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I am currently in my last year of a Masters in Physics at Uni and I am looking to go into a job that is mainly programming based.

As part of my course we have learnt C++, Matlab and as a hobby I taught myself HTML, CSS, JAVA and a bit of JavaScript.

After getting to this stage in my degree I've realised that its actually the programming side of Physics that I enjoy most.

I've been working on a few Android apps & websites in my spare time but only things that utilize what I know in JAVA, HTML etc. Using Physics in programming is good fun but I don't want to limit myself just to Physics based jobs.

I just want to know a few things:

  • What kind of jobs can I apply for that would require the kind of skills I already posses/can work towards possessing in a year
  • Can I compete with graduates who have had a lot more programming in their course for example Computer Science?
  • Are there any specific extra things I need on my CV before I start applying for these jobs?
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5  
The best developers I know are all self educated. Degree is of no importance. If you are good, you will be hired. –  Steffe Jun 27 '13 at 11:21
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@Steffe The best developers I know are all self-educated, but they got a degree or two while working (or between jobs) to get better jobs (and better pay). –  Ramon Snir Jun 27 '13 at 11:37
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Career advice and "what sorts of jobs are out there?" are off-topic because the answers generally only apply to the person asking the question, and the answers are unlikely to have lasting, meaningful value. –  GlenH7 Jun 27 '13 at 12:38
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That desire to program will serve you better than any knowledge you will acquire, even if that knowledge is what gets you a job. Harness this desire and make something great with it. The jobs will follow... –  Neil Jun 27 '13 at 12:39
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I worked with a math major. He was a very good programmer and got stuff done. –  mike30 Jun 27 '13 at 12:43
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closed as off-topic by gnat, BЈовић, GlenH7, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau Jun 27 '13 at 13:43

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I will try to answer this as coherently as possible without downloading too much trouble into your brain:

MYSELF

I had two engineering degrees and did very tiny tiny bit of programming in C,C++, and Java. I did a whole lot more scripting in MATLAB and modelling with SIMULINK. I also did some TTL diagram-based dataflow programming using Design Architect, a nearly-obsolete solaris hosted application for stick diagram and logic circuit design.

WHY A DEGREE IS ALMOST IRRELEVANT FOR A PROGRAMMER

Now these days, a lot of universities do not really focus on making you an expert. They are either busy making money and saving by employing really pour PhD (no disrespect to anybody here) students who are not good at programming. Thereofore, I never expect any university to teach anything more than the theory. A lot of good programmers in this world are not uni graduates, they sometimes even did not have any university qualification. What they had is the ability to ask "right" questions. It can also be argued that universities help you expose yourself to the world of technical knowledge so that you can start asking questions about some of these. Therefore, it is down to you most of the times and surprisingly, you can do all the things that universities offer; by YOURSELF.

University degree is unfortunately, favoured in pretty much all modern organisations due to "certain" reasons. I am not going to go into that (in big trouble already :D).

Therefore, University gives you the "Education" about things like s/w development cycle, h/w design principles, different techniques, practices, EMC regulations etc. is. But, unless you do everything hands-on, it is not possible to be an expert or specialist in anything.

PLEASE DON'T TAKE IT AS AN ARGUMENT, People like Martin Fowler have been to the university. But I am sure he became an expert by assessing the knowledge that university was providing, asking the right questions, and coming up with better solutions to do existing things.

WHAT I THINK ANYONE NEEDS TO APPLY FOR PROGRAMMING/SPECIALIST JOBS

If I use your case as an example, I think the best evidence is how much work you have done and how concisely you can describe it to the employers in the resume. I know a colleage of mine who had to do C# programming when we joined. He only did Java and Android Apps, but quite extensively. Most of the industry-leading HL language syntaxes are quite similar (arguable). He simply transferred his knowledge about "how to do thing" rather than "What tools can I use to do the things" - because 7 or 8/10 times the code guts will read the same. He did a lot of work outside his uni timetable.

CAN YOU APPLY FOR JOBS THAT WOULD REQUIRE YOUR SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

Given your short profile in the original question, I would say you should try for jobs in Research and Technology of a company. The reason is that they do quite fundamental, proof-of-concept type R&Ds and also sometimes application deployment which may require your background knowledge and practical experience.

Rumour has it Physics people are good in Algorithm development :p. is it? Then definitely R&D of major companies should be good for you :)

CAN YOU COMPETE WITH GRAUDATES E.G. WITH CS?

Yes and No - Yes if it asks for an engineering/technical degree. No, if a job asks specifically about a degree in fundamental computer/software engineering or cs. Sometimes, the discretion is up to the recruiter whether or not they would like to take you too. You will be surprised to know that sometimes even the job adverts and not conclusive and they hope that people with more practical experience applies. I have seen jobs going to people with a degree in information management, but they had 2/3 pages of work experience (open source, companies, private venture, etc.). THey get the calls before anybody. So if you are someone like them, don't worry too much. It is entirely what the company is trying achieve with your input (e.g. fundamental study, programming, quick app making, industrial collaboration, etc.).

ANY SPECIFIC EXTRA IN CV

If you have previous experience, put it first after your name. THIS IS THE MOST RELEVANT PART. Be reasonably descriptive about your exprience. Cover these:

  • What you have done?
  • How long did the project take?
  • What did you use and what experience you obtained?
  • Any public/private recognition for these. e.g. certificate
  • Any possible ID (innovation disclosure) e.g. Any patents etc.

These should boost your CV to 90%. The next section is degree and projects. Also, be reasonable in describing your final year project.

I think that's pretty much it. I hope this helped.

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This is a great help! Thanks for taking the time to write this :D i'm going to start searching some R&D jobs and see what comes up. –  clairharrison Jun 28 '13 at 8:01
    
@clairharrison I'm glad that you found it useful. I must point out that I have given you this answer based on my past 9-10 years experience in academia and industry. If you are not in the UK, the university assessment I provided above may not be same for you. The UK is slightly different compared to continental Europe in university curricula. I have got no practical knowledge about how things are in the US. In Asia Pacific (except Australia and New Zealand) the academia models are often mimicked to the US ones. Australia and NZ are somewhat similar to the UK except +1 year in degrees. –  hagubear Jun 28 '13 at 8:07
    
I'm from the UK so its a great help! –  clairharrison Jun 28 '13 at 8:46
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