Archive for March 31, 2018

Why Physicists Leave Physics

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2018 by telescoper

Interesting post. Only about one in twenty PhDs go on to be professors in the long run. People leave academia for various reasons, not all of them negative, but I still think we overproduce PhDs in the UK. There has never been a proper study of the merits of funding fewer PhDs and more Masters degrees, for example.

4 gravitons

It’s an open secret that many physicists end up leaving physics. How many depends on how you count things, but for a representative number, this report has 31% of US physics PhDs in the private sector after one year. I’d expect that number to grow with time post-PhD. While some of these people might still be doing physics, in certain sub-fields that isn’t really an option: it’s not like there are companies that do R&D in particle physics, astrophysics, or string theory. Instead, these physicists get hired in data science, or quantitative finance, or machine learning. Others stay in academia, but stop doing physics: either transitioning to another field, or taking teaching-focused jobs that don’t leave time for research.

There’s a standard economic narrative for why this happens. The number of students grad schools accept and graduate is much higher than the number of professor jobs. There simply isn’t room…

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