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I am an American high schooler considering what to do in university. I am immensely interested in theoretical physics, and I would quite like to become a professor in the subject (I've self-studied quite a bit of it; while I'm no master, I can still do enough to have a decent bit of reputation on the Physics S.E.). However, I've been hearing some rather concerning things from others already in academia about becoming a professor in physics in particular. First of all, I've heard here that every new crisis is permanently harming the job market in academia overall. Secondly, I've heard in several places (including here, if I recall correctly) that the job market for new mathematics professorships is starting to dry up, which most likely means the writing is on the wall for physics professorships. I've heard plenty of personal anecdotes from friends who have parents in academia about how brilliant folks who went to top class schools are now either not able to find work at all or only able to find work in small, relatively unknown universities. Finally, I've heard from a couple physics professors and chairs that it's somewhat difficult to find a first position in physics in general (though it is apparently relatively straightforward to achieve tenure once you get your foot in the door, so to speak).

I've really enjoyed my self study, and research seems quite lovely with the little experience I have with it. Thus, I'd really, really love to grab a PhD in physics and teach and research for the rest of my time here on this planet, but I'm concerned I'd be left out without a job if I tried to do so! Is my outlook on the situation too bleak, or would I be right to travel a different path and perhaps research on the side?

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    Well, yes, ... and academic jobs have always been a gamble. On the other hand, "if you don't play, you can't win". As I told myself at a low point, and I do still tell my students, "if you don't manage a permanent academic spot, you can always go get a real job like everyone else has to do". Seriously. Yes, complications with partners and family and geographic location and ... admittedly! – paul garrett Oct 15 at 17:04
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    ... for the rest of my time here on this planet ... You’re thinking too small, kid. Within your lifetime there will even be jobs for physicists on other planets. – Dan Romik Oct 15 at 18:41
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    Short comment: the majority of academic positions and universities in Europe have stable public funding and most departments are growing. If you'd be willing to learn a foreign language, this may as well be an option. In general, the political atmosphere is not so anti-academic over there. – Libavius Oct 16 at 11:12
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    If you're going to learn physics, don't neglect programming. If you're a physicist and you can program, forget about academia - the real world will give you a myriad of very good jobs. – J... Oct 16 at 12:28
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    @DanRomik Thousands of retired physicists probably heard the same thing in the 60s. – chepner Oct 16 at 12:29

12 Answers 12

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I've heard from a couple physics professors and chairs that it's somewhat difficult to find a first position in physics in general

This is a dramatic understatement. I always recommend reading the first chapter of Karen Kelsky's book. She demonstrates that our universities are not in crisis -- that was 20 years ago. Rather, they are in decay. Most departments are not growing; they are shrinking and cutting back. Yet, graduate programs keep pumping out PhDs.

For physics in particular: APS reports that in 2012, 1800 physics PhDs were awarded. In contrast, there are 9400 physics faculty positions total -- about half of which are at institutions with no physics graduate program (i.e., schools that -- with a few exceptions -- focus on teaching rather than research). From this, you can estimate what fraction of physics PhDs end up with faculty research + teaching positions (see also here).

In short: saying you want a faculty position is like you saying you want to join the NBA -- of course you do! But even for the best students, it is a long shot.

I'm concerned I'd be left out without a job if I tried to do so

Now for some good news. 1-year post-PhD, only 4% of physicists are unemployed. The overall unemployment rate for those with a physics PhD may be around 1-2%. There are research positions outside of universities, and there are also non-research positions that are both intellectually engaging and financially remunerative. Further, you should not have to incur debt to attend graduate school. Thus, attending graduate school in physics might be a good choice (financially and otherwise) even without the allure of a faculty position. But it is certainly good to be realistic about the situation; indeed, you might consider subfields, projects, and skills that could lead to interesting work both inside and outside of the university.

Note: this answer, and the statistics therein, refer entirely to the situation in the US.

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    Karen Kelsky's book is definitely worth reading, but do keep in mind that it focuses on humanities and social sciences which are much worse off than physics. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 1:44
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    Completely agree that the book sometimes overgeneralizes from the author's field (anthropology). Further, the second half of the book is pretty much just filler. But the first few chapters are pretty great. – cag51 Oct 16 at 1:46
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    There are 450 million basket ball players and 450 NBA players, so the NBA comparison is a slight exaggeration. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 4:24
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    @AnonymousPhysicist - well, you are counting everyone in the world who has ever picked up a basketball. If you restricted your denominator to only those who played college ball in the US, and accounted for the fact that the average NBA career is only a few years, I suspect it would be closer. – cag51 Oct 16 at 15:29
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    Not sure I understand your question; I never said physics PhD == faculty position. In fact, I said pretty much the opposite. I also did point out that there are plenty of jobs for which an advanced physics degree is a good qualification. I did not specify a ratio, though some of the links do discuss this. – cag51 Oct 17 at 4:01
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I'd like to offer a different perspective on this.

I was in your position in 1979, and convinced I was going to solve the unified field theory problem¹ I went to Cambridge to do first a degree then a PhD. But talking to postdocs in the department convinced me that I really didn't want to get on the postdoc treadmill, and even in 1985 there were already mutterings about the terrible job situation in academia. So after my PhD I got a job with a corporate multinational (Unilever) and:

  1. it paid much better than all but the most senior academic posts

  2. I really enjoyed it

So if you love physics you should not let a fear of job prospects in academia put you off. There are companies out there desperate for clever people and there always will be. I ended up moving into an area (colloid science) that was unrelated to my PhD, but the time spent doing my PhD was certainly not wasted. The skills I picked up doing the PhD were valuable in my job, and more importantly the three years I spent doing the PhD were the best time of my life.

As it happens a student who started in my group at the same time I did stayed in academia and is now a Fellow of the Royal Society.

A footnote: I too am active on the Physics SE. The physics chat room is quite active and there are a number of us there who were or are in academia. You might be interested to ask there about people's experiences.


¹ it turned out to be harder than I expected

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    Come rain or shine, faculty always complain there’s no $$ for postdoc positions, and postdocs always complain there’s no $$ for faculty positions. Graduate students just worry about food. – ZeroTheHero Oct 17 at 1:29
  • This is very good advice, but I wonder if all companies are equally willing to let employees spend lots of time on SE getting their "physics fix". – uhoh Oct 18 at 13:23
  • This answer provides me with a bit of (much needed) hope, ha. Was it very hard for you to find work after a PhD? (Also, as a bit of a side note, thanks for putting so much time into Physics S.E.; I've learned quite a bit from your questions and answers there. I was pleasantly surprised when you answered my question here!) – John Dumancic Oct 21 at 15:44
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    @JohnDumancic no, I had lots of offers of jobs. Obviously the world is very different now from 1986, but anyone who gets a physics PhD has proven they are (a) smart and (b) determined. Employers are well aware of this, and it's what makes physics PhDs attractive to them. – John Rennie Oct 21 at 15:47
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I think what Zero the Hero said is important to bear in mind too. Like you, I was really interested in theoretical physics at high school. I participated in the physics olympiad, went on theoretical physics summer schools, wrote an expository book on realtivity etc. I was really into it.

After 3 years of undergraduate physics, I switched to pure mathematics and am now beginning a PhD at the intersection of pure maths and theoretical computer science.

Why the change? I realised that the physics I was interested in was at a bit of a dead end. I had aspirations to be a string theorist/particle physicist, but presently the reach of our experiments is so far removed from the theoretical predictions we are making that the latter is starting to border on philosophy. I don't see that changing within the next 20-30 years or so, and even if governments did invest a lot of resources into building higher energy colliders soon, I wouldn't want to support this as there are much more pressing global issues in desperate need of funding.

However there are a number of areas of physics which are becoming increasingly active and have many important applications, including hard condensed matter, soft condensed matter, quantum information theory, nuclear physics. You could be building the next generation of quantum computers or superconductors, coming up with ways to make fusion reactions a more viable source of energy etc. Note that condensed matter is certainly not easy on the maths. It can be as math-heavy as string theory, and some of the mathemtical techniques developed in high energy physics found use in condensed matter (see Ads-CFT correspondence).

Also, I do not think that studying theoretical physics, even to PhD level, will ever be a bad preparation for the job market. You gain lots of analytical and computational skills that are in high demand for jobs in finance, computing, operations research and more. It might not be as clear cut what career you would end up in, say compared with doing a computer science degree or engineering, but there will be plenty of open doors.

EDIT: Also, I should note that if you plan on staying in the states for college, you don't have a pressure of committing yourself to anything at the moment. You probably have at least 2/3 years before choosing a major, during which the current situation will probably iron out and its long-term consequences on academic positions become more apparent. It may also help to audit different classes and speak to advisors once you are in college. They will be able to give you much better advice about your chances in academia, given your abilities, enthusiasm etc.

For the momement, what matters for college applications is to show you are enthusiastic about some subject and really go beyond your school curriculum in it. That's not to say you shouldn't be keeping an eye on other options you might be interested in now, but for students interested in STEM it is much better to have a few stellar points on your application than spread yourself thin looking at different options.

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    If the problem with studying string theory is that it can't be tested, how does becoming a pure mathematician help with that? – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 12:38
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    @AnonymousPhysicist It doesn't. But at least pure mathematicians rarely claim that the goal of their work is something which it is not. We do mathematics for the sake of mathematics. If it has real-world applications, wonderful. But we never made any promises. – Meep Oct 16 at 19:20
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    High school students think of strings and particles when they think of theoretical physics, the vast majority of it is condensed matter though. – user2723984 Oct 16 at 22:58
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I chose to study physics because I liked doing it, without any expectation that a particular job would be guaranteed for me. And, several degrees later, I'm still in essentially the same position- employed as a researcher, not necessarily knowing what my 'final' career will be (if that's even a relevant concept in this day and age), but liking where I am now. If you go in with this attitude, I think you'll be alright.

Even if the progression to your current dream job were completely guaranteed, I would still suggest that you keep an open mind about your career and periodically re-evaluate whether you're doing what you want. You are too young to be locked into one path, and the world is full of changing opportunities that you might not have considered yet. Fortunately, the first step of studying physics- getting a bachelor's degree- will let you explore this while still leaving many options open to you. And this is even more true for the first step of this first step- taking a few college physics courses. Go forth and try everything that you can.

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It is absolutely possible. You can consult the American Institute of Physics for job statistics, which they publish from time to time.

It is very far from being the easiest way to get a job. If you have the ability to become a physics professor, you can earn a great deal more money as an engineer, banker, or programmer.

It is getting harder to get a job in physics. The money available is not increasing, but the number of people seeking those jobs is increasing.

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    "If you have the ability to become a physics professor,...": However, you really need the skills for being engineer, banker, programmer. It is not like professor is the best job and someone who can do all the other jobs. Each job needs different skills. – user111388 Oct 16 at 5:23
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    @user111388 The employment data for physics PhDs suggests they often have got those skills because they often have those jobs. But they quite probably had those skills before they got their PhDs. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 7:05
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    @gerrit I don't agree. There are ample jobs teaching physics available if you are willing to accept very low pay for part-time work. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 9:36
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Right. With "physics professor" was thinking of a Full Professor leading a research group, not an adjunct professor being paid per course taught. – gerrit Oct 16 at 12:25
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    @AnonymousPhysicist There are far more careers in x, so it's easier to find a career (meaning a job that will give you enough money to be comfortable, long term promotion opportunities, savings for retirement, health care/paid time off/other benefits, etc.). Senior programmer is not a rare title in my area, pretty much every company around here always hiring, and even paying recruiters to go looking for more people to interview. – user3067860 Oct 16 at 20:20
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Finding a permanent research position in theoretical physics is very difficult. Theoretical physics implies, by definition, blue sky rather than applied science (but of course theoretical physicists can do applied science). Blue sky science is limited to academia, and permanent research positions in academia are very rare and very competitive. You have to be both very good and work very hard and be lucky to get one.

However:

  • Finding a temporary job in theoretical physics is doable. You need to be good, but not outstanding. Many PhD students become post-docs. They might get funded for 2, 3, maybe 4 years at a time. Some people chain many such temporary positions, possibly for decades. The upside is that you get to do what you love. The downside is that you're never sure about whether you'll still be employed several years later¹ and that you may have to change city, country, or continent every 2-4 years. Most find this a big price to pay and eventually leave, but you might do a PhD and a couple of postdocs and then change career 10 years later. No harm done.
  • Finding a permanent job as a theoretical physicist is doable — you just won't be doing theoretical physics. You might be doing applied physics, in particular outside academia, or you might be primarily teaching. Plenty of commercial companies and government institutes are interested in applied physics, whether to develop the next next gadget of which they hope to sell a billion copies, or to research environmental issues including climate change, or many other applications. Or you might be doing something else altogether — when I studied applied physics, the tax office actively tried to recruit physics students as soon as they finished their degree. I was quite surprised at the time, but maybe they figured that people who studied physics are smarter have skills complementary to economists or others they might usually expect to hire. Theoretical physicists have good maths skills. Good maths skills are wanted.

Personally, I chose to study applied physics from the start, because although I found theoretical physics and astronomy interesting, I considered that applied physics would equip me with a broader range of career opportunities. I work in satellite meteorology, which I consider part of applied physics. In this field, I have encountered many people who used to work with either particle physics, astronomy, or space science, which are rather blue sky science. Evidently, it's possible to move into applied physics when coming from a background of blue sky science including theoretical physics (astronomy may not be about telescopes, understanding instrumentation certainly helps to tell the difference between measurement and artifact, and understanding instrumentation is quite an employable skill, even when for the physicist it's just a necessary side issue).

Therefore, if you are really excited about theoretical physics, I would decide to go for it. Probably you'll love your undergraduate, bachelor, you might afterward do a PhD and a couple of postdocs. But have realistic expectations: you are unlikely to find a permanent research position doing primarily theoretical physics. Be prepared to either accept to move around a lot hopping between temporary positions, or to transition from theoretical physics into applied physics, or even use your skills outside of physics altogether. Theoretical physicists are unlikely to be unemployed, but they are also unlikely to spent their life doing just theoretical physics.

Good luck!


¹One could argue this applies to most jobs; but even though working for the same employer for 40 years is less common than it used to be and job security in private companies may be less than in government jobs, it still makes a different whether the default is "you'll stay employed if you do a good job and the employer is doing well", or "your contract ends unless you or your boss finds money to renew you, even if you do a brilliant job"; and in many "normal" jobs, it may be possible to change jobs without changing city, let alone country or continent.

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  • " Theoretical implies blue sky science." No it doesn't. Theoretical physicists are employed in corporations where they research practical things using theoretical methods. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 12:42
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Theoretical physicists employed in corporations researching practical things are not doing theoretical physics but applied research. And in most of the world, tenured professors are pretty hard to get rid of, the job security is much, much better than that of a post-doc with a time-limited contract. In much of the world, most jobs have some forms of job security, in some parts of the US employers can fire employees at will, this is not normal in much of the world. – gerrit Oct 16 at 13:11
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    I don't think it's reasonable to compare career postdocs whose next contract renewal may be days before (or after) their previous contract runs out (possibly requiring them to fly halfway around the world for a visa renewal), who may need to change city, country, or continent every couple of years, to regular corporate or government employees whose permanent contract may be terminated by the employer with or without reason depending on country, but who in case of good performance are likely to remain employed, possibly for decades. – gerrit Oct 16 at 13:22
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    I’m with @AnonymousPhysicist on this. I actually don’t agree with the suggestion that theoretical physics is “blue sky” research: it’s an overly restrictive definition. Studying strongly correlated electrons can be theoretical but hardly blue sky if the goal is to understand high-Tc supraconductors - and if this isn’t somehow theory or somehow not mainstream physics then what is? I doubt anyone in the field would think of themselves as “applied physicists”, who in my experience are much closer to market. The boundary is not sharp but theory is much more than blue sky research. – ZeroTheHero Oct 16 at 17:48
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    @ZeroTheHero I suppose our disagreement may be down to semantics; the definition of theoretical physics, applied physics, and blue-sky science. I know little about superconductivity; your example would seem quite blue-sky science to me but it's not my field at all. – gerrit Oct 17 at 13:26
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Well it kinda depends what you mean by “physics”. If you mean in the restricted sense of “string theory” the odd are very slim. If you mean more broadly condensed matter/soft matter, quantum optics, experimental physics or any number of physics area “not-string-theory” then it is completely possible and indeed it is an exciting time to study physics.

The people studying climate change are physicists. Lots of people working in quantum information are physicists. People trying to understand high-Tc superconductivity are physicists.

There are huge possibilities in industry and good possibilities of doing research in material science (“invisibility”, photonics crystals, organic semi-conductors, graphene materials). A good deal of technology is now moving to integrated optics (including self-configuring devices). Indeed with quantum computers now slowly coming online, there are bound to be exciting developments in unexpected problems.

Yes there issues in academia - but that’s unrelated to physics. Academia is difficult now for a number of reasons. However my experience is that good physicists find jobs in physics or related areas as often as biologists or economists or chemists do. Physics is less visible than professional degrees like engineering or nursing, but that doesn’t mean there are no jobs in the field.

So yes, jobs as a theoretical physicist specializing in supersymmetry are rare, but once you recognize that this subsubfield is not representative of physics or of the jobs prospects in physics, it’s on par with other sciences.

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    "If you mean in the restricted sense of “string theory” the odd are very slim." I've never met anyone who thinks string theory is synonymous with physics. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 2:40
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    @AnonymousPhysicist unfortunately I’ve met plenty who think that anything not string isn’t really physics (or not worth doing). – ZeroTheHero Oct 16 at 3:41
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    @AnonymousPhysicist indeed the overwhelming majority contain 0 string theorists. However ask Joe Public what physicists do and you’re gonna get surface science or material science with probability near 0. THEP nevertheless is the physics brand, with Einstein and Hawking at the forefront. – ZeroTheHero Oct 16 at 3:48
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    (not sayin’ this perception is right... just observing that if you go in your local bookstore the physics books are extremely unrepresentative of the current trends in physics research.) – ZeroTheHero Oct 16 at 3:52
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    @gerrit String theorists are still a tiny portion of theorists. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 16 at 12:33
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I think the prospects for physics PhDs are pretty good (even if most ended up outside of academia) considering the fates of the people I went to grad school with and American Physical Society statistics.

I started grad school about 15 years ago, so things have probably changed a bit. But here's my experience. From my class of about 55 physics PhD students, I think maybe ~5 of us (including me) got permanent positions in academia. Those of us in academia are not necessarily in physics departments, since our research interests changed over the years and you tend to get funneled towards fields where the funding is (biomedical research or to a lesser extent, materials science). I think most of us in academia are doing stuff that we like, even if our research is a mix of physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science. Some people I know ended up at undergraduate institutions and are mostly teaching physics to engineers and doing very little research. I think they like that too.

Get some experience programming! Most of my friends and acquaintances from grad school, especially the ones that did theory research, are now software engineers (at places including MathWorks and Google). I also have a couple friends with theory backgrounds who do mathematical modeling for insurance companies (also involves a lot of coding). Finally, some of the people who did experimental research ended up at places like IBM, Norfolk Grumman, and Intel. From an informal survey, the people outside academia are making 1.5 to 2 times what I make in academia. Statistics from the American Physical Society show that most physics PhDs are making pretty good money:

https://www.aps.org/careers/statistics/phdsalary.cfm

Often you can get tuition remission and a teaching or research assistantship that pays your bills while a PhD student, so most students I know don't accumulate any debt (beyond what they already had from undergrad). So all you have to lose is about 9–12 years of your life (4 years of undergrad + 5–8 years PhD), during which you will work hard and be mentally exhausted a lot. If you like physics, you'll probably enjoy it too!

My conclusion is that most people with physics PhDs get good-paying jobs (or did 5–9 years ago) and have fulfilling happy lives.

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Just to add to what others have said: Getting a faculty position is a long shot. But that doesn't make doing a Physics PhD a bad option.

Do a PhD because you enjoy the subject. Not because you can't think of anything you'd rather spend the rest of your life doing, but because you can't think of a more satisfying way to spend the next ~5 years. See the PhD as the goal it self, i.e. spending 5 years of your life being paid to do something you love, rather than as a means of achieving some other goal.

This might be bad advice it it left you in a bad place afterwards - sacrificing 5 years of enjoyment for starting the rest of your life at a disadvantage. But doing a physics PhD will leave you at an advantage for whatever else you might do with your life other than Physics research.

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    As in doing the PhD is the goal, not getting the PhD. – Ian Sudbery Oct 16 at 12:50
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    I'm not convinced it's prudent to pursue a PhD without considering the value of the degree beyond personal enrichment. Even with free tuition and a stipend, the opportunity cost of a PhD can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I agree that a physics PhD would be likely worthwhile in the long run for most people even without entering academia, but I don't really agree with the notion that a PhD itself should be a goal. A PhD is merely training, and one should consider what they're training for. – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 16 at 14:15
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    @JohnDumancic There's certainly something to be said for doing what you love, but I don't view a PhD as an end in itself. The opportunity cost isn't related to your age at all, it's simply the difference between what you could have made with your bachelor's degree and what you'll actually make on a PhD stipend. After my undergraduate degree, for example, I left a $65k/year job for a $25k/year PhD stipend over 5 years, so the opportunity cost of my PhD was about $200k. I'll make that back over time with the increased earning power of the PhD, but that may not be true in all cases. – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 16 at 15:44
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    @AnonymusPhysicist "Also, please do consider your financial future" In this case one shouldn't do a PhD. I'm staying for an internship at a laser engineering R&D department of a big company and I learned that the best way to make money is to get into industry ASAP. This means writing ones master thesis in industry, doing internships, networking etc. 5 years PhD might be an okayish qualification for going into industry, but if you would instead have 5 years of industry experience you're certainly better off. And you will earn the same money after these 5 years than your professor probably. – TheoreticalMinimum Oct 16 at 21:32
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    @eps People doing physics PhD don't get into piles of debt. You get paid. The OP is a soon to be physics graduate with grades good enough to be admitted to a PhD. They will not struggle for employment. I'm specifically not saying they should do a PhD so they always love what they do - i'm saying do it because you want to NOT because it will lead to a better future. Instead accept for most your life you'll have to be responsible, but now while you're responsibility free and willing to share an apartment with 4 others and eat only ramen, have some fun. – Ian Sudbery Oct 17 at 11:30
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Some of the other answers give you the stats and a global view on the problem, so I'd like to add an anecdotal answer.

Not that long ago, I was pretty much where you are right now: I'd fallen in love with physics at the end of high school and I'd started learning on my own. During my physics undergrad I was a good student (I understood a lot of the material better than most tenured professors) and during grad school my supervisors and other collaborators kept telling me I was doing very well. However, after getting my phd I wasn't able to find a good position in physics (or even in other academic disciplines that interested me). Though (as others have mentioned) I'm still happy I took the time to learn physics, the job situation is pretty frustrating.

Now, while my own shortcomings (I'm a lazy bum and I never bought into the publish or perish culture) might explain away the problems I've encountered, all my friends who studied physics were also unable to find jobs in physics (and they are all smart and hard-working). Some of them ended up working as data scientists with good salaries, but it's really not the same. I do know someone who studied physics engineering and was able to find work in a governmental research institute, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

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I think you've gotten plenty of good answers, and so now I'll add another personal anecdote/piece of advice. I was likewise at a young age interested in theoretical physics, and ended up getting undergraduate degrees in physics and math and then a PhD in physics with a focus on quantum information science.

I think everyone who wants to get a PhD should hear the spiel that you've seen above -- the numbers aren't good for permanent faculty positions. (I will say that I think this is highly subfield-dependent -- as I was in QIS, which is a "hot" field, many universities were expanding their work in this area and thus hiring in that field. But nobody can tell you what will be hot in ten years.) But the numbers are pretty great for everything else, in terms of finding work with a Physics PhD. It's a highly quantitative field with lots of experience analyzing complicated problems from first principles, and depending on what you do in your PhD you're likely to pick up skills in coding, data analytics, data visualization, and presentation.

The other side to my story is that a couple years into my PhD I realized I actually had no desire at all to continue into a faculty position. I was happy enough to finish out grad school, but as for "the rest of my time on this planet," I wanted to do something else. I stayed in school, did plenty of research on possible career paths, managed to convince my professor to let me do a summer internship somewhere relevant to what I wanted to do, and got a job shortly after graduation. It's not very physics-y at all, usually, but it lets me use a lot of the skills and background I gained in graduate school and presents me with interesting challenges on a day-to-day basis.

My point here is, I would encourage you to embrace the fact that humans change and that you yourself may feel your priorities, values, and circumstances shift significantly in the decade it would take you to be done with graduate school. Make reasonable choices based on the path you feel like you want to pursue right now, and re-evaluate them regularly.

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Yes but it keeps getting tougher as depts shrink and PhDs keep getting pumped out faster to clog the pipeline to those fewer jobs.

So you would have to be among THE best or else settle for a real job in industry or govt.

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