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The American Physical Society maintains numbers on career paths for their student members, and less than 5 percent end up with a Physicist job title. Most end up in the career paths you list.



For anyone curious, here's a one year phd employment survey for physics: https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/statistics/employmen...

803 responses, 297 in potentially full-time positions.

62% (of all physics phds employed at potentially full-time positions) in non-physics field, break down by industry:

Engineering - 20%

Computer software - 14%

Business or Finance - 11%

Other sciences - 8%

Education - 2%

Medical services - 2%

Other - 5%


The use of the phrase "potentially permanent positions" in the AIP report for industry positions, especially in the computer industry, is highly misleading. Academia, including some government labs and institutes, has tenured positions and other positions with guarantees of job security until retirement. The vast majority of industry employees are "at will" and can be laid off at any time for any reason or no reason. Senior executives often have employment contracts that take them out of the "at will" category but these rarely provide long term "permanent" status. Indeed, they can usually be fired by the Board of Directors.

The computer industry is notoriously unstable with jobs often quite short term in practice, with layoffs common.

Just to be clear, the referenced AIP report starts with the phrase:

Positions accepted by PhD degree recipients following receipt of their degrees fall into three categories: postdoctoral fellowships, potentially permanent positions and other temporary positions.

The figure on page two of the AIP report specifically lists a "private sector" block under "potentially permanent".

Tabel 1 on page 3 lists 70 percent of potentially permanent positions as "private sector." Again this is very misleading as private sector positions are potentially permanent only is the sense that there is a small chance that you might continue at the same employer until retirement; there is nothing like a guarantee.


I don't understand your strong objection to the phrase "potentially permanent position". Do you believe that the AIP is trying to mislead students into believing programming jobs in the private sector have tenure!?

To me "potentially permanent" seems like a serviceable phrase to encompass positions in academia and in industry that do not have an end data built in to them. It contrasts them to "temporary" positions like postdocs in academia or contractors in industry where you know going into the job that your employment ends on a certain date.


The phrase "potentially permanent position" is misleading. Is it intentional? I don't know.

The primary audience for a report on outcomes for Ph.D.'s in Physics one year after graduation, getting their Ph.D. degree, is students (and parents of students) evaluating whether to pursue a Ph.D.. Obviously, they should investigate longer term outcomes, but young people often don't, focusing the next step in their life/career.

Potentially permanent position sounds like a general version of "tenure track research job" as another commenter correctly noted below.

Students with little or no work experience often do not have an accurate impression of salaries, working conditions, and other aspects of the work world (or academia), specifically in the private sector computer industry where most Ph.D's in Physics currently end up.

News coverage of computer companies like Google emphasizes many far out research-like projects such as the Google self-driving car, the AlphaGo deep learning project, and so forth. These sounds like academic research, so why wouldn't these companies have comparable positions to tenure track research jobs? Indeed, in very rare cases, they may have such positions.

However, the vast majority of industry jobs are at will full time jobs without a specified end date. Especially in the computer industry, they are quite insecure and often short-lived, very different from what potentially permanent position implies. They are not analogous to tenure track jobs.


I don't think "potentially permanent position" is misleading. I can remove a permanent marker with rubbing alcohol, yet I don't say that "permanent marker" is misleading.

My job is described as permanent full time, because my contract is ongoing, and I work 40 hours a week; when I was a student, I had a permanent part time job.

This is in contrast to a casual job, which in New Zealand is similar to at-will (but with strong restrictions on what roles can be casual); or a fixed term contract.


I think "potentially permanent" is just a historical oddity. They used the same term 25 years ago when I was in school, and there was still an expectation of people going into tenure track position.


The phrase was misleading twenty-five years ago when applied to private sector positions, most of which were software development back then as well. There were few private sector positions analogous to a "tenure track" position even then, possibly a few at corporate research laboratories like HP Labs and Xerox PARC.

In any case, with the closure or heavy cutbacks at corporate research labs, AIP should update its language to reflect current realities.


FWIW, I basically interpreted it as full-time employment, but they are definitely playing with the wording a little bit and the data isn't clear on the level of employment at all.


The report is probably aimed at young people, college students in particular, investigating pursuing a Ph.D., who often are unfamiliar with the work world. "Potentially permanent positions" in the computer industry is not going to fool someone who has been working in the computer industry more than a few years. College or high school students are a different matter and won't automatically equate "potential permanent position" and "at will full time position."


"Potentially permanent positions" is a euphemism for "tenure track research job."


Yes, that is my point. There are almost no jobs in the private sector, especially the computer industry, analogous to a "tenure track research job." Possibly some corporate research labs like HP Labs, which have nearly all been downsized heavily or completely eliminated since the 1990s, have positions like this. The vast majority of Ph.D. physicists who move on to industry are getting some type of software development job which are "at will full time" jobs with no future prospect of something like tenure.


Their data is partly why I didn't pursue a PhD.


Finance use to be a big draw. Not sure if it still is. I am tempted to move to finance...




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