (just took one a few hours ago) so I'll be busy as hell but I definitely plan on sifting through all the posts this weekend.

-Griswold

Good action plan, but reminder if you go the military route you won't be "enlisting" you'll be "commissioning" that is a big difference!

Griswold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #48 on: October 11, 2016, 10:37:35 AM »
You mean working for a company that works for the military? I really don't know much about the military.

Enigma

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 479
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Clarksville, TN
Re: What can I do with a physics degree?
« Reply #49 on: October 11, 2016, 10:52:02 AM »
My BS in mathematics only landed me a High school teaching position and long 6 month gov interviews.  I ended up changing career fields getting my foot in the door with IT as a helpdesk tech (couple computer certifications Security+ & Windows 7/10).  After getting my foot in the door I start taking more certifications and moved up from there.  Even did a master's degree program for my MS in Info Security & Assurance.

15 computer certifications later, my degrees, and a resume showing years of experience have landed me in 6-fig job after 6-fig job.  (Not always about the money, right?)