Advising for undergrad physics majors

All science majors are required to meet with their major adviser every semester. The College of Science places a hold on your account to ensure that this advising session actually occurs. You will not be able to register for your classes until this hold is lifted. Dr. Heindl is now the Undergrad Adviser for Physics. Check his website for information about his advising office hours. He will lift your hold during our meeting.

Before you come to advising, give some thought to what your post-graduation goals might be. Also think about next seemster's classes, and have a pathway to graduation scoped out. Dr. Heindl can help you with that if you want.

Here are some possibilities for post-graduation goals:

  1. Entering the workforce in a laboratory setting.
  2. Entering the workforce in an information technology setting.
  3. Pursuing a career in education.
  4. Entering a graduate program specifically in physics.
  5. Entering a graduate program in something other than physics: for example, another science, engineering, or education.

You don't need to narrow it down to just one goal. In fact, there are things you can do that will set you up very nicely to be a good candidate for any of these pathways. Most important would be good grades and doing some research!

If you're still in your lower division courses, you don't need to decide right away which career path you want. We can talk about the more general things such as electives, research, internships, etc.

Considering grad school?

Many of our undergraduate physics majors indicate an interest in graduate school (physics or other field). A graduate degree can be nice to have on your resume, but it's definitely not a requirement to land a good-paying job and it's also no guarantee you'll get paid more than with a Physics BA/BS degree alone.

Grad school delays your entry into the job market and may cause you to accumulate more debt, so you should assess whether grad school would be a good path for you. Keep in mind that the job market is actually pretty good right now, but it fluctuates every few years. The job market might not be so great when you get your MS degee.

What's my pathway to a PhD?

If you're sure you want to go to grad school, the pathway that our undergrads take to PhD is usually via a Master's degree first. The undergrads who have gone straight into PhD programs typically have straight A's, better than 50th percentile on the physics GRE, better than 95th percentile on the math part of the GRE, and have done several semesters of research (usually with the same faculty member, amassing a large body of work on a single topic). Unless this describes you, your pathway to PhD will most likely be through an MS degree first. Several of our undergrads have come to SJSU for a Master's; others have gone to other CSU's for the MS.

The General and Physics GRE is required for entry into almost all accredited PhD-granting programs.

If you're applying for grad school, you'll need to write at least one (more likely two) essays about what your goals are and why you want to go to grad school. I'm happy to help you with those essays. Here are some general tips on writing well, which emphasizes some of the grammatical crimes often committed by students.

Info about career pathways for physics majors

  • The American Physical Society has a lot of great information about physics careers, including statistics about workforce sectors and salaries.
  • Here is an article about College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings. Good news is that you're in the right major (if you're majoring in physics!)
  • Here is another useful report on earnings of various college majors.
  • Good news for physics majors!
  • More good news about a "STEM" degree from SJSU!
  • I'll keep posting interesting things as I find them. If you find anything good, let me know and I'll post it here.