sphrwn
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Hi! I'm currently in my third year of undergrad Theoretical Physics and have been on the MSci path since I started, so I have another year to go. I'm really struggling to find what job options are out there for me. For a long time, I've considered teaching secondary school physics, because although currently the thought of getting up and teaching a class is a bit terrifying, I've always loved being able to explain things to my friends and I know with a bit of experience the public-speaking aspect would get a lot easier.
Is it a waste of a Master's to go on and apply for a PGCE afterwards? Everyone says I could get a better-paid job than being a teacher, but nobody seems to know what that job could be, and I do think I could genuinely enjoy teaching. Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Scienceisgood
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TL; DR No.

As someone who did a PGCE, I can tell you it will be the hardest year of your life. We lost 1/3 of the class before Christmas.

That being said it is rewarding and by no means a waste of anything. That being said if you complete your masters, you have an alternative route to go into another field should you wish to.

I have a degree in Biomedical Science and recently (last month) started employment in a COVID-19 lab after teaching for 2 years (quit in December 2019 JUST before COVID hit and was unemployed for a year) and seeing it wasn’t for me doing 12 hour days 5 days a week.

I am not trying to put you off but all I am saying is it is rewarding but A LOT of hard work.
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physgradstudent
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Hey, I did Theoretical Physics and was in a similar position to you. A few options I considered were:

- Research (can be either in industry or in academia_
- Scientific Computing
- Software Engineering
- Teaching
- Finance/Accounting
- Consulting
- Engineering
- Law

If you are already confident that you want to do teaching it might be worth considering graduating with a BSc and going straight into a PGCE, because the masters isn't essential and you will get started in your career faster. On the other hand if you want to do the masters because you are interested in the 4th year modules and you personally want to achieve it then it isn't a waste to do it, because the personal satisfaction is enough reason to do it.

Another option you have is graduating and then doing a separate masters (this is what I chose to do) because it allows you to specialise more in a particular topic.
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bluebeetle
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(Original post by sphrwn)
Hi! I'm currently in my third year of undergrad Theoretical Physics and have been on the MSci path since I started, so I have another year to go. I'm really struggling to find what job options are out there for me. For a long time, I've considered teaching secondary school physics, because although currently the thought of getting up and teaching a class is a bit terrifying, I've always loved being able to explain things to my friends and I know with a bit of experience the public-speaking aspect would get a lot easier.
Is it a waste of a Master's to go on and apply for a PGCE afterwards? Everyone says I could get a better-paid job than being a teacher, but nobody seems to know what that job could be, and I do think I could genuinely enjoy teaching. Any advice would be much appreciated!
If you think you'll enjoy teaching, then it's not a waste at all.

I had the same sort of dilemma when I graduated - lots of people were telling me I could get a better job that pays more as a maths graduate, but I wasn't interested in finance or engineering and so I didn't see a point trying to pursue those when I *was* interested in teaching. Financially, it's not a terrible decision by any means. Teachers have a decent pension scheme, and it's a "recession-proof" sort of career. As a physics trainee, you may be entitled to a large, tax-free bursary (though these change year upon year so it's not a guarantee). If you get a job in a "deprived" area, you may also be entitled to additional cash incentives (£2000 a year), but once again, that scheme may no longer be running in a few years.

I've found it a rewarding career, though a tough one. Lots of my friends went into finance / engineering and I don't feel like I missed out by not doing that. They seem happy, but I know when they tell me about what their job involves, I just don't fancy it. And at this stage in our careers, they're not earning much more than me, though I imagine that will change further down the line!
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sphrwn
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(Original post by Scienceisgood)
TL; DR No.

As someone who did a PGCE, I can tell you it will be the hardest year of your life. We lost 1/3 of the class before Christmas.

That being said it is rewarding and by no means a waste of anything. That being said if you complete your masters, you have an alternative route to go into another field should you wish to.

I have a degree in Biomedical Science and recently (last month) started employment in a COVID-19 lab after teaching for 2 years (quit in December 2019 JUST before COVID hit and was unemployed for a year) and seeing it wasn’t for me doing 12 hour days 5 days a week.

I am not trying to put you off but all I am saying is it is rewarding but A LOT of hard work.
Thanks for your honesty! Can I ask what about the PGCE made it so difficult? I know that you do placement for a lot of it, so it's pretty hard to know what to expect.
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sphrwn
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(Original post by physgradstudent)
Hey, I did Theoretical Physics and was in a similar position to you. A few options I considered were:

- Research (can be either in industry or in academia_
- Scientific Computing
- Software Engineering
- Teaching
- Finance/Accounting
- Consulting
- Engineering
- Law

If you are already confident that you want to do teaching it might be worth considering graduating with a BSc and going straight into a PGCE, because the masters isn't essential and you will get started in your career faster. On the other hand if you want to do the masters because you are interested in the 4th year modules and you personally want to achieve it then it isn't a waste to do it, because the personal satisfaction is enough reason to do it.

Another option you have is graduating and then doing a separate masters (this is what I chose to do) because it allows you to specialise more in a particular topic.
Hey, thanks for the advice! My problem has always been that options like that seem way too vague - I have no idea what I'd actually be getting myself into, and it's pretty difficult to find out!

I think I'm too late to back out of MSci now as applications for PGCE at my uni have to be submitted in November for the following academic year, so I unfortunately can't jump into PGCE come September. Also, am I right in thinking that you don't get student finance support for doing a postgrad masters?

What did you do your masters in / what are you working at now, if you don't mind me asking? Just curious!
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sphrwn
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(Original post by bluebeetle)
If you think you'll enjoy teaching, then it's not a waste at all.

I had the same sort of dilemma when I graduated - lots of people were telling me I could get a better job that pays more as a maths graduate, but I wasn't interested in finance or engineering and so I didn't see a point trying to pursue those when I *was* interested in teaching. Financially, it's not a terrible decision by any means. Teachers have a decent pension scheme, and it's a "recession-proof" sort of career. As a physics trainee, you may be entitled to a large, tax-free bursary (though these change year upon year so it's not a guarantee). If you get a job in a "deprived" area, you may also be entitled to additional cash incentives (£2000 a year), but once again, that scheme may no longer be running in a few years.

I've found it a rewarding career, though a tough one. Lots of my friends went into finance / engineering and I don't feel like I missed out by not doing that. They seem happy, but I know when they tell me about what their job involves, I just don't fancy it. And at this stage in our careers, they're not earning much more than me, though I imagine that will change further down the line!
That's good to hear! I did think that surely there couldn't be that big of a difference in pay, and I'm not all that concerned about money anyway as long as I have enough to live on.

I think that's exactly it, other options are out there but they just aren't very appealing to me personally (though honestly there seems to be little beyond finance and engineering and my degree really wouldn't have me particularly well-equipped for either of those?). How did you find starting teaching? It seems to me that starting at a school and teaching your first classes would be incredibly daunting!
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bluebeetle
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(Original post by sphrwn)
That's good to hear! I did think that surely there couldn't be that big of a difference in pay, and I'm not all that concerned about money anyway as long as I have enough to live on.

I think that's exactly it, other options are out there but they just aren't very appealing to me personally (though honestly there seems to be little beyond finance and engineering and my degree really wouldn't have me particularly well-equipped for either of those?). How did you find starting teaching? It seems to me that starting at a school and teaching your first classes would be incredibly daunting!
I did find it a bit daunting. I was lucky to have been able to get lots of prior experience in the classroom, as there was a scheme run by my university to get maths and science students experience in local schools which I did in the summer between my third and fourth year.

Like you mention in your first post, I was also very much that person in school / uni who loved helping other people out and explaining concepts that they didn't get, and I find the experience of teaching to be satisfying in a similar way to that.
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Scienceisgood
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(Original post by sphrwn)
Thanks for your honesty! Can I ask what about the PGCE made it so difficult? I know that you do placement for a lot of it, so it's pretty hard to know what to expect.
Honestly, it all comes down to the relationship you build with your class. The first 2-3 weeks are CRUCIAL in developing a good teacher-pupil relationship. If you don’t do that, the kids grow to not like you which makes it difficult to get them to learn anything.

That and also, try and not to be too nice but that being said, don’t be a pushover either otherwise the class will walk all over you. Just be careful as there is a fine balance.

That’s what made it so difficult for me, being too nice to the kids and in the end it was very difficult to get them to realise I wasn’t a pushover but I wasn’t a hard as either.

You also have to consider how do you know if all the kids understand what you’ve taught them at the end of the lesson other than “yes I got it” when you ask if they understand it. A common example we were given was the following;

A previous trainee teacher asked his class if they all understood it and if they did, raise their hands. Their lecturer was in the back of the class and saw a pupil who didn’t have a clue and asked if he knew what he was doing, the boy said he didn’t have a clue but just wanted to leave as he had a football match afterwards.

So you need to ask yourself, how will you know if the class understands what you’ve taught them after you’ve taught the class?

That is the hardest thing if you ask me because if they don’t understand, you can’t progress and essentially you’ve left that kid behind because they’re too scared to say “I don’t know”. So you have to make it clear that now knowing something is ok, everyone has that. But that being said, you can’t keep holding back the progress of the class.
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Scienceisgood
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Just to be clear, when I saw “it is ok not to know something” I don’t mean it is ok not to leave the class and learn nothing. I mean it is ok to admit to now knowing but be willing to learn it.
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Scienceisgood
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That being said though, you will get kids who are so nice but can be so challenging. My worst memory from class was the following;

I had a kid ask if he could go to the toilet at least 4 times before I eventually let him go. I didn’t know he had an apple juice box in his pocket and when he stood up, it squeezed in between his trousers and his leg meaning it looked as though that he had wet himself and I was mortified for the WHOLE lesson (red faced as anything).

Shortly after he “wet himself” I noticed the colour of the puddle and a rather sweet smell. So be prepared for challenging pupils...
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sphrwn
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(Original post by Scienceisgood)
Honestly, it all comes down to the relationship you build with your class. The first 2-3 weeks are CRUCIAL in developing a good teacher-pupil relationship. If you don’t do that, the kids grow to not like you which makes it difficult to get them to learn anything.

That and also, try and not to be too nice but that being said, don’t be a pushover either otherwise the class will walk all over you. Just be careful as there is a fine balance.

That’s what made it so difficult for me, being too nice to the kids and in the end it was very difficult to get them to realise I wasn’t a pushover but I wasn’t a hard as either.

You also have to consider how do you know if all the kids understand what you’ve taught them at the end of the lesson other than “yes I got it” when you ask if they understand it. A common example we were given was the following;

A previous trainee teacher asked his class if they all understood it and if they did, raise their hands. Their lecturer was in the back of the class and saw a pupil who didn’t have a clue and asked if he knew what he was doing, the boy said he didn’t have a clue but just wanted to leave as he had a football match afterwards.

So you need to ask yourself, how will you know if the class understands what you’ve taught them after you’ve taught the class?

That is the hardest thing if you ask me because if they don’t understand, you can’t progress and essentially you’ve left that kid behind because they’re too scared to say “I don’t know”. So you have to make it clear that now knowing something is ok, everyone has that. But that being said, you can’t keep holding back the progress of the class.
Yeah, one of my biggest concerns would be getting that balance. I definitely err on the side of being too nice for my own good, and the thought of having to deal with really difficult students is terrifying, but I guess all teachers experience that!

That's actually something I've already thought about, encouraging kids to actually ask questions and just admit when they don't understand something, because I myself was always scared to ask anything in case my teacher got annoyed that I didn't understand it, but I've really realised at uni that the best way to learn is to do just that - ask questions! My lecturers have all been so approachable and helpful and I'd love to be able to emmulate that as a teacher. Definitely a difficult thing to make sure an entire class is on the same page and how to go about getting kids up to speed, especially without the blessing that is using email to explain things outside of class time like lecturers are able to do.

Thanks again for your responses, I've got lots to think about!
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sphrwn
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(Original post by Scienceisgood)
That being said though, you will get kids who are so nice but can be so challenging. My worst memory from class was the following;

I had a kid ask if he could go to the toilet at least 4 times before I eventually let him go. I didn’t know he had an apple juice box in his pocket and when he stood up, it squeezed in between his trousers and his leg meaning it looked as though that he had wet himself and I was mortified for the WHOLE lesson (red faced as anything).

Shortly after he “wet himself” I noticed the colour of the puddle and a rather sweet smell. So be prepared for challenging pupils...
Yikes! I really do wonder what goes on inside kids' heads sometimes hahah, I'd be mortified too!
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lizz-ie
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(Original post by sphrwn)
Hi! I'm currently in my third year of undergrad Theoretical Physics and have been on the MSci path since I started, so I have another year to go. I'm really struggling to find what job options are out there for me. For a long time, I've considered teaching secondary school physics, because although currently the thought of getting up and teaching a class is a bit terrifying, I've always loved being able to explain things to my friends and I know with a bit of experience the public-speaking aspect would get a lot easier.
Is it a waste of a Master's to go on and apply for a PGCE afterwards? Everyone says I could get a better-paid job than being a teacher, but nobody seems to know what that job could be, and I do think I could genuinely enjoy teaching. Any advice would be much appreciated!
I was considering teaching after uni but ultimately decided to do something else first and worked in industry for two years. Quit in August and started my PGCE in September and I'm absolutely loving it! I was really well paid in my engineering job but ultimately, it didn't make me happy. Go for something you enjoy!! Teaching is hard work but worth it in my opinion. Also I wouldn't say it's a waste to do a masters, but make sure you love your degree before you commit - I did Maths and the MSci year was such a step up from the rest, all of my friends and I really struggled with it and I'm really glad I don't have to go through it again!
It probably isn't too late to apply for a PGCE this year either if you wanted to start in September. Most courses usually still have Physics places left by the time their course starts so you could have a look online or contact the DfE's get into teaching service.
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