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Feeling overwhelmed by Grad School options

confusedbiogradconfusedbiograd Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited August 8 in Graduate School
Hi all,

I used this website several years ago when working through the college application process, and it was extremely useful. I'm now at a point where I need to figure out my graduate school plans (or lack of plans), so I thought I would revisit this site for some advice.

Just as some background, I'm a recent graduate from a Cell Biology program at a top 30 school. I was in the pre-med/pre-med health but eventually decided against that career. Unfortunately, after two summers in volunteering in a research lab, I realized that I really can't stand lab work, either, so I'm also avoiding that path (intellectually I like it, but the day-to-day of the job was really unpleasant for me). Now I feel stranded with this degree and am not sure how I'm going to turn it into an exciting and lucrative career, so I've been looking at masters programs that could either get me started in a new field or help merge biology with my other interests (comp sci, geography, and linguistics, to name a few). However, I just feel overwhelmed by all of the options.

Even though I decided to wait to apply until my gap year so that I could "figure things out", I STILL don't feel like I know what I'm doing. I'm the type of person that loves learning and has very broad interests, so I've found so many programs and career paths that look interesting (bioinformatics, public health, science writing, data science). I am having a hard time figuring out which programs are legitimate ways to advance my career, and which programs are just money grabs. For example, I was seeing online masters programs that had the "name brand" of schools like Johns Hopkins, but they seem like a completely different level of rigor and prestige than I would expect. On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen programs that look perfect, but that are offered at schools that aren't top tier, and I worry about what impact that might make.

I got straight A's in undergrad and have 170V/168Q on GRE, but my experience is lacking and my rec letters will be more of the "she did great in my class" variety.

I know this is a bit more of a rant than an actual question, but I could use help. I don't have a family background in graduate school and don't really know how all this works. Are merit scholarships possible/common in MS programs for someone with my academic background? Are there any particular masters that I should look into or avoid given my background and interests? How important is the "tier" of the school? Did anyone else out there graduate similarly lost as me, and how did you end up in your eventual career?

This ended up way longer than I expected, so thank you so much reading and for any advice you can give.

Replies to: Feeling overwhelmed by Grad School options

  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek Registered User Posts: 4,311 Senior Member
    I have a family member who attended JHU's masters in public health program (physically, not online). She has a good career working in hospitals compiling/presenting data on various research projects, writing grant proposals, restructuring organizations, etc.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 28,434 Senior Member
    You might not need a grad degree at all, or at least not for a few more years. Give yourself some more time to think about this.

    Do you have a paying job now, or are you mostly just hanging out during this gap year? If you are working, what do you like and not like about your job? Are there any pathways for promotion in that organization?

    Do you specifically want to apply what you learned in your major in the workplace?

    Have you any interest in management? There is a crying need for managers in the biotech industry who are good at communicating with both the people on the lab teams and with the business folks who are trying to make a profit out of the company.

    You don't like lab work. How do you feel about equipment repair/sales?
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,572 Forum Champion
    @confusedbiograd - Welcome to the Forum! The answers above are all excellent and taking a year off to work and consider your alternatives is a good idea. You mentioned data science/analytics. That is a good area for a science major and you might be able to land a job in that field right away, then follow up with a Masters program if you decide you need more training to make a career out of it.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    I agree with the above. It doesn't sound like you are ready to pursue graduate school just yet. That's not a negative thing, and I don't mean academically or maturity-wise - I mean just in terms of knowing what you want to do. Graduate school is really a for getting a credential you need to embark on a specific career; you shouldn't yet go to graduate school if you don't know what career you want to pursue (and therefore what master's program you should attend). Figure that out before you start spending thousands of dollars :)

    The thing is, majors in many fields can find jobs across a lot of fields - don't limit yourself to thinking of just jobs that are related to biology (biotechnology, bioinformatics, public health, etc.) You may find work in education or technology or construction or social services, or any of a wide variety of things.
  • geraniolgeraniol Registered User Posts: 125 Junior Member
    Does your college give you access to alumni career services? If there are particular careers you're curious about, they can sometimes hook you up with alumni contacts and you can set up informational interviews to explore in greater depth what these careers entail and the route to entry. Otherwise, work your networks through LinkedIn or friends/family.

    A lot of people like sharing about their careers when asked. Just do your homework first and ask the questions that you need to have answered in order for you to decide whether or not it's something you see yourself doing. You need to have a clear idea of the information you want out of the interview - it's not just sitting down for a chat. Don't waste their time, communicate clearly and purposefully, and send a nice thank you email after.

    For me, by doing informational interviews, I really got a clear sense of whether or not a certain career path actually appealed to me, or if it was just the 'idea' of that career path that was attractive.
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