Interesting topic. Since less than 900,000 seconds remain until I (hopefully) defend my PhD in Physics, the perspective of what follows after that is kind of relevant to me.
I have first to say that I am an international student (which actually makes the perspective less obvious), and as a such, I do not quite understand the thinking of some people who do care so much about what their job
options would be after they graduate. First, the question about whether or not you should even have gotten into a PhD program in Physics has not been and is not a question at all to me. Why
is summarized below (forgot who posted it):
I guess I'm a bit unusual. I plan to work in industry but want to get my PhD because it's important to me on a personal level to be a highly-educated person, and because the research leaders in industry that I see have PhDs so I think the career opportunities for PhD holders in industry are more open.
PhD is the highest-educational degree. PhD in Physics is perhaps the hardest educational path. Getting the highest educational degree in the hardest educational discipline is a goal in itself. It simply puts you on top (not specifying of what, because to me is of everything one can desire). This in turn opens opportunities. End of story.
Second, why do you care about what jobs
you can take? I care about what life
I want to have. I very well understand that USA functions based on hard work, demanding jobs, and hard work and demanding jobs, which is a cyclic and inevitable part of almost everybody's life and hence, of almost everybody's thinking. However, my life is not my job. In fact, life is so beautiful and complex that there is no job in the world that can confine it. By putting so much emphasis on the job, you are simply confining your life. I want to be free to try out and be immersed in millions of beautiful aspects of what life can offer, so it is more than obvious that I want to work something that will allow me to do so. My initial goal was to become a professor for that reason - you are the boss of yourself, you manage your own time, you (may) have time to do the other so many cool things you enjoy in life (besides physics, which is just one of those things). However, during my graduate studies I realized that this may not happen too soon (as pointed out by Katz and others). In addition, during the writing of my thesis I realized that ... I actually do not like repeating things that I have already found the answers to. It is simply boring. Well, for the first time in my life it came across to me that professorship might not be what I would actually enjoy: Not only will I have to write grants, but I will also have to write papers for other people to read and to help me ... write and get other grants. Basically, do the same thing at least twice. I do not find motivation in doing that unless I hire somebody else to do it. I am not a robot or machine to repeat things and tasks that I have already gone through. Therefore, my perception of how I would like to live will eventually determine what I would do
(I do not say work
, because, again, job is not my priority).
Third, money is irrelevant. Exciting life is not measured by how much money one has or earns. I'd definitely say that my life was n-times more exciting before
I came to US for my graduate studies, although it was n^n-times more miserable in terms of financial resources (let's just say that I had a salary of $110/month and my rent was ... exactly $100./month). Simply said, I was not born to work ... for the sake of earning money. I was born to live ... for the sake of my enjoyment, happiness and intellectual progress. I want personal freedom and this is what I am going to achieve, regardless of the job (if any) I am going to work. The very last thing that would happen for me is to become a slave of my job, which actually is the case for a very high percentage of American workers, including professors. No thanks. I prefer to enjoy the diversity of life while still being young though not rich, rather than do only one thing (understand work like crazy) in order to (presumably) have N-billions dollars when I turn 50-60 years old, but will not longer be able to do 80% of the things I can do now. So, I do not have job options in front of me, I rather face life choices. Graduate studies have been such a great choice because they have allowed me to enjoy many other aspects of life besides pure taking of classes, teaching and research. Obviously, I did not enjoy the homework assignments
, because they confined my freedom outside of the classroom by taking my personal time, which I could have invested in other interesting activities. On top of that, grades emerging from such assignments, and actually the whole grading part of the American education, was and is still ridiculous. The curving of grades was and still is my biggest disappointment. Anyway, this is another topic.
The bottom line, people should become whatever serves best their desires of life style. Regardless of whether a scientist or tractor driver. The job comes as an attribute to what you really are, it's not the opposite. Even if you like what you work, you cannot like ONLY what you work. If you do, then ... well, you don't have much internal happiness, do you?
I go ahead to lay out my beautiful diverse future life plans and activities ... and wait to see what job(s) offers that will match my plans I will receive.