Transitioning from Physics/Academia/Research to Web/Software Development

Hey guys,

I graduated with a Master’s degree in Physics last May 2015 and have been trying to get a job in software and web development. It’s been tough with my resume only listing academic research and teaching positions. All of my research has been in computational physics (coding in Fortran with Linux) but even highlighting that on my resume/cover letters hasn’t helped much.

I have always been really into coding and I’m extremely excited about Free Code Camp and the opportunity to build an organized portfolio, which I’m hoping will make that difference I’ve been needing to get my foot in the door. I’ve sorta put the resume sending on hold til I get further a long the FCC curriculum (right now I’m finishing up my personal portfolio site), but I’m not really sure how to know when would be a good time to get back at it…

I was just wondering if anybody has had a similar experience? Or any thoughts/suggestions? Thanks in advance! Cheers!


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I am shifting from computational biology to software development. I’ve been told many many times that physicists are some of the best coders out there, even better than software engineers, so hang in there. I would recommend not stopping your job application process, keep doing FCC and keep applying for jobs on the side. Sometimes it takes time for companies to respond back and applying for jobs as you keep adding FCC projects to your portfolio will not hurt.

Thank you! That is really good to hear. How’s the transition going for you?

A STEM Degree is always welcome for Data/Machine Learning Scientist positions. But if you prefer Web Development the transition may be a little bit longer (although in reality it’s up to you and to your skills).

As a freelancer for many years I have met several people from science and reasearch floating into software development.
What they had in common quite often is lack of communication skills, team work ability and working on time constraints and rigid requirements. People from science are often used to have plenty of time and results do not matter that much, as long as they follow a programm.
So, my advice for science and research people form other fields: Learn to communicate efficiently, learn to use communication tools, learn planning, organisation, information structuring, priority setting and stuff like that.
This will be much more needed than coding knowledge. Coding you can learn alone. Team work you only can work in a team. And IT teams are different.

I was actually trying to go that route the last few months, but I feel like I’m in a sort of grey area… Most Data Scientists are either PhD’s or have prior experience in the field, whereas I only have a masters and all of my professional experience (outside of academic research) is in teaching… but I am still interested in heading that direction in the future. My thinking now is that I will have a much better chance of getting started in web/software development and I do really like it.

You are absolutely 100% right about that, I couldn’t agree more and I feel like that is one of the biggest areas I am lacking in… I’m not really sure how to change that either… I’ve been to a few meetups but nothing really came of it. Do you know of any other resources/ways I can put myself in a team working environment?

An idea
At age 20 I started teaching adults with me just learning what I wanted to teach next day. Was tough but has been a great experience (for me :wink: at least). I have told my followers that I we have to learn this stuff in a team and that I know quite a lot about IT in general but nothing about the language (Pascal then) I am going to teach.
Other idea
habe bought my son a Lego Mindstorm kit. He has invited his friends for projects. Highly successful.

In a nutshell:
Most promising, but sometimes frightening is starting your own group, thing, whatever. You have to take the initiative. At Meetups for instance I listen what people might need and quite often - when I am interested - I am offering my time in exchange of knowledge. Do not look for a job. Look for something interesting you might do for a team, company or an individual. If you are good, maybe you got a job or at least a recommendation. If not - who cares ?

You may want to try contributing to open source projects on github. This will help you understand new codebase, interact with other developers and get your changes accepted, thereby increasing your confidence.

Okay, thanks a lot guys! This is really great information

I can understand! But even if the most employers require a PhD, what you do in the most company it’s pretty trivial. You’ll hardly do research unless you are employed at companies such as Google or Amazon or you have a team leader who’s really a data scientist. And who is by the way a “real” data scientist? Since the profession has become so sexy, everyone define him/herself as a data scientist. Business Intelligence Analyst, Computer Scientists, Mathematicians, Statisticians and so on… I think data science is one of the most misunderstood subjects at the moment. The most companies are just hiring people with quantitative skills (which you seem to have) and some programming knowledge. You only have to complete your profile with one or more of the keywords recruiters often look for in a data scientist (like python, R, etc…) and will receive some emails from recruiters.

I know what you mean. I have on LinkedIn with not much luck…

Hi Adrien,
I am not native English speaker and too lazy to use spell checker so if you see typos,…muh.

My background was a bit simular although I had extensive hacking experience in assembler before I went to uni (physics with my thesis on fluid dynamics of non newtonian fluids – aka hydrocarbons–).

Yes, I did fortran but did C++/C with a passion, aswell, learned assembler for the Cray vector machine …also at home I loved to make UI apps …so when I got my first job, I was a solid windows C++ .NET developer… (sleepless nights , yes).

I would try to enter investment banking (all my colleges are physicist except 2). Your knowledge of statistical thermodynamics will come in handy with derivative pricing or calculating risk… the pay is awesome but not as good as it used to be.

You cant have a hard time learning programming as a physicist,… just devour those programming books.

Hey guys, I just wanted to share an update of my current situation. In Oct 2016, I took an internship with the possibility of a full-time offer as a Jr. Application Developer at a small company in New Jersey. I was living in San Diego at the time, so the move was a huge step and somewhat of a gamble. I had been applying for Jr. dev roles for months before with little to no luck and realized that it will be hard to go up against people with C.S. degrees even though I had a masters degree in a technical field. I was at a meetup during this time and talked to another dev that go his foot in the door with an internship, so I thought I’d try applying for some of those. I widened my search (just to see what would happen) to the whole U.S. and searched for dev internships of any sort, and I threw out some applications with cover letters.

Long story short, I took the one in New Jersey, worked hard, asked a lot of questions and really learned a lot. I’m now in more of a software engineering role with a bigger company in NYC in the A.I. space and I love it.

Hope this is helpful for future readers of this thread. Thanks again to everybody for all the help.



Hey @AdrienAtallah your story seems same like me i m sucked with only teaching field as my computational physics degree scope here in Pakistan.
now i have decided to switch to webdevelopment just for the sake of earning as a freelancer now i want ur suggestion and guidance will u help me in which field i have to switched?
also i m working on Designing and simulation of Circular electron positron collider in CST software .
i want to earn money as well as enhance my skills as well plz guide me which field i should chose with having computational physics background??
Thanks in advance.