Read Amy's post about jobs and started writing this as a comment, but it got long enough to be it's own full post:
Yeah, I've been thinking about this a little bit too. My major problem in the past was just wondering what the heck I would do with a physics degree. I eventually decided my dream job was probably to work at a big government research lab like my mom does. And I guess that would be cool, since the pay is good and there is much better job stability than in some other positions. But I don't really know if I'd like always doing someone else's ideas. I kind of want to be able to do my own thing and think creatively.
Sadly though there isn't a lot of room for that in physics, seeing as most of the major things like gravity have already been explained. I thought my only avenue would be particle or quantum physics, something like working at the LHC. I would also love to work there at some point, but I kind of feel like quantum might not really be up my alley. . . although I'll find out later if it really is after Physics III.
Then I sort of realized that astronomy still has a lot of room for exploration. Add that to the fact that I've been exposed to that my entire life from my dad being an amateur astronomer and actually enjoy it, and it seems pretty good. Although I'd be afraid of ending up just working at a science museum observatory or something and not getting to do any real research. Also astronomy doesn't really seem that lucrative.
The other option would to just be a professor. Which before I thought I would absolutely hate, but after tutoring this girl a bit for her math final, I found out maybe I would actually like it. I found tutoring to sometimes be exhausting, but at other times be so blissfully rewarding I went around the rest of my day happy enough that my parents thought I must be high.
Professorship doesn't really pay well at first, but if you stick around long enough for tenure it's pretty damn good. And in addition to teaching you get to do your own research, and with the resources of a good university you can do some pretty amazing things. Tenure also gives you wayyy more job stability than basically anything else. And there are universities all over the country so the option of moving around due to the job of a spouse or whatever other reason is also available.
It also seems that universities do a lot of the leading research in any field, and professors are often the ones who get mentioned in new articles for discovering this or that. And also get interviewed in various things. Another dream of mine is to some day explain some really neat physics thing on NPR.
Yeah. So I guess the conclusion of my rant is that I've finally found a direction to go in, while poor Amy has just gone afloat. So after having been there for quite a long time myself, my advice to you is just to think about it. Also definitely talk to people. It doesn't matter if they are professors or even someone in your major (though this probably would help in your particular situation. . . but I've actually never talked to profs about this. . . goal for next year?) It just matters that they have a different point of view. Something they say, even if it's something really small and in passing, could just trigger whatever it is you need to think of something new.
Yeah that was kind of preachy I guess, but I didn't really mean it that way.
-sigh- We all have a long road to go down and are only just beginning. Also I'm guessing that after next semester all of what I said here will be completely reevaluated. Hooray! DX