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You don't have to stay. Look for development jobs or internships for the Fall semester. If you like it more than what you're doing now, don't go back. If you decide that you want to get into the physics, the go back. Plenty of grad students take a semester or two off and go finish their PhDs. If your advisor blows a gasket, well, you can probably do better somewhere else anyway.

I know a lot of graduate students and early professors who have a fear of private industry. I think they all know they can make more money outside of academia, but they don't realize they can work fewer hours and not have worry about a bad tenure committee screwing up their careers. A bad boss can make my work life suck, but he'll need to work hard to completely nuke my career.

Anyway, I understand how you feel. Despite my lackluster GPA, a couple professors want me to go on for a masters in math or statistics. You should see their faces contort when I tell them I don't want to go to graduate school or I don't want a career in academia.

You spent your life in academia, surrounded by people who spent their lives in academia, who have surrounded themselves with people who spent their lives in academia. Get some fresh air, fill your bank account, and then decide.

I agree, I realized the truth of your second-to-last sentence sometime during grad school. These people have played the academia game and it worked out for them, and their sense of self-worth and prestige is tied to their standing inside the system. Of course, the academia game is a lot more difficult to play these days.

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