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Careers: Physics/enginnering to physics switchover.


Respected sir,
I'm an engineering student in the field of electronics and telecommunication. I'm in the first year of the course, and I'm pretty sure that I'm least interested in engineering, and I'm looking for a switchover. I'm planning to do an MS in physics from a US university after graduation, and you have kindly advised me on that topic. Thank you for that. But in the past few days, I'd figured out that a lot of PhDs in US and Canada, actually go unemployed. So, can you please tell me the kind of jobs that PhDs in physics do. Also, please tell me about the market for PhDs and unemployment too.

Dear Rohit:

Employment predictions are difficult since the Ph.D. takes about 4-5 years and I don't know anyone who has a crystal ball that can see that far in the future.

What I can say is that as a trained physicist, you should not have a problem finding employment if you are flexible in the kind of work you are seeking.  You might not be a university professor at a research university (if that is your goal) since that is a very long road and hard to pursue, but companies in lots of fields like the background that a physicist has in experimentation, computation and modeling (depending somewhat on your area of specialization).  I know physicists who are college teachers in non-research universities or community colleges.

Physicists find employment in the legal profession (patent law), in the financial area, in national laboratories and corporate research.  Many physicists become software developers or engineers in companies. The key is to be able to sell your skills to the prospective employer.

The reasons for getting a Ph.D. in physics should be first, because you are passionate about the subject and second, because you would regret not doing it later in life.  If you are very good and select your research advisor well, you will be able to get a postdoctoral appointment (or two) and then compete for faculty positions but that is small fraction of the physicists who get a Ph.D.


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Carlo Segre


I can answer most questions about studying physics in college and graduate school; questions about condensed matter physics; x-ray physics; synchrotron radiation; and general and modern physics. I can also answer questions about careers in academia.


Professor of physics for 30 years at Illinois Institute of Technology. Academic adviser for undergraduates and graduate students. I have served on university promotion and tenure committees, search committees for Deans and Department Chairs. I have also been an Associate Department Chair and an Associate Dean. I have 34 years experience in materials science research and I have been responsible for building and now managing a User facility at the Advanced Photon Source.

American Physical Society
Sigma Xi
American Chemical Society
American Associate for the Advancement of Science
International Centre for Diffraction Data (Fellow)
International X-ray Absorption Society

Nature; Physical Review Letters; Physical Review; Applied Physics Letters; Journal of Physical Chemistry; Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics; Solid State Communications; Physics Letters; Journal of Low Temperature Physics; Journal of Crystal Growth and Design; Physics Letters; Journal of Applied Physics; Journal of Archaeological Science; Physica C; Corrosion Science; Electrochimica Acta; Journal of Nuclear Materials

Ph.D. Physics, 1981 - University of California, San Diego
M.S. Physics, 1977 - University of California, San Diego
B.S. Physics, 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana
B.S. Chemistry 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Awards and Honors
Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics, IIT Fellow, International Center for Diffraction Data

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