career advice

Paul Arveson (
Thu, 26 Dec 96 14:52:44 EST

C.N., a graduate student in physics, wrote:

I guess I am looking for some kind of guidance or advice or words
of encouragement from others. See for doctors, I could tell myself that
after some grueling years at the medical school, I will be helping other
people. For lawyers, I could tell my self that I will be fighting for
justice. but for a physicist, I don t know what to tell myself.

thanks in advance for your help.


Dear C.N. -- My $.02 worth:

There are two goals: 1) keeping body and soul together. 2) finding
personal meaning and significance in one's work.

Regarding the practical matter of careers, I note that most of the jobs
advertised in Physics Today are academic jobs, and that seems to be what
you assume are the jobs that are available. But there are lots of other
jobs for PhD's in the industry sector, and they don't tend to advertise
in Physics Today. I think it would be encouraging to survey the needs of
industry for physicists today. Also, these jobs pay more than the
academic jobs in many cases, which are ridiculously low, and only accepted
because physicists tend to be idealists and don't form unions or care much
about pay and benefit matters.

Regarding significance, I recommend the short book, Why Work? Careers in
Christian Perspective (or something like that) by
Bernbaum and Steer, published by the Christian College Coalition about 1986.
It gives a brief history of the views of work in the context of theology and
then sets forth a modern reformed perspective, which encourages people
to glorify God in their vocation. The meaning of vocation, though, needs
careful definition, which this book gives.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)