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I'm a high school student and physics is my passion and of course I want to major in physics, but I get a lot of negative responds from my parents, friends and some teachers when I say I want to be a theoretical physicist. I'm sure some of you struggled with this since this site obviously has a lot of researchers and physics students.

The most common questions I receive:

1- What do physicists do if every thing is already discovered? (This question is annoying and stupid)

2- What is the average annual salary for a physicist?

3- Why is physics even important?

4- So will you end up eventually as a high school physics?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Qmechanic Dec 14 '13 at 16:12

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I am pushing on 74 and fortunately at the time I was thinking of a university it was enough that one got a university degree, not many people did at that time, so there was no negative pressure. I knew I wanted to be a physicist from age 11 or 12 and even though at times other almost equal passions got my attention ( including having two children) I still found physics exciting, creative and good for the little grey (or white, since I am a woman) cells. It is trite, but true: follow your passion and you will not regret it. – anna v Dec 14 '13 at 16:19
As compared with what other profession? SRSLY w007 – Carl Witthoft Dec 14 '13 at 17:00
And let me add, that a high school physics teacher isn't necessarily something you "end up" becoming. For most, it's a choice. I worked as that while doing my MSc and for a while after until I started my PhD. I worked with former research and industry physicists who simply liked the social aspect and lesser pressure in teaching compared to the high end, high pressure and sometimes quite lonely jobs in universities and industry. But as seen in the answer below, it's only one in nine who becomes a teacher. There are plenty of other jobs out there. – Thriveth Dec 14 '13 at 21:36
Being a physicist and going to study it at the uni isn't the same, though. I'm under the impression that the rating of academics by their publications is turning insane, while the competition (for these jobs where you get little pay and a small chance of a stable university employment in 10 years) is growing anyway. No physicist will say they regret it, as the insights and the acquired way of thinking in this field have a unique beauty - nobody would give away the person that he or she became. But I honestly can't say if seeing physics as a thing on the side might not lead to a happier life. – NikolajK Dec 14 '13 at 22:39
up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, I do not regret getting my (forthcoming) PhD. I do sometimes regret changing subject areas from my MS to my PhD (MS is on theoretical condensed matter, PhD is on computational astrophysics) but only because it's added 2 or 3 years to my academic career.

I have never had anyone ask me any of those questions, but

  1. Likely not going to happen in our lifetime (maybe not ever). But, going with the hypothetical, I guess those in research-only jobs would have to find new jobs.
  2. This information is compiled APS each year and strongly depends on when you stop (BA/BS, MA/MS, PhD).
  3. Easy: without physicists digital computers, cell phones, digital cameras, and GPS's would not exist. That all happened in the last 75 years, who knows what the future can bring.
  4. 11% of Physics BA/BS and 13% of Physics MS/MA become HS teachers. It seems, then, that those are not the common jobs for physicists.
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