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Is it too late?


mark_elliott
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Hi SF

This is my first post on the science forums and my question is a simple one, yet puzzles me everyday.

I am planning next September on joining a university on a physics and astronomy degree. My question to fellow SF members is at 26 currently (27 next sept) am i too late to make a career in physical science? this is a career change for me but for as long as i can remember physics and science in general has fascinated me but has been kept has a hobby and a subject of some volunteer work.

Any input on the matter would be very much appreciated.

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Thank you for the speedy reply. In regards to the competitive side of physics careers is this based on particular job roles or physics roles in general?

 

Postdocs and then permanent lecturer jobs are very hard to some by in general. I am finding this out the hard way myself.

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One should keep in mind that in many countries fewer than half of physics PhDs go on to obtain university positions. Physicists tend to be good problem-solvers and smart people with technical skills will generally find it easier to obtain employment than the general population. It's a matter of how narrow or wide you define your parameters. (e.g. people unwilling or unable to relocate also have a harder time finding a job)

 

I don't think 27 is too late. Also, conditions now don't tell you what conditions will be a few years down the road.

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Thanks for the replies really helpful info smile.gif

I can imagine it would be very difficult to obtain a university position but would another acceptable graduate route be through medical physics of some sorts?

 

Hello,

 

I hate to say this, but getting a graduate degree in a science with the hopes of finding a job in said science isn't always the best motivation for entering a PhD. I'd personally suggest that you enter the PhD in physics, or medical physics, or biophysics whatever the case may be because you LOVE what you are doing - not because you expect to be able to find a good job afterwards. The sad reality is that jobs in science are hard to come by and they have pretty much always been that way. As Swansont said above, only a mere fraction of people earning PhDs actually obtain professorships, and even more depressing, only a mere fraction of people obtaining professorships actually obtain tenure. Moreover, typically to even be considered for even the crappiest of tenure track prof jobs you will have to have at least a postdoc, but most likely 2.

 

If you end up working at a community college or as an adjunct you may very well wish you'd never gone to graduate school for physics, and if you end up working in a field that doesn't require a PhD in physics at all you may also feel shafted regarding the better paying job aspect.

 

That being said, I am nervous daily about my ability to land a prof job and continue to do research - as that is what I love to do - BUT - I LOVE chemistry and physics, thus if I cannot get a tenure track prof job I will start my own small start-up research company and work as a pilot in my second field of expertise to finance it. If that doesn't prove viable, I will simply volunteer as a career post doc and work as a pilot to pay the bills, because I LOVE chemistry and physics and I'd have gotten a PhD even if there were zero job prospects for me.

 

So, if physics is your passion, get the PhD. You are ONLY 27 it is NOT the end of your life by any stretch. You'll have to sacrifice other things, like maybe buying new cars less often or holding off on the purchase of a house to make up for the loss in retirement savings, but those things are neither here nor there (you can make that up by living really really cheaply).

 

Best of luck, and don't let your age stop you from doing what you love! I was on a cross country motorcycle ride down the southern east cost last year - and there was a billboard for a 90 something year old woman that had finally gotten her undergrad degree - and it read something like - "The oldest college graduate in the world" or some such. It's never too late..

 

Cheers

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I can imagine it would be very difficult to obtain a university position but would another acceptable graduate route be through medical physics of some sorts?

 

Anything to do with medicine always gets money thrown at it. I imagine jobs in medical physics are relatively plentiful.

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Hello,

 

I hate to say this, but getting a graduate degree in a science with the hopes of finding a job in said science isn't always the best motivation for entering a PhD. I'd personally suggest that you enter the PhD in physics, or medical physics, or biophysics whatever the case may be because you LOVE what you are doing - not because you expect to be able to find a good job afterwards.

 

Absolutely correct.

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Hello,

 

I hate to say this, but getting a graduate degree in a science with the hopes of finding a job in said science isn't always the best motivation for entering a PhD. I'd personally suggest that you enter the PhD in physics, or medical physics, or biophysics whatever the case may be because you LOVE what you are doing - not because you expect to be able to find a good job afterwards. The sad reality is that jobs in science are hard to come by and they have pretty much always been that way. As Swansont said above, only a mere fraction of people earning PhDs actually obtain professorships, and even more depressing, only a mere fraction of people obtaining professorships actually obtain tenure. Moreover, typically to even be considered for even the crappiest of tenure track prof jobs you will have to have at least a postdoc, but most likely 2.

 

If you end up working at a community college or as an adjunct you may very well wish you'd never gone to graduate school for physics, and if you end up working in a field that doesn't require a PhD in physics at all you may also feel shafted regarding the better paying job aspect.

 

This quote above answers my question perfectly and i understand the fact that it can be incredibly difficult to find a Phd related job in physics and that as well as an age/time factor was the point of my inital question. I do love physics but completing several years of graduate education in the thought of not aquiring a job with resonable pay is im afraid to say unrealistic for me as i do own a house and the cost to run a car etc.

 

 

Thank you again everyone for the replys.as the above advice suggests i will continue on my goal towards achieve physics (Bsc, ma, Phd) but not at the risk of putting all my eggs in one basket so to speak.

Edited by mark_elliott
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