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Help me plan my next steps after graduating with a degree in biology!
May 24, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan my next steps after graduating with a degree in biology!

I just recently graduated from a very small but academically challenging university and am not sure what my next step should be after graduation.

Since I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian, but despite pursuing many vet-related enrichment opportunities in high school and ungrad, I don't think I have a chance in hell of being accepted into vet school. While my cumulative GPA is not bad (3.3), it's not within the Mid-50% Range of 3.59-3.89 of students accepted into my vet school of choice. I haven't taken the GRE yet and plan to do it this summer, but I'm not sure how likely is it that I will score 560 verbal and 680 quantitative. I've pretty much given up hope that I will make it into vet school, and because of this, I've tried to pursue other areas that interest me.

After taking a course on microbiology this past semester, I've become really interested in virology. As someone who's always leaned more towards both the macro (animals!) and hands on side (field work!) of biology, I find myself suddenly fascinated by tiny life-forms and lab work. This radical shift happens to coincide with reading Richard Preston's "The Hot Zone" and "The Demon in the Freezer," both of which scared the crap out of me but have got me even more jazzed about infectious diseases and public health. I think that I'd like to pursue this area of study as a possible career, but I'm not even sure where to begin.

Because my interest in this field is quite new and I also just left university, I feel like the ship has left the harbor and I'm standing at the docks. I'm not sure how to break into this area as a college graduate with little to no experience, and my guess is that I will need to take few more classes before even applying to graduate school programs or jobs (my college was very small and therefore wasn't able to offer specific bio courses such as virology or epidemiology).

So what are some career options related to this? What extra education do I need to pursue? What schools have excellent programs in these areas? Do I even have a shot with my GPA and lack of any relatable experiences?

Any first-hand experiences are welcome!
posted by gumtree to Education (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where are you? If you're in the US, you might want to check out the US Government jobs site. I've very thoughtfully put Virology into the search for you. That thing in Battle Creek looks interesting...

Applying for a federal govt job is a whole, weird thing, but I'll tell you, once you work for the feds, you've got it made!

CDC hires folks like you for entry level stuff. No matter what the job is, get your foot in the door! You can go from there.

VA, Dept of Ag, all kinds of stuff.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2012


Do you need to get a well paying job or can you do something that pays not particularly well? Do you have a prof who has friends/colleagues/a lab? Your best bet is to chat with your micro prof about volunteering/jobs. Best case scenario, they are looking for someone right now to do some basic work and will hire you, or they know someone who is. Worst case scenario, they will let you volunteer in the lab to get some experience or can put you in contact with someone at another school who has a lab*.

I doubt USA Jobs would have anything for you but check them out. You don't have much/any lab experience, right? You will competing with undergrads who have been working in labs for years and might even have publications. Or you'll be competing with MScs and maybe even PhDs (the employment situation is weird these days). You'll probably have to start looking at grad school.

To figure out where you want to go, start reading some articles! See who is publishing on topics that interest you. Email them (this is super hard and I admit I've never done it cold but I know others who have).

*I'm assuming you're in a town with more than one university. If not, you'll likely have to move (welcome to being in academics!)
posted by hydrobatidae at 4:24 PM on May 24, 2012


This might be tough without having prior lab experience, but I would look at applying for lab positions at universities / colleges. There are generally a fair number of entry level positions for people doing routine lab work, and this would get you exposed to the much larger world of academic research and science. Without previous lab experience you might have to look to volunteer for a bit to get your foot in the door, but if you're a quick learner and eager you'll probably be able to find a paid position after a bit.

With respect to the top infectious disease / public health schools, I don't know for sure, but I would look at big medical schools - UC San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, UT Southwestern, Baylor College of Medicine, etc. I know people who have gotten their MPH at UC Berkeley.
posted by pombe at 5:13 PM on May 24, 2012


If you have the financial security to, you might rooting through your schools departmental websites for primary investigators you might be interested in volunteering for.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2012


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