For most graduate students in physics, a research focused career ranks more attractive than teaching, government work, or science outreach and writing. Most PhD physicists, however, will never attain a tenure-track position at a university. Upon entering graduate school, many students realize that the odds are against them, but they push forward regardless.
[Sigh] Another story on grad school. This idea that it isn’t until one enters graduate school that one is clued in that most PhD physicists don’t go on to become research professors is a curious one; I think that physics undergraduates are more capable at math than that.
I suspect that the reason a research career becomes less attractive as one goes through school is that one learns some of the details of what research entails. The number of hours, the bureaucracy, the amount of time the professor is doing things other than actual research — the things you only get to see close-up. This is actually mentioned in the study; they also mention that they asked the students to not consider the availability of jobs when assessing the desirability.