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Career advice

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Career advice

Postby Brad S. » Fri Jul 08, 2016 2:09 pm

I'm almost 30, and I have about 54 credits at my Community College. I was an Audi Tech for most of my twenties before i decided to go back to college.
I'm getting ready to transfer and trying to figure out what college to go to. But that really depends on what field of study I want to go into.

I'm currently debating between Physics, Chemistry and Biology, but am very open. All science interests me and i would do it all if i had the time. So the whole "do what you like" thing, is not applicable. I do not want to do anything related mechanical "things", machines, cars, planes, etc. I've done it enough.

What field of study I go into depends on a couple of things.

(In no particular order)
1. My end goal in life is to discover something previously unknown about the universe. How important that discovery is, is a bit secondary. i just want to discover something. I want to be able to go through the scientific method and experiment.
2. length of time at college.
I'm almost thirty, married and would like to have a family someday. My wife is about the same age, so time is an issue. We didn't want to start having kids until we were done with college.
3. Salary.
I'm not greedy but i love to travel and there are a million hobbies i am into that aren't cheep. As well, looking forward i can see at least 3 out of my 4 parents/in-laws are not saving for retirement and will be dependent on us someday, to some degree. I've spent my life worrying about gas, food and not being able to travel... I'm over it.
4. Job availability.

Thank you in advance.
Brad S.
 
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Re: Career advice

Postby RSD » Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:56 am

Brad,

Hopefully more people will share their experience and expertise, but I'll give you my thoughts (as a PhD in immunology).

1. If you want to do real discovery research in either academia or biotech, and be the one deciding the direction of your research projects, a PhD is a must. Typically a BS biology can get you more of a research technician/research associate role which often puts you very "hands on" in the lab, but a bit removed from the scientific decision making. Things may be different in physics or chemistry.

2. The time commitment for a PhD is probably more than you want to take on at 5+ years, with additional postdoctoral training after that.

3. With that said, if I could go back and re-do my undergraduate and graduate studies, the two areas that I would have put more emphasis on are 1) computer science/programming and 2) business. There is a huge need for scientifically literate people who can also write code and program algorithms for analysis of large and complex data sets. Everything is business, so a background in business could also help open doors into scientific marketing, etc.

If you have the interest and the aptitude, I would consider combining or supplementing your science degree with computer science.

One other thing to consider is geographic location. Biotech jobs are everywhere, but a few hub cities (Boston, San Fran., San Diego, etc.) have most of the jobs and big companies. You may be able to make a good biotech career in Cleveland, but it will be a lot easier in a place like Boston. Make sure you can find the work you want in a place you want to live. Good luck!
RSD
 
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Re: Career advice

Postby E.K.L. » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:33 am

RSD wrote:
1. If you want to do real discovery research in either academia or biotech, and be the one deciding the direction of your research projects, a PhD is a must. Typically a BS biology can get you more of a research technician/research associate role which often puts you very "hands on" in the lab, but a bit removed from the scientific decision making. Things may be different in physics or chemistry.


I think you only need a PhD (even in life sciences) if you want to go the traditional route of PhD to postdoc to tenured professor. But if your only goal is to work in "frontline R&D", then there are many ways to approach that, not all of which require a PhD. An example would be aerospace research (e.g. NASA if you are US-based). I think there is a lot of scientific discoveries to be made there, considering the age of space exploration is just starting. It's a combined effort of scientists, engineers, IT people etc. So a PhD might not be necessary.

To be honest, even though the OP stated that he doesn't want want to work with "anything related mechanical "things", machines, cars, planes, etc.", I think building up upon his previous work experience would be the easiest (and shortest) path to get into research. Even life sciences are very dependent on tech nowadays.
E.K.L.
 
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Re: Career advice

Postby Steven Z. » Tue Jul 12, 2016 8:33 am

Pure science has a very poor time/tuition commitment to return on investment ratio. You will probably end up worse off than remaining and Audi tech. I agree the best option is probably either some combination or computers or engineering and science.
Steven Z.
 
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Re: Career advice

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:31 am

I'm going to suggest you also consider something like chemical engineering.

1. You will be using a lot of physics and chemistry, and if you pick the right program you can also do a lot of biology. While you will have to understand what's going on inside some mechanical "things", you focus will be on what's going on inside of them.

2. Chemical engineering research overlaps quite a bit with chemistry research, and, to a lesser extent, biology research. And, if you accept the idea that development is also a form of discovery, in many ways you broaden your opportunities to 'discover' something.

3. At the undergrad level, there's not going to be a lot of difference between 'science' and 'engineering' in terms of how long it's going to take to get your degree. However, the Bachelor's degree is a perfectly fine terminal degree in engineering. In science, very often if you want to be more than just a technician you need to go on for the doctorate.

4. While I don't advise anyone to go into engineering because of the money (it's too much hard work if you don't enjoy it), chemical engineering salaries are generally pretty good.

5. Engineering jobs are not immune to fluctuations in the economy, but there are usually more opportunities here than in the hard sciences. Furthermore, you generally have more options for advancement.

One caveat, however - but this applies to any field. When you choose your field, you are also to a large extent choosing where you will live. Like the life sciences, where you have 'hubs' in Boston and San Francisco, you will have 'hubs' where there are a lot of chemical engineering opportunities. These aren't the only places where you can get a job, but they are 'target rich' environments.
Rich Lemert
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