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MDD123
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08 Jun 2011, 4:47 am

So while I'm studying the math involved in Electrical Engineering, I realized that I should have a failsafe in case I can't handle the subject matter and I was wondering how worth-while the biological sciences were. Would getting a degree in say "Microbiology" lead to a career or would it just be another piece of paper? What about Chemistry? Does anyone here have any experience in these fields?



CindyDale
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08 Jun 2011, 6:43 am

Go to Indeed dot com and do a search for these terms:

BS chemistry
bachelor's chemistry
BS microbiology
bachelor's microbiology

That will give you an idea of the current job openings in those fields.

You can also add a geographic area to your search if you want to stay in a certain area and add the words "entry level" to try to sort out which might take new grads.

That should give you some idea of what's out there. These fields look pretty good to me, but I'm sure it depends on your geographic location if you want to live in a certain area.

You also want to be sure you have the fine motor skills, vision skills, etc. to work in a lab. You should be able to decide that if you take a course.

Please keep us updated. I am a career services professional and very interested in hearing people's career exploration stories.



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09 Jun 2011, 6:36 pm

Getting a bachelor's degree in microbiology can certainly lead to a career if you want to go that far. You'll have the flexibility to go into research (technician-level positions) or work in more applied areas of the food, medical and other biological industries. Your work can be with private companies, hospitals, or government agencies. At the undergraduate level, there tends to be a lot of overlap in the curricula for microbiology, compared to other biomedical fields such as biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics. Consequently you can typically apply for many mol bio positions with a degree in microbiology. This is great if you are looking for a little bit of job flexibility, which is important in this crappy economy. Microbiology can also be a good stepping stone if you may eventually pursue medical school.

Way back when, I got my bachelor's degrees in both Chemistry and Genetics. I liked both majors and there was a lot of overlap in course requirements anyway, so I just went with the double major. Anyway, I worked as a molecular biology research assistant in a professor's lab during my last two years in school, then got a technician-level research and development (R&D) job at a biotech company. Other people with similar educational backgrounds at the company were doing quality control (QC) work, or migrated into Sales and Marketing. I myself eventually felt that getting an advanced degree would help me undertake greater responsibility in the workplace, so after several years of R&D, I went back to school to get a doctorate in Genetics. Nowadays I feel myself leaning more towards science education and teaching rather than doing research in industry, so I'm in the middle of transitioning to the community college/liberal arts college teaching circuit now.

Do you happen to know how interested you might be in the biomedical sciences? As far as I know Electrical Engineering programs often require an introductory general chemistry course, so you'll have some introduction to chemistry, but if you have no prior experience in bio, it might be good to take one class in it and see if it's to your liking.


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MDD123
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10 Jun 2011, 4:15 am

Hey Stinkypuppy, it's good to hear from you again. At the moment, I'm at the end of a nursing program and I've reached the conclusion that the field isn't for me at all. While I haven't taken a biology class, I've been exposed to several related subjects (microbiology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology) all without the labs or the instructors. I'm not enough of a people person to be in the medical field, and it's been over 10 years since I've done any kind of math. I remember being a slow but effective learner, right now I'm refreshing my algebra skills and getting ready for more advanced math. My thinking is if I'm truly not mathmatically inclined enough to even study electrical engineering, I would still want to stick with one of the objective sciences.

I really appreciate your input, it's nice to see how a field of study actually works for other people. If you weren't applying your knowledge towards teaching people, what kind of work would you be doing now? The last semester I was in college, I enjoyed learning and found the staff helpful in comprehending the course material, how useful have educators been to you in the fields of Chemistry and Genetics?

Thanks for the site reference CindyDale, that gave me some perspective on how each degree would translate to the real world. How relevant is the information on BLS.org? I have a career story on being a fast-food cook and a medic, I think the bottom line is that I don't like customer service in any of it's forms lol.



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10 Jun 2011, 4:33 pm

Great to hear from you as always, MDD123. I hope this past year or so has treated you kindly! If you might be interested in getting some first-hand experience in microbiology, a microbiology lab class could be a helpful way to start out. These classes are available at many community colleges, and can introduce you to some actual practical methods such as preparing cultures of microorganisms, preparing and visualizing microscope slides of the bugs, and separating and identifying mixtures of bugs. With a nursing educational background, you'd have a very good head start in the class. While I was working in R&D, I took such a class for giggles and found it fun and interesting. Plus being a California resident student at the time, the tuition was very cheap. Lab classes in general can help introduce you to the actual scientific procedures (and particularly how long they take!) that you'd do on a day-to-day basis if you went down that career path, so they'll provide a perhaps clearer and more realistic perspective than sheer lecture or book studying can provide.

Interestingly enough, while both chemistry and biomedical science majors typically require at least calculus-level math proficiency, in everyday use calculus is rarely used in biomedical benchwork. High-level math is probably more useful if you were to do mathematical or statistical modeling, but in my experience most biomedical researchers would resort to collaborating with an actual mathematician or statistician or computer programmer anyway. My dissertation research didn't require any modeling, so the the highest-level math I used at work was probably basic algebra, mostly involving making liquid solutions or scaling up procedures. In the event that you are not very mathematically inclined, rest assured that the biomedical sciences will grant some forgiveness in that regard, that the more physical science-oriented careers (e.g. chemistry or engineering) might not provide.

It's great that you're willing to take a risk to venture out into a new field, once you found out that the old field did not turn out as you had once hoped. It takes some serious balls to be a career switcher voluntarily. I myself love to dabble in a lot of different things, and see what grabs my attention. In times when I am not actively teaching, I'm often taking other classes and dabbling in yet more things. For example the past couple of quarters I took accounting and financial management classes at the local community college here, to help broaden my existing skillset, become more aware of the business side of my work (in education and in industry), and also for general interest. Alternatively I suppose that I could do research as a postdoctoral fellow, or in industry working in R&D or QC or some other department. With the economy there is a lot of competition at the moment, unfortunately.

As for the usefulness of educators, your mileage will be heavily dependent on where you decide to pursue your schooling. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are from giant research institutions, and from my own observations as a student and as a teaching assistant, a disconcertingly large percentage of biomedical professors at such universities don't teach well at all, nor do they care much about how well they teach. They are mostly there to conduct research and gain fame for their department and university (let alone themselves), and neither their tenure applications nor grant proposals get chucked in the garbage can if their teaching sucks. The high student-to-teacher ratio also makes getting educator attention very competitive and difficult. On the other hand a wide range of undergraduate research opportunities at these universities abound, and although I hate to say it, having a degree from a renowned institution opens many career doors. So as an undergraduate student, I didn't really find my professors to be very helpful at all, and competing against all the pre-meds in a sink-or-swim environment certainly worsened that. I was much more of a timid person back then too, so I probably didn't take full advantage of the resources available at the university at the time. However once I started working in a professor's research lab, I got more of the one-on-one personal attention that I needed to make it through the Genetics major.

In contrast, what I love now about the community colleges and liberal arts schools is the sense that the instructors seem to care more about their students' education. Student-to-teacher ratios are a lot lower, and instructors are vastly more responsive and helpful about providing individualized attention and feedback. I kind of feel like these schools are also more geared towards preparing the student for industry and the workplace, whereas the research institutions tend to groom (or perhaps more disparagingly, inbreed) students into careers in research institutions, but the usefulness of this depends on what you end up doing after you graduate. At least there's always the option of starting out at a community college and then transferring to a 4-year school.

I'm sorry to present so much information, but hopefully some of it will be useful!


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styphon
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10 Jun 2011, 8:47 pm

I had a bachelors in molecular biology and did not find it useful.

You are competing for a very limited set of jobs against people who are usually much more qualified than you. If you are in a university or hospital setting there is very little room for advancement. Fact is you will never be a PI(head of a research lab) with a BS. You will never advance out of the hospital labs with a micro BS as most of the hospital hierarchy (except administration) is based on level of degree.

In short: I had to compete with people with 10+ years of experience for jobs paying 20-30,000 a year! Drug companies would never want to hire you permanent and would only offer 3, 6, or 12 month contracts with no guarantee of continuing employment.


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11 Jun 2011, 8:17 am

MDD123 wrote:
Thanks for the site reference CindyDale, that gave me some perspective on how each degree would translate to the real world. How relevant is the information on BLS? I have a career story on being a fast-food cook and a medic, I think the bottom line is that I don't like customer service in any of it's forms lol.


I think the DOL data should be useful, but I would not rely on that alone. Sometimes I do research supporting vocational rehabilitation cases, and we are required to supply actual positions that the client could fill with training before the state will invest in the training. I think this requirement came about because sometimes the job markets change very rapidly, faster than the recorded data (for example, the IT job market crash in the early 2000s). In addition, checking job postings can help you see what employers seek besides education.

I also feel compelled to point out I feel strongly that you must consider what you like to do and certainly not rely just on how many jobs there are. You should love what you do (or at least like it a lot) to be successful.

Another thing you might try is the Holland code quiz on the Rogue Community College Web site. I am not allowed to post URLs yet, but go to Google and search "Holland code quiz." Let me know what you think of it. It is a free online version of an assessment that professional vocational counselors use.

By the way, I was in nursing too as a young person and changed majors to English finally. I ended up in medical publishing after college, mostly working with researchers on books that summarized current research in my first job. It was interesting, and I learned a lot. Currently, I mostly do resume writing and work at home.



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11 Jun 2011, 9:21 am

styphon wrote:
I had a bachelors in molecular biology and did not find it useful.

You are competing for a very limited set of jobs against people who are usually much more qualified than you. If you are in a university or hospital setting there is very little room for advancement. Fact is you will never be a PI(head of a research lab) with a BS. You will never advance out of the hospital labs with a micro BS as most of the hospital hierarchy (except administration) is based on level of degree.

In short: I had to compete with people with 10+ years of experience for jobs paying 20-30,000 a year! Drug companies would never want to hire you permanent and would only offer 3, 6, or 12 month contracts with no guarantee of continuing employment.


Although the salary range may not suit you, it could be OK for someone else. If you are a fairly frugal, nonconsumerist type, you can live decently in some parts of the country on $20K to $30K a year, especially if it includes benefits. Certainly not in a city like New York, but for example, I would do fine where I live.

The people I've met who did lab work eventually did move on to grad school.

Regarding the competition,, people also need to consider the regional area. I have known people who worked in labs who went to ordinary schools and had ordinary experience prior to being hired. What I really believe is if you really want to do anything it gives you an edge on getting a job because people will sense your energy about it.

I think lab work can look good on a resume for grad school too.



MDD123
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12 Jun 2011, 7:54 am

20-30K? Wow, that's way less than the BLS or Indeed estimates. Not a total deal breaker, but actually getting work would also be nice. Truthfully I'm at a crossroads and I'm not sure exactly which field I want to go into, I have a genuine interest in applied sciences, and a real need to catch up on math. So it's useful to get a perspective on what these fields are actually like. From what I was reading, there were more applications of biology than the medical or nutrition field, I've heard of biologists collaborating on renewable energy projects.

The Holland code quiz was a little difficult for me to answer, but it'll be close to a year before I set foot in college again, so in the mean time I'll be studying and asking questions. Thanks again for the input everyone.



styphon
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12 Jun 2011, 2:31 pm

MDD123 wrote:
20-30K? Wow, that's way less than the BLS or Indeed estimates. Not a total deal breaker, but actually getting work would also be nice. Truthfully I'm at a crossroads and I'm not sure exactly which field I want to go into, I have a genuine interest in applied sciences, and a real need to catch up on math. So it's useful to get a perspective on what these fields are actually like. From what I was reading, there were more applications of biology than the medical or nutrition field, I've heard of biologists collaborating on renewable energy projects.

The Holland code quiz was a little difficult for me to answer, but it'll be close to a year before I set foot in college again, so in the mean time I'll be studying and asking questions. Thanks again for the input everyone.


The problem being that lots of people with biology degrees go on to professional school and get MD/DO/PhD/DDS.. I am in a place that has multiple research centers-Cancer research, AIDS research, drug addiction research and there are over 5+ national drug companies based here. Even with all that it took me 4 months to get a job, I was constantly being beaten out by people with much more experience. Not only that, if you are in an academic setting lots of your job income is tied to grants. If the lab loses that specific grant, you are out a job.

In medicine it is different. A medical lab tech is not tied to grants, instead the money made to pay their salary is created by doctors ordering tests. Since this is a constant, they have much more job security.


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12 Jun 2011, 4:44 pm

styphon, How long ago were you looking for jobs with a BS in molecular biology, and in what geographical area? How much relevant work experience did you already have when you had just graduated and were looking for jobs?


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13 Jun 2011, 10:26 pm

I was doing Psychology in the past at a Community College and made it a "special interest" before I knew of AS or anything about special interest. My parents said it's all I thought about/talked about. An Aspie thing looking back on it. I was out of college but am now back so YA! BUT my parents don't want me doing psychology since I was obsessive. THEY HATE my obsessive behavior. :-( I still find Psychology interesting. NOT You have Autism (X disorder therapy) more of understanding behavior in general. I am only at the AA level (Will be finished Spring 2012) and mention the following ideas to a professor.

Black Friday shoppers (You know the guy who trampled you to get that HDTV a study on HIM). OR why you dislike your husband of 10 years and so you wouldn't have married him my research would look at WHY do you suddenly feel this way WHAT CHANGED?? The professor was stunned Dr. Flota he was like "Wow you should do reserach now!!" I was flattered. :-) Sure I can think of other ideas those are the main 2 that run through my mind. BOTH are Psychology based! BUT my parents are DEAD SET on NO Psychology. I got by this by doing Sociology it still looks at behavior but on a society level and I did a social problems course very fascinating discussion took place in it.

I've only looked at Psychology Bachelors and I need a B in Statistics DONE and would need to take Developmental Psych. Sadly my parents are of that mindset NO Psychology so I'm at a lost!! !! They've suggested Criminal Justice or Law I've questioned personally Crimonologist but I don't think my above ideas fit into any Crime/Law field. I'm at a loss.

Hope someone can help me because at this rate I'll have an AA in Spring 2012 and no idea where to go afterwards! :-(



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14 Jun 2011, 2:14 pm

MDD123 wrote:
20-30K?The Holland code quiz was a little difficult for me to answer, but it'll be close to a year before I set foot in college again, so in the mean time I'll be studying and asking questions. Thanks again for the input everyone.


I just found this whole thread someone posted last month on the same exact test:

http://www.wrongplanet.net/postt156023.html

I notice that many have high artistic and investigative scores, as do I. It's sort of interesting how many of us score similarly on personality tests, isn't it? I noticed many people on WrongPlanet score similarly on Myers Briggs personality tests too.



styphon
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16 Jun 2011, 9:25 pm

Stinkypuppy wrote:
styphon, How long ago were you looking for jobs with a BS in molecular biology, and in what geographical area? How much relevant work experience did you already have when you had just graduated and were looking for jobs?


Location: new england Time looking: I looked 4-6 months for a job in molecular biology/genetics/biochemistry.

In the end I got a job offer from a large drug company (basically making agar and solutions) and a major university (doing HIV research). I had a bachelors in science from a ivy league university, and close to two years working in a molecular biology lab at the said university.


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