So you want to go to grad school-Step One: Is grad school even right for me?

I thought it would be nice to give out some advice about the whole applying to grad school process since I really didn’t have any given to me when I under went this process. Trust me, it would have been nice to get some advice. The advice I will give pertains to applying to a biology program, since that is the one I am most familiar with. Today’s post, do you even really need to go to grad school?

First, you really need to consider if going to graduate school is something that you have to do for your future career goals. Most people who go to grad school go because they love science and research is fun. They think, “Oh yeah, being a professor will probably be cool.” However, they rarely realize what being a professor is all about. First, most of your time will actually be spent in an office writing grants to beg from money from various scientific agencies. Related to this, you will also have to agonize over the budget of your lab and gain some accounting skills. You will have to teach, usually one large undergraduate class one semester, and probably a small graduate student seminar the other semester. You will help to design and supervise the research of any students working in your lab. No, you don’t get to do the fun research yourself (at least not the majority of it anyway). Does this sound like something you want to do?

Another option, which is one that I am leaning towards, is going to a smaller teaching college where teaching is your number one priority. You still need to get a PhD, but the begging for money part isn’t has much of a big deal as it is at larger universities.

Other jobs to consider are working for government agencies, non-profits, or private industries. Some of these jobs require PhDs, some require masters, some require just some specialized undergraduate courses.

So, sit down and ask yourself what do you really want to do with that biology degree of yours. A masters degree is going to be a 2-3 year commitment. A PhD requires anywhere from 5-7 years of school. Additionally, if you want to take the professor path mentioned above, you will also have to do a post-doc, which can last who knows how long because you usually do one, or two, or three, until you get a job (I’m serious). So, don’t just go to grad school because you have nothing else to do with yourself. Figure out what you need to do to achieve your desired career path and make life easier on yourself. If you only need a masters, than get that masters and get to work making some real money. Considering grad school and have questions about this particular topic? Post them and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Next time, choosing the right university for grad school.

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2 thoughts on “So you want to go to grad school-Step One: Is grad school even right for me?

  1. I want to add a good choice that I wish I had known about: find a job as a lab tech for a couple years. Some of the most successful scientists I know actually served as techs before going to graduate school. First, you will gain valuable skills that will not only be useful but will look good on your resume. Second, you will get to see the ins and outs of graduate school (especially if you have at least one graduate student and post-doc in your lab), which will help you learn what is important to you when it comes to deciding whether you want to go or not.

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