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Thread: "Don't Become a Scientist" - article discussion

  1. #1 "Don't Become a Scientist" - article discussion 
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    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

    In the link above, physicist Johnathan I. Katz urges those interested in science to ultimately chose something in another profession. At first I thought it was going to be tongue-in-cheek, but he seems to make pretty good points. One point he makes is that the best a PhD might be able to hope for is searching out postdoctoral work every two years or so, meaning there'd be a lot of moving involved.

    I'd like to get some thoughts on this, especially from actual scientists. Do you agree with his assessment of a new scientist's chances of making a happy living?


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  3. #2 Re: "Don't Become a Scientist" - article discussio 
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceFictionNut
    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

    In the link above, physicist Johnathan I. Katz urges those interested in science to ultimately chose something in another profession. At first I thought it was going to be tongue-in-cheek, but he seems to make pretty good points. One point he makes is that the best a PhD might be able to hope for is searching out postdoctoral work every two years or so, meaning there'd be a lot of moving involved.

    I'd like to get some thoughts on this, especially from actual scientists. Do you agree with his assessment of a new scientist's chances of making a happy living?

    REPLY: I have read articles discussing how very little money scientists make when the difficulties of getting these degrees and the intelligence required to get these degrees is considered as a whole, averaged out. Hire a plumber, or go to a dentist and ypu can see what these articles are talking about. ...DS


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    But name a scientist that doesn't love being a scientist. Science isn't a career you choose to become rich or famous. I wouldn't want to become a full-time scientist, but I love my kids, and would never get to see them. Haha!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gen1GT
    But name a scientist that doesn't love being a scientist. Science isn't a career you choose to become rich or famous. I wouldn't want to become a full-time scientist, but I love my kids, and would never get to see them. Haha!

    REPLY: I agree wholeheartedly. If you want to get rich, science is NOT a good choice. My father was a chemist and worked for HONEYWELL doing much for NASA and such. He made a respectable living. This is back in the 1950s through the 1980s. He also served as a Naval officer during WWII.
    He managed to make a respectable income as such back then. It seems things have gotten worse for scientist in general since then. I have no degree at all, but always find ways to make a decent amount of money. The things I do require a high degree of specialized skill and knowledge such as antiques dealing , but no degree of any sort is needed. ...DS
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    If you want to get rich, science is NOT a good choice.
    I think we can differentiate "rich1" and "rich2".

    "Rich1" =

    - enough money for buy interesting and useful stuff, like computers, books, a house.

    This definition is enough for me and if I become "rich1" in the future, I'll be happy.

    "Rich2" =

    - 200.000$ car, a yacht, 16.000$ Mac's...

    The point is just.... Why ??!

    If you are in peace with your mind first, and if you have a good job in any science field, you will be the richest man in the world. Next comes woman, and maybe children
    "If you have assumed any character above your strength, you have both made an ill figure in that and quitted one which you might have supported".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Requiem
    If you want to get rich, science is NOT a good choice.
    I think we can differentiate "rich1" and "rich2".

    "Rich1" =

    - enough money for buy interesting and useful stuff, like computers, books, a house.

    This definition is enough for me and if I become "rich1" in the future, I'll be happy.

    "Rich2" =

    - 200.000$ car, a yacht, 16.000$ Mac's...

    The point is just.... Why ??!

    If you are in peace with your mind first, and if you have a good job in any science field, you will be the richest man in the world. Next comes woman, and maybe children :)
    REPLY: That is as much as I would ever hope to make. The article I read said the average starting salary was about $ 35,000 to $ 40,000 a year in the USA. Does that sound right to you ? ...Dr.Syntax
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    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    average starting salary for what? a "scientist"

    here are 223 careers that may or may not have anything to do with what you consider being a "scientist"

    they come with full explanations of requirements, responsibilities and benefits; so feel free to check it out, and see how little you can generalize about what it means to be a "scientist"

    http://online.onetcenter.org/find/quick?s=scientist
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    It's interesting that you mention plumbers, Dr. Syntax... I happen to be one. Although in the past, I've made pretty good money, I made about $13,000 this year (It's been an unusually slow year, but still... I think I'd make more as a scientist!). So my question wasn't just about the money... that's why I modified the word "living" with "happy." I think we all agree scientists are shamefully underpaid, but that wasn't the author's main point.

    What I got out of the article was that a PhD would probably be unhappy working on other people's problems and moving around every two years or so (not entirely unattractive to me as I'm still in my twenties, more or less single, and I don't have any children, but that's a different matter). I haven't read many articles as pessimistic as his, so I was wondering if there were any scientists here who would agree with him. In other words, I was wondering how many other scientists would be so passionate about talking someone out of taking such a career path.

    But I think what I was really hoping was that someone could tell me this guy was pretty much talking out of his butt. For instance: are schools REALLY training twice as many PhDs as there are jobs? Twice really seems like a lot to me.

    (Thanks for posting that link Marcus.)
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    Being a basic research scientist isn't that terrible a job. It could be worse, you could be a research assistant.

    Edit: Right now as a lab technician in a veterinary hospital I'm getting about 28k a year. Meh, which isn't bad but I'm only doing the job while I try to figure out what to do with my life, I'm leaning towards going back to uni for teaching certification to teach high school.

    Edit2: Note, as a teacher I wouldn't be making much more money than this anyway, better benefits though.
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    A PhD has multiple benefits

    A: you can work in the field(or variety of related fields, as is often the case) you have the degree in

    B: you can write books and articles, or work with writers who do... a PhD looks nice in big letters on a cover

    C: you can teach post graduate school, which is in high demand, and pays somewhat well
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    [quote="marcusclayman"]average starting salary for what? a "scientist"

    here are 223 careers that may or may not have anything to do with what you consider being a "scientist"

    they come with full explanations of requirements, responsibilities and benefits; so feel free to check it out, and see how little you can generalize about what it means to be a "scientist"

    http://online.onetcenter.org/find/quick?s=scientist[/quote



    REPLY; From the first two job offerings listed it seemed appaerent scientists can expect to have a financially rewarding career. Starting salaries were $ 112,000 and $ 75,000 a year. Not chump change and in line with what my father made adjusted for inflation, as a chemist working for Honywell when he did.
    Marcus, I hope you did not persieve anything I have said as any sort of PUT DOWN ragarding scientists. Quite the opposite. I admire and respect scientists for thier intellectual abilities. This does not mean I think they are better than me and I am going to suck up to them. I, also have my own abilities which were probably to a large part inherited. Some were the result of my own efforts in overcoming difficult obstacles and in keeping an open and active mind and lifestyle.
    I do not see my life as any sort of a competition to prove myself to anyone except in situations where I am pushed by aggressors to fight it out with them, physically. That`s it. I am a damn nice guy who tries a lot to help others in need of help. Give them money and things like that.
    I am very confused about you. You seem to want to put a little twist on anything you can find to make me out to be some sort of a prick. I am not a prick, I am a nice guy. ...Dr.Syntax
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    We're all pricks, your no exception, I assume.
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  14. #13 Re: "Don't Become a Scientist" - article discussio 
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceFictionNut
    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

    In the link above, physicist Johnathan I. Katz urges those interested in science to ultimately chose something in another profession. At first I thought it was going to be tongue-in-cheek, but he seems to make pretty good points. One point he makes is that the best a PhD might be able to hope for is searching out postdoctoral work every two years or so, meaning there'd be a lot of moving involved.

    I'd like to get some thoughts on this, especially from actual scientists. Do you agree with his assessment of a new scientist's chances of making a happy living?
    I fully agree. Because it is the reality.
    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

    - Arnaud Amalric

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    I'd say do what you enjoy. If you have a passion for science, do it.
    If you view science as just another job or just another way to make a living, there are probably easier ways to make more money.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    We're all pricks, your no exception, I assume.



    REPLY: I do not believe we are all pricks and doubt you truly believe that. Have met no one in your life who you do not consider a prick ?
    We are all human beings and prone to the usual instincts and such, but that does not mean we are all pricks.
    I suppose I can be a prick at times. I don`t know. Maybe you are right about that after all, now that I think about it a bit more. ...Dr.Syntax
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    We're all pricks, your no exception, I assume.


    REPLY: I have given this statement of yours some thought and agree that I am prick at times and perhaps most and just maybe all men are. Do you think it is possible or even likely that some WOMEN are NOT pricks. After all their basic instincts are in many ways quite different than ours. They are, after all: instinctually wired to be MOTHERS. This has to allow for some crucial differences. Don`t just snap off some caustic reply. Think about SOME of the finer examples of the women you have known and give me your answer. ...Dr.Syntax
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    I like to say that graduate students are, by definition, masochistic and a little bit crazy. (Well, alright, maybe more than a little bit.) As much as others have said, you do this if you love it. You don't do it for financial security, you don't do it for the promise of an easy life. It is a hard life and there's no arguing against that. But if you love it then you're willing to make it work. And if you don't really love it then you usually end up doing something else anyway.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    [quote="ScienceFictionNut"]It's interesting that you mention plumbers, Dr. Syntax... I happen to be one. Although in the past, I've made pretty good money, I made about $13,000 this year (It's been an unusually slow year, but still... I think I'd make more as a scientist!). So my question wasn't just about the money... that's why I modified the word "living" with "happy." I think we all agree scientists are shamefully underpaid, but that wasn't the author's main point.

    What I got out of the article was that a PhD would probably be unhappy working on other people's problems and moving around every two years or so (not entirely unattractive to me as I'm still in my twenties, more or less single, and I don't have any children, but that's a different matter). I haven't read many articles as pessimistic as his, so I was wondering if there were any scientists here who would agree with him. In other words, I was wondering how many other scientists would be so passionate about talking someone out of taking such a career path.

    But I think what I was really hoping was that someone could tell me this guy was pretty much talking out of his butt. For instance: are schools REALLY training twice as many PhDs as there are jobs? Twice really seems like a lot to me.

    (Thanks for posting that link Marcus.)[/quote



    REPLY: Hello sciencefictionnut: I, Dr.Syntax had recently paid a plumber $ 6,OOO for maybe 40 hours of work. I was not there to watch him. The job dragged on for months because he was explaining to me why he had more pressing work that needed doing. This was for the work itself and a very few hundred dollars for some copper pipe and plastic drain pipe. He was a master plumber so I guess I was paying him $140.00 per hour. So, 6,000 times 56 = $336,000 a year. If he was getting paid by the others as much as he was charging me which I have my doubts about. So, why you were earning so little as a plumber I do not know. I doubt you were a master plumber, probably working as a helper, apprentice, something like that. But even so, that was not a good wage.
    Now , why would I mention dentists. Lets see: they charge by procedures, or something like that. The actual time spent working with a patient is not a factor. He did 3 extractions which took all of 20 minutes and cost me over $ 2,000 DOLLARS. This was a gift to a freind in real need of having this done. I understand they have considerable expenses such as insurance and such. But I walked out of there feeling like the fool I apparently am.
    I got paid about $ 200 a month actively fighting in the VIET NAM WAR as a Marine. Oh, and we got an extra $35 a month COMBAT PAY. Now that was about 4i,42,43, years ago, so there has been considerable inflation since that time.
    I WILL NEVER WORK FOR ANY COMPANY, CORPORATION, PERSON AGAIN AS LONG AS I LIVE. I will decide Most what I am to be paid for my services.
    I find my ways of making money and NO ONE will ever tell ME what I am worth again. Most of the people I do odd jobs for insist on tipping me above and beyond the agreed upon money. I am more of a dealer in real estate and antiques at this time than a man for hire of any sort. I see fit to do a good bit of service for free, valuable service few can do because I care about some people I meet and can provide the help they need. I already have enough and feel a desire to help some few I choose to. If that makes me an arrogant prick so be it. I do not see it that way and I am not in the habit of LYING TO MYSELF. I see myself for who I am and have much to be ashamed of.
    At least now, because I have some money I can be this way. That is THE WAY THIS WORLD IS. I DID NOT MAKE IT THIS WAY. I learned to adapt.
    Also,at 60 years old, the most beautiful woman to ever take a serious interest in me, and she is a real beauty at 20 and in her prime wants to be with me. I did not talk her into it, in fact I told her it was some foolish infatuation on HER part. Still,she chooses to be with me when she could have any young man she desires and still can, because I would not allow fot it otherwise. When she meets him I will be whatever she sees fit for me to be in her life. I have had many in some ways unusual arrangements with women. But this one is the very best by far. I am bragging and I admit it.
    I wake up each day and am so very glad I am alive with her here with me. Many times we just hold each other and cry our hearts out. It`s a PRIMAL RELATIONSHIP that goes beyond anything I have ever felt before in so many ways. It is not the usual young woman looking for her father. It is two soulmates who found each other and have this beautiful thing happening with each other.
    My feeling is to live it for as long as it lasts, and treasure it until I die. I am not the old fool you may fancy me as. She is a true beauty. For my age, I am still handsome, but that is it. My face is a good bit scarred up. My body has some very large and ugly scars along with little 2,3, and 4 inchers that go deep.
    Why do I say this ? I look at her and I look at me and I do cry. I want to be that young handsome man I once was, but no longer am. Why did I not meet her when I was her equal. How long can it last ? ...Dr.Syntax
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  20. #19  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    it is bad practice to compare a broad category of unrelated jobs(200+) like "scientist" to a precise job "plumber"


    There is also a difference between national average income, state average income, and local average income, for different jobs. It is based on the job marketplace dynamics, not the inherent income of a job(there is no such thing).
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    This has certainly drifted off topic, but here's my reply:

    I agree with you Marcus. Maybe it'd be better to compare "science" to "construction."

    Dr. Syntax:

    I'm actually fully licensed, (the equivalent of "master" in my state), but I work for a small, family-owned company as a journeyman. I can't say for sure, but I would guess your plumber really ripped you off. As for why I make so little, most of our work came from real estate companies (and a lot of that was on foreclosures, basically). They have taken it upon themselves to hire nonprofessionals this year, I guess as part of their plan to deal with the economy. That, and certain new rules have gone into effect that limit what the Realtors (who traditionally hired us) can and can't do on a foreclosed home. So the same guys who were mowing lawns and changing locks for these companies have now become "plumbers." Hiring nonprofessionals here comes with a five hundred dollar fine that almost nobody actually gets. The chief plumbing inspector basically told us to take a hike. What was a fairly successful company for thirty years turned into crap almost overnight... there were few warnings things would go this way.

    We're in the middle of a transition, I guess, and I'm too stupid to get a job elsewhere because the "family" that owns the company is my father and he's gotten too sick to work. To tell the truth, I was absolutely SHOCKED that's how little I made this year and I'll probably move on soon. Either that or I'll stay on and go to college since my work has basically become a part-time job that I'm surprised to say I can get by on. I've had several other jobs, but plumbing is what I always fell back on and that I made so little this year, I'm wondering if I couldn't apply for a pell grant or something like that.

    As for dentists, I hate my dentist. Even so, he doesn't charge me THAT much. My lord, man, where do you live??? I had three wisdoms pulled for about three hundred bucks a few months ago, including x-rays, and I thought he was ripping me off at that price (he WAS ripping me off when he charged me $700 for fillings that took less than an hour, but that's a different story). There are bound to be cheaper dentists in your area.

    But I guess the joke's on me, eh? I'm 27 and couldn't snag a 20 year old if my life depended on it. Congrats on that.
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    Deleted by Dr.Syntax, unhappy with some of what I said. D.S.
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  23. #22  
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    Syn: I didn't question whether the prices you or anyone else pay are true or accurate. What I questioned was whether those prices you or anyone else pay can be used to generalize about the prices anyone else pays somewhere else.



    Nut: Fillings cost a lot, not because they take a lot of time, but because of the materials they are made of, and the education required to be able to give fillings professionally.
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    I wanted to be a scientist from a very young age and even while studying for it, I never considered how much money I could make. Just enough to survive on would have been ok. When you really find something you have a strong passion for, then that is enough motivation. That intense pang of adrenaline when you discover something new is more than enough.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I wanted to be a scientist from a very young age and even while studying for it, I never considered how much money I could make. Just enough to survive on would have been ok. When you really find something you have a strong passion for, then that is enough motivation. That intense pang of adrenaline when you discover something new is more than enough.
    I agree. Perhaps the article should have been titled, "Don't Become a Scientist for the Wrong Reasons."
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Deleted because it seems a repeat of a former response. ...Dr.Syntax
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Syn: I didn't question whether the prices you or anyone else pay are true or accurate. What I questioned was whether those prices you or anyone else pay can be used to generalize about the prices anyone else pays somewhere else.



    Nut: Fillings cost a lot, not because they take a lot of time, but because of the materials they are made of, and the education required to be able to give fillings professionally.
    REPLY: Are you refering to me a s NUT now ? If so DICKHEAD, these were 3 extractions so there were no COSTS. It took less than 20 minutes. What is your problem with me. I have tried to treat you respectfully in the past. I won`t waste my time doing so anymore. And just how much do you think silver and mercury cost anyway. You don`t bother reading what I write, and have no idea of what metals cost. Not anywhere near what you apparently think. Boy, you really got a shitty attitude. ...DS
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr.syntax
    REPLY: Are you refering to me a s NUT now ? If so DICKHEAD, these were 3 extractions so there were no COSTS.
    Are you serious? Can you not see that Marcus was replying to ScienceFictionNut's post. He addressed you as Syn, short for Dr. Syntax and not a subtle hint he thought you to be sinful, and he called ScienceFictionNut, Nut. Do you go out of your way to look for trouble? It sure seems that way.
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    Maybe materials don't cost a lot, you are right in assuming I do not know how much they cost, but I also said that the education required to get to that point, that you can give fillings, does.

    Not everyone who works in dentist offices are licensed to do all dentistry, some can only do minor things like cleanings, while others can do the more intensive things like fillings, caps and root canals.

    Again, if you assume I am not an expert as to who can do what, you are correct. But I have observed, in my sporadic visits to the dentist that the younger employees do most of the work, while the older employees do the more technical things.

    Again, I am assuming that cleanings are less technical than fillings, I do not know, and do not claim to know. There is much I don't know, but this is not a reason to ignore my opinions, they are very useful when correct. So rather than ignore my opinions, and internalize them, I share them and put them to the test; if you think they are wrong, show me, so that I may be more informed.

    I didn't go into great detail, clearly, because I am not an expert on the subject. I even missed one of the most obvious financial burdens to any business, overhead. The materials and tools required for the operation are included in overhead, but so are things which I assume are more costly, like insurance, licenses, rent, taxes, payroll etc
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr.syntax
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Syn: I didn't question whether the prices you or anyone else pay are true or accurate. What I questioned was whether those prices you or anyone else pay can be used to generalize about the prices anyone else pays somewhere else.



    Nut: Fillings cost a lot, not because they take a lot of time, but because of the materials they are made of, and the education required to be able to give fillings professionally.
    REPLY: Are you refering to me a s NUT now ? If so DICKHEAD, [...] ...DS
    That will be about enough of that. Your account has been temporarily suspended until such time as someone with more than 100 posts appeals for reinstatement in the Site Feedback forum with a convincing argument. We'll let the members decide.
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    Back to the original topic...

    I think one problem for people that want to get into science is the unrealistic idea (thanks to Hollywood) of what it's like to do science. I guess false expectations can always be a heartbreaker.
    "... the polhode rolls without slipping on the herpolhode lying in the invariable plane."
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  32. #31  
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    there have always been idealists and story tellers, with or without the big screen
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
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  33. #32  
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    I think it depends on how devoted you are to science and smart you are...my Uni offers an $18,000/year stipend to grad students who make good grades...after grad school..who knows? No matter what you'll always possess the knowledge of whatever field you're interested in and you'll always have the opportunity to tutor high school kids and college students and have stimulating conversations with other smart people...hell, some might even be cute chicks with a thing for nerds who live with their parents and can't afford their own groceries..
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