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M.A. Biotechnology Question

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M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Tom » Sat Feb 12, 2005 6:48 pm

John G. Hoey:

You previously stated that a Master's degree in Biotechnology aren't very worthwhile and ambigious to employers. However, what if it is coming from an ivy league university? Will the ivy league label catch the eye of someone from HR over the fact that it is a biotechnology degree?
Tom
 

M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Feb 13, 2005 2:57 pm

I am sure that John will respond to this. He is very active here. (Tom, please don't duplicate posts here that you put up on other forums).

My concern is that "Biotechnology" degrees prove to be about half as effective at getting jobs as "standard life sciences degrees." You can fight your way through the job market, telling everyone who will listen what your degree was and what it is all about, or you can go for something that they are used to hiring.

Basically, the same issues arise no matter the "class" of the school. The term "Biotechnology" means absolutely nothing to employers on its own, and has to be described in clear detail. An H/R person screening for a BS or MS level biochemist is not going to react to a Biotechnology degree for her hiring-manager client. You won't get passed along. Will this change in the future? Probably, yes -- if any one program gets marketed to employers in such a way that managers learn something about what that program teaches.

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M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby John G. Hoey, Ph.D. » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:47 am

Hi Tom:

I think Dave's comments pretty much say it all. As I suggested in a previous post regarding this very same question, such a degree defies explanation.....for the HR people as well as the scientist who is doing the hiring. Many resumes fail to get a second look because the job seeker overlooks his/her obligation to justify why he/she deserves consideration above the hundreds of resumes competing for the same job. Contrary to what many job seekers think, it is NOT the job of the HR person, hiring manager, or recruiter to decipher an applicant's skill set. This phenomenon is not necessarily unique to those with "biotechnology" degrees. However, at least when someone calls themselves a "molecular Biologist", most people have at least some clue as to the type of scientist they are dealing with.
My advice to every single job applicant is to take the time to better define your skill set. If you cannot adequetely address what types of skills/experience your particular degree conferred upon you in the 4,5,or 6 years of graduate education, it will be virtually impossible to make it past even the first round of selection. You've worked hard for your degree; don't shoot yourself in the foot by expecting others to automatically extract the relevant info. from your resume. They neither have the time nor desire to help your cause this way.

John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
 

M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Tom » Mon Feb 14, 2005 11:18 pm

Dave and John,

Thanks for your advice. I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying. So, having a Master's in "Biotechnology" is ambigious to HR and the employer. However, if I write up my CV so it is clearly defined that I have a specific skill set/technical ability then I would be more marketable despite my biotech degree?

The main reason I am going for the biotech degree is b/c 1) my employer is willing to defray the costs for the degree and 2) it is the only program that I can do part-time in my area. Other programs have lab courses which I can't do part-time b/c it conflicts with my work schedule. Also, the biotech program offers me the chance to do a thesis project, which I hope to expand to two years (as opposed to the typical 2 months). I've been talking to my PI and I hope to have the opportunity to do a knockout mouse project, which I hope will be a marketable technical skill.

Tom
 

M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Jim » Tue Feb 15, 2005 5:08 pm

John, this leads to comments made before on this site, about listing classes.

I've seen a thread started not to long ago discussing the merits or lack of them when listing a set of pertinent completed courses on one's C.V. Personally, I support this notion as it gives HR reps another search phrase for their search engines or eyes to notice when sifting through the mound of resumes. Sure, it breaks with tradition; but, what is the goal? To get noticed. To delineate one's abilities from others in order to be called in for an interview. Grant it, I am at the lowly B.Sc. level; but, it appears to have some demonstrated value when MOST employers are USUALLY looking for candidates that already have experience with a technique or concept. Not the ability to master it quickly or learn it on the job.

Best to all.
Jim
 

M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby John G. Hoey, Ph.D. » Tue Feb 15, 2005 5:59 pm

Tom:

Although I wouldn't imagine that opting to list some relevant courses on your resume would do any harm, I also would not put too much hope in this boosting your chances of getting noticed. My advice is that you spend some time really thinking about the type of research you want to do, then find a lab that is employing the instrumentation/experimental approach that will benefit you. Find a way to break into that lab.....as a research associate, dishwasher, technician, etc., and use this the way to "get noticed". We all know what is implied by "coursework".....do some studying, take some tests; so what! Yes, you will obviously have an advantage over a person who did not take that course, assuming such a class is relevant to what the hiring manager is looking for. Nothing however will replace actual hands-on experience with a piece of instrumentation or exposure to the scientific process you will get by getting into a laboratory setting.
By the way, if the PI says "no" to your request the first (or second, or even third) time, try again. I know I've told the story before of how, as an undergrad, I wanted desperately to work in the lab of the prof. who was teaching the cell biol. class. He turned me down three times before finally telling me that asking 3x was the requirement. Most (none up to that point) people never went beyond 2x. I went on to work in his lab for M.A. and Ph.D work....something that worked to the mutual benefit of us and the students who subsequently passed through his lab. Persistence, Persistence, Persistence! Take charge of your own career; it will be obvious to anyone looking at your cv that you took the initiative; THIS is the type of thing that makes one cv stand out over another. Start thinking beyond the classroom. Prospective employers want to know what you will do for them immediately; in most cases, they have no real concerns on whether you're a good test taker or whether you took such and such class.

John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
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M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Feb 15, 2005 6:12 pm

Tom,

Your employer will reimburse you for it? Then why not get the answers you need about the "value" of the Masters by asking the employer what this puts you in line for? Are you going to get a promotion when you finish, because of your Masters in Biotechnology? Or, are you just going to be in the same position despite the fact that you had the additional training. I wonder if your company is like so many others that "lump" together the BS and MA/MS level positions in their company? If that is the case, the time spent on that degree may not add much to your value at your current employer.

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M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Jim » Thu Feb 17, 2005 3:39 pm

Dave, your last comment really hits home, "Then why not get the answers you need about the "value" of the Masters by asking the employer what this puts you in line for? Are you going to get a promotion when you finish, because of your Masters in Biotechnology? Or, are you just going to be in the same position despite the fact that you had the additional training."

I'll submit for most people in the private sector that promotions also imply more income. It's refreshing to hear that others are concerned about the correlation between sacrafices off the clock and how they equate to increased income.
Jim
 

M.A. Biotechnology Question

Postby Tom » Thu Feb 17, 2005 11:28 pm

Dave,

I don't work in industry, I work at a private cancer research institute that is academically oriented (funded by private donors such as the Rockefellers, NIH, pharmaceutical companies). We are reimbursed for our education with some stipulations. Theoretically I can get a degree in anything as long as it is a degree that is related to my line of work or helps me to enter into another position in my institute (e.g. getting a MIS degree working in the IT dept). Of course, you can always get the degree and go off to work somewhere else.

Yes, getting an MS will bring me up the salary scale. I've decided to pursue the MS as a last ditch effort to see how much I love the basic sciences. If I discover in the end I really don't love it I was thinking of going into clinical research by laterally moving into a CRA position at my institute for experience. Perhaps the institute will pay me part-time to get a BSN as well. Then head into clinical research in industry? At the moment downstream just seems like the best option to me.
Tom
 

I've done this.....

Postby Jen » Wed Feb 23, 2005 11:30 am

Hi Tom,
I have completed a Masters in Biotechnology at an Ivy leage University. So far it has resulted in nothing. I have applied to tons of jobs, but everything that has been said on this forum is absolutely correct. Even though the degree is impressive, employers seem to be more interested in relevant experience. At one interview I've had it was suggested to me that I list the courses I took to 'explain' the degree to hiring managers. The problem with this degrees is that they seem to be too vague and there isn't a chance for thesis or publications that come with a traditional masters. I have also tried to break into clinical research with no luck. They have no use for a degree in Biotech. Hope this helps. Good luck.
Jen
 
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