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Sorry, this question is copied from Academia SE after somebody's comment to move it to here.

I started my Ph.D. in theoretical high energy physics last year in one of the well-known UC schools and now at age 28. I think I would earn my degree at 33 and might do a postdoc until I become 35 or so. I am planning my career these days and positively considering going to any engineering/data science or finance industry. My field requires a lot of math but barely any computer skills or industry applications. I have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering where I used C++ and java as well but that's a very while ago and I need a working VISA to work outside my country in Asia (will apply for a green card but that's totally unsure).

My questions are

  1. Considering my future age of mid-30s, non-immigrant status and the non-practical nature of my field, what is the chance of being hired in an industry position, not necessarily in the US?
  2. What preparation can increase the chance for my employment while working in academia as a grad or postdoc? e.g. type of projects, internship experiences, skills, school program bridging to the industry?

Reply to a comment: What other jobs that are not too far from physics can I apply with a good chance?

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    Realistically I think there is no way of telling what the job market will be like in several years, it's undergoing major upheavals right now and it's impossible to predict.
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 0:04
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    As a postdoc, you should be leading research, people, organising conferences. You should be able to autonomously manage projects. Take opportunities to do so. Commented May 7, 2021 at 1:39
  • @CaptainEmacs I wasn't sure in which way I should reformulate my question to incorporate your answer but did it anyway and hopefully, you can share your insights in a complete answer.
    – Liberty
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 1:57
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    Have you had this conversation with folks in your department? If so, what were those conversations missing? Commented May 7, 2021 at 3:50
  • "theoretical high energy physics" Surely you would want to work in a field such a nuclear engineering, nuclear power etc?
    – Fattie
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 11:14

3 Answers 3

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The planning horizon for career aspirations used to be 5-7 years, say 20 years ago, now it has shrunk to 1.5-2 years at best.

Given your background, you are strongly advised to brush up your computer skills. It is unlikely that you will find a job in core software development, but data science/analytics/quantitative methods require a lot of math, which you will have. However, they will require suitable computing skills, too, so something along this line might be a viable bet.

Alternatively, quantum computing looks like being on the upward route, so that's another candidate for you. Generally look for skills which need more of the math and less of the coding (but you will have to have some of that ready, nonetheless).

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Interview for internships now and see how far you get. You can decline them. Companies that are serious about interviewing you are interested in your background so that's a start. Then you see what questions they ask and that sets you on your course.

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Considering my future age of mid-30s, non-immigrant status and the non-practical nature of my field, what is the chance of being hired in an industry position, not necessarily in the US?

Not great. In essence you are competing with people that have 7+ years of hands on experience in the industry and also direct experience with the actual work. If the stuff that you in academia is directly applicable to what the industry needs, a Ph.D. can be quite helpful, but if it's not really related you are at a significant disadvantage.

What preparation can increase the chance for my employment while working in academia as a grad or postdoc? e.g. type of projects, internship experiences, skills, school program bridging to the industry?

Network, network, network. Show up at conferences, do presentations, work the floor & collect business cards. Publish. Be active in professional organizations & attend (or better: run) their meetings. Any type of industry contact (grants, collaborative project, internship, etc.) can be be helpful. If you never run into any industry contacts, it measn that your area of study is not interesting to industry

If you are already know that you are not interested in an academic career, I would think twice about the Ph.D. and specifically the post doc. The longer you stay in academia, the more you are falling behind with actual industry & workplace experience.

This being said: I did a Ph.D., post doc and moved into industry and it worked well for me. In this case, the company who hired me was working on the same stuff that I was and I ran frequently into them at conferences and we often went out for beers & dinner, so it was a somewhat natural progression.

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