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As a new graduate (bachelor's in physics), can I apply for internships as a way to get my foot in the door?

I'm trying to find research (possibly contracting) positions in physics, laser science, data science, or imaging science. Looking at indeed, the only entry level positions I find are for new PhDs. Could internships be a good route to getting a foot in the door for full time positions?

#science #physics #lasers #internships #data-science #imaging #optics #research #engineering

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Brandon’s Answer

Internships are always a great way to get into a field. When you do internships, they allow you to get experience as well as the necessary skills for the job. Sometimes internships can lead to full-time positions. Something you should also look for are temporary/contract jobs that you are applicable for. They can be as useful as an internship and allows more experience and opportunities.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Abby, Admin
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Misty’s Answer

Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door and to get hands-on learning. It can also help you narrow down your interests. For example, you might think you want to do sales but then during your internship you realize it isn't as appealing or fulfilling as you had hoped. My first job out of college was because of an internship I did the summer before my senior year.

If you are able to get an internship, even if it's not for school credit, I highly recommend it.
Thank you comment icon The co-op position I held showed me many of the things I didn't want in a career, so I agree these kinds of experiences are extremely useful. Thanks for sharing! Abby, Admin
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Joseph’s Answer

Yes, you can apply for internships, which can certainly be good foot-in-the-door opportunities. Be aware that some will have restricted entry criteria like summer/sandwich internships only open to currently studying students. There also are entry-level positions that take physics graduates without PhDs.

However, since you specifically said you're looking for research positions, you should know that the overwhelming majority of internships, graduate-entry positions, consultancy and contracting for the sciences are aimed more toward operational roles, rather than research. Many operational physics roles have a research side element to them, and there might be an odd one or two with a pure research theme, but generally, graduate entry roles are not targeted at research. It's certainly a valid route into work however - my personal route was going from Bachelors into an industry-specific Masters, then taking an entry-level graduate position in a lab to start with, before eventually moving around into my current position.

If you're keen on research, however, you should know that the expectation for a research scientist is to first do a PhD and then take up post-doctoral research positions.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for your insight! I really appreciate hearing about physicists' professional journeys, especially since I'm taking a less traditional route to a PhD (hoping to pursue it in a few years after I've worked in industry for a bit). It's good to know that going directly from undergrad to graduate school isn't the only way. Abby, Admin
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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Abby,

As great as internships are, at least at my current company, we only offer internships to current students (graduated students wouldn't qualify). If there are other companies that offer internships, it's an amazing way to prove yourself and get champions who'll help you. I personally have hired an intern (and would have hired two more if I had head count) once they graduated college.

I wish you the best!

--
Dexter
Thank you comment icon Dexter, thank you! Abby, Admin
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Erica’s Answer

I agree with the answers given here. Internships in industry are reserved for current undergraduate students typically.

As for research jobs - there is academic research, as in research that you do as a student or professor. When I was in college, I thought this was the only type of research.

In actuality, many companies have research positions, and I would argue that most science/engineering roles have an aspect of research to them. For example, at my medical device company we have Data Scientists who work on creating, pulling, and analyzing data from our manufacturing, complaint, and document control databases etc to help engineers and business leaders make better decisions, maintain our product quality, or investigate issues. In many ways they are researchers and problem solvers, creating new solutions or researching cutting edge solutions. Similarly at our company we have engineers with Bachelors degrees in mechanical engineering all the way up through PhDs in ultrasound physics that work to develop new products for intravascular ultrasound imaging which requires research in the form of studying published research articles, extensive experimentation and problem solving. It is still possible in this setting to publish a paper or get a patent for your ideas. Lastly, my company uses many different types of lasers in metal welding and cutting manufacturing processes and therefore there are engineers and scientists who develop those pieces of equipment and solve how to apply the technology to existing products, create new products, or enable other work at the company.

My question for you/for you to ask yourself is what is it about research that interests you? Is it problem solving? Hands on testing in a lab? Finding/discovering new ways to do things? Authoring publications? Being in a university setting? Getting a graduate degree? When I was in school I thought academic research was strictly the only type of research, but as I’ve tried to explain above, most technology product companies will have a slew of scientists and engineers who are all doing research and testing to develop their product. So determine what motivates you most first and let that guide you.

One difference between academia and industry research is how you are paid. I’m not the best person to answer on the academic side, but it could be a combo of salary, stipend, awards, scholarships, grants, or an additional part time job. In industry once you get the job you have your paycheck every two weeks and typically annual bonuses (additional chunk ~5-10% of your annual salary) for salaried employees.

So I would encourage you if you’re open to roles outside of academic research to not just search for “research” positions (as even in industry this can mean the requirement is a PhD) but look for entry level scientist and engineer jobs. (I have seen plenty of physics and chemistry majors get engineer jobs).

Thank you comment icon I've been in college for 4 years and had no idea that research could take so many different forms! Your comment that "It is still possible in this setting to publish a paper or get a patent for your ideas" blew me away. Physics majors are often taught that academia is the only way to get involved in research, especially in that capacity, so your answer opened my mind to many new possibilities. Thank you so much Abby, Admin
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Melisa’s Answer

Hi Abby,

First off, Congratulations on earning your Bachelor's Degree in Physics!

Great question and I agree with others. You have some fabulous advice here already.

In addition to internships, many companies may also offer talent development programs that pair you with mentors and give you rotations so you get a feel for different business units within the company.

As an example, check out information on our AT&T jobs site and resources for students. You’ll also find videos here and more helpful career tools as well as more about careers and life at AT&T.

Best wishes to you for success in your educational and career goals.

Melisa recommends the following next steps:

Check out http://att.jobs/students
Here are some tips for a fantastic internship on Indeed.com https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/internship-tips
Thank you comment icon What a cool resource! I didn't know about talent development programs before. Thanks for sharing :) Abby, Admin
Thank you comment icon You are welcome Abby and I hope you find the resources and information you need. Best wishes to you on your career journey and keep us posted on your success! Melisa Cameron
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