Weighing the merits of staying in school a little longer.
TL;DR: Stay in school longer to do comp sci stuff or bail and get a job?
Skip to the bottom for a quick summary of options
I’m set to graduate this May with a degree is biology. I’ve done so with out incurring any debt in fact I’ve socked away a sum of money equivalent to what most people average in student loan debt. My concern comes in finding a job after school. Initially, my plan was to go to graduate school in cell biology or evolutionary ecology. I have (had?) some specific interests in those fields that I would like to scratch. I volunteered in a biochemistry lab for a year and a half (applied stuff) along with evolutionary ecology lab over the summer. I have good references and a competitive GPA for most of the programs I was considering. However, research isn’t for me, at least not right now. At some point over the summer (busting ass doing field work as an REU) I realized that my free time wasn’t spent hypothesizing the habitability of different environments due to soil regime changes or the (terrible) project my boss/advisor assigned. This leads to alternative one: graduate and find a job. It might take a while but I could probably find something I don’t hate, but first satisfying my wanderlust and traveling.
In contrast I’ve always been interested in computers and enjoy programming quite a bit. I spend more time than I should thinking about data structure implementations and finite-state automata. However, I don’t have much formal experience. To resolve this I’m taking intro CS courses during this my senior year, and although they have been mind-numbingly banal they’ve been enjoyable. I’m auditing an upper-level course this semester as well and enjoy it. I’ve intended to start contributing to some open source projects soon, but it feels like a big leap in my ability.
So here is the rub: I could delay my graduation AND (not 100% on this) continue to get the large grants I get for being poor, specifically the Washington State Need Grant and Pell Grant all which have expiry periods that would allow for another year.
My options from that point are picking up a minor in CS after one semester and try and get a bio/cs job (which I’ve heard there is demand for but my cursory search doesn’t turn up much, which makes me think it might be similar to the “demand” for librarians that resulted in half of America getting a MLIS in 2006 /snark).
Alternatively, I could go an additional two years and pay for one of those years out of pocket and get a second degree in CS (which at my current school is another 60 credits). Staying longer would take a degree of asceticism (pun!) but doable. Part of me thinks I’d do this to maintain a state of moratorium. Finally, I could go to graduate school in computational biology (probably not up to snuff yet) or bioinformatics (few schools I’m interested in offer a MS and compelling advisors, with notable exceptions). If I did this I’d delay a year and wander. Possibly seek gainful employment for a couple years before I applied.
Maybe I should just leave programming as a hobby.
Alt 1: Graduate -> Job … (-> Bioinformatics masters)
Alt 2: Delay graduation -> CS Minor -> Graduate -> No job? [probably free, but it’s a minor who cares?]
Alt 3: Delay graduation -> CS Degree -> Get job with eyes closed [~$10000]
Alt 4: ?
What’s the best option? And more importantly why? I’m in the Portland-metro area if relevant exact location discernable with close reading.
Relevant past thread:
What can I do with a BS in biology