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Career dilemma

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:50 pm
by Aditi C.
Hi Everyone,

Am a research tech in Canada with undergraduate in Chemical Engineering and Masters' in Biochemistry. During my undergrad years, I became interested in acquiring lab skills to perform research in fields related to human disease and stem cells. Hence the degree in biochemistry which was thesis based and I graduated with a first author publication in a 3.0 impact journal (2 years worth of work).

I continued to pursue the same field and improved my skills by taking up a job as research tech in a lab. Recently joined a new lab and would be starting my PhD the fall this year.
While I took 3 years of my time post Masters' to get some work experience and decide whether I actually want to pursue a PhD in the same field, I find myself in dilemma now.

The reason for pursuing PhD is solely to get the training to improve my critical thinking. While working as a research tech provides "hands on" experience, I was left wanting to train and improve my critical thinking and independently approaching and diagnosing a problem.

The reason for dilemma is I do not want to pursue a career in academics. I love teaching and I do not mind imparting knowledge to others but I do not see myself being a PI and running a lab. I like research but then again, I do not see myself doing indepth research for the next 35+ years of my professional career. Considering the above two points, I wonder if I should put in 6+ years to pursue my PhD. But thinking about the invaluable training that one can get in PhD, makes me want to go for it.

I am interested in being involved in health policy, regulation and management and quite honestly I love to expand my knowledge and skills in science. So, my question is, considering I like to do multiple things and interested in acquiring a range of skill set, should I still go ahead and pursue PhD in Biochemistry and enrich my thinking ability and hand skills, while pursuing something parallely in health policy. Or should I simply opt for degrees pertaining to Health policy and regulation and broaden my knowledge in science while making use of the research base I have so far.

I find myself at crossroads now and would appreciate any suggestions and advice from this forum. I am also open to other career recommendations.

Thank you for the patience read.

Sincerely,
Aditi

Re: Career dilemma

PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:11 am
by D.X.
Hi Aditi,

Your stated reason to do a PhD is to improve your critical thinking skills. This is contextualized within the Frame of your "Hands-on" technician experience where perhaps you're more the executer than experiement designer/Project owner. You also stated non-interest in academic Research careers.

With your specific Situation, I'll be really blunt with you. You do NOT Need to spend 5+ years to get a Phd with the belief that you'll be so much better at critical thinking. First, that may apply to the granularities of dissecting a scientific paper, and planning your own Projects withing the practice of scientific Exploration. But as you're looking to not be in Hands on Research...then I say..seriously? really? seriously? 5 years for a PhD? combined with your experience and already attained degree. That, is bluntly put, not the most well thought out plan.

I recommend you try to get to the path you want now with the experience and formal eduction you aready have today. Remember that's the whole purpose of college degrees right? You should arleady have the critical thinking skills sufficient for the stated paths you want to explore. 5 years doing a PhD will only give you incremental, if any, increase in Global critical thinking skills, that in your case would be narrowed and you'll still end up in a spot where you will have to rationalize how that even more narrowed set of critical thinking skills as applied to Basic science Research will be translatable and portable. All that 5 or more years from now, when you can do this today.

As for having a PhD - with your experience so far, don't waste your time. As mentioned for other cases, like MBAs, and other degrees, you come out 5 years later with zip, or Zero as applied to the direction you want to go today. Not haveing the PhD will not be barrier for Progression later, provided you are open minded, strategic, thoughful and attentive to your career trajectory, contextualized with your then evolving experience.

Hope you've gotten the advice you were seeking. Had you said you were interested in the pursuit of deep scientific understanding with Goal to Research mechnisim of disease and added objective of making a contribution to knowledge, with acknowledgement that you would subsequently pursue a careers applying your scientific Training to other Areas, the conversation and advice I would have given you would be different.

However, do your Exploration first, assess if within those Areas what the requirements and profiles are - be targeted and narrow down to specific Jobs you would be interested within your the fields. Try to get in the door, then if you find you Need additioanl formal education and Training, do it after you have some experience and can be targeted with that additional educational pursuit.


all the best,


DX

Re: Career dilemma

PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:22 am
by PG
In line with what DX already said. Try to find someone working with the type of questions that you are interested in. Set up a meeting with them and discuss how they got to the point where they are today and which path the would recommend you to take. If you are being told by more than one person that a certain training is an absolute requirement go for it, otherwise try to find a position that is as Close to what your long term goal is as possible. The 5-6 years that you would have spent pursuing a PhD can give you a lot of actual work experience in an area that will at least allow you to move towards your dream job in a future step.

Before pursuing a PhD you should be really sure that this is really what you want to do. It requires commitment, a lot of time (often at least 5 years), is often followed by a postdoc (probably at least another 2 years) etc. It is a big commitment and you need to be sure that this is the path that you want to go. From your post I dont get the impression that this is true for you in your current situation.

Re: Career dilemma

PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:30 pm
by WG
You don't need a PhD. You already have a Masters and experience working as a research tech. You state your interests as "health policy, regulation, and management", these are are areas you can investigate through informational interviewing. You need to find out how to get into these kinds of jobs, what skills they look for etc. There are resources on how to do informational interviews on this site. There are also numerous career guides geared towards people with graduate degrees online. If I were you I would either withdraw or defer the admission to the PhD program in the Fall. Take the time to explore other options. A PhD will take you out of the workforce for an extended period of time and this does not make sense if you have no intention to pursue in-depth research for the rest of your career.

Re: Career dilemma

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:50 pm
by Aditi C.
Thank you all for taking the time and replying back. Will act upon the advises.