Pursuing a graduate degree in an unrelated field?
August 19, 2011 2:55 PM   Subscribe

What are my best options for pursuing a graduate degree in a field completely orthogonal to my bachelors degree?

I graduated with a diploma in computer science(B.S., but light on the S). Now, nearly 10 years later, I want to return to school to pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Looking at prerequisite courses, I need to take about 50 credits worth of science classes to apply for a doctoral program in physical therapy.

My question is, what is the best way to do this? Should I take these classes at a local community college? Should I pursue a second bachelors degree? Should I pursue a masters in something somewhat related to physical therapy, polish off my requirements, and then look for a doctoral program?

Has anyone else changed their mind sometime down the road and had to change directions?
posted by satori_movement to Education (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A lot of this depends on how "good" of a physical therapy program you want to get into. Do you have one in mind? Send an email to whoever admits new students asking for the profile of a typical student, and ask him what you would need to do to become a credible applicant given your background.

To get in to a mid-top PT program, I'd expect you'd have to get a bachelor's or master's in a related field, biology or whatever it is, from a good, nationally-known university with stellar recommendation letters. To get into a PT program that doesn't compete nationally for incoming students, less may suffice.

In econ, masters programs are rarely worth the money, and I'd advise someone in your position to get a bachelor's in econ from a school with a PhD program, taking a couple of grad courses along the way. PT may be different.
posted by deadweightloss at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: I'm currently going through a similar transition to the one you're thinking of doing (Bachelors in Mass Communication, worked in radio for a few years, then the computer industry for the last ten years) and am now pursuing a masters degree in nursing. Like you, I had almost no science prerequisites and had to take them all before applying to the various programs. As deadweightloss notes, a lot of how you should proceed depends on the type of program you're going to pursue. Are these degree programs designed for people who have bachelors in a completely different field and who would like to make a career change, or is it a more traditional route? If the former, I would advise that you figure out at least some of the schools you definitely want to apply to, determine what prerequisites are necessary (might help to keep an Excel spreadsheet of this for the various schools because it can get confusing - some school require nutrition while others don't, etc...) and then ask if they accept community college credits for prereqs (most will, some won't.) Community college is definitely going to be the cheapest way of completing them. Start with one or two classes that are closely related to PT and that will give you a better idea if this is something you truly want to pursue on a full time basis.

Because I needed to pay rent and needed health insurance, I could only take one prerequisite course a semester at night while I worked full time during the day. It was a painfully slow way to get through it, but I didn't really have any other options because I wasn't enrolled as a full time student at the community college (nor did I want to be - I was merely taking each prereq to cross of the list and not enrolled in a degree program there.) If you can afford to do so, I'd definitely recommend getting through the prereqs as quickly as possible, although many of them will require you to enroll in a degree program to take multiple classes or attend school during the day. Otherwise, going through them a couple at a time is probably your best option. Agonizing at times, but rewarding once you get through it and get the acceptance letter to your PT program! Good Luck!
posted by Rewind at 3:43 PM on August 19, 2011

Pick out the place you want to do the PhD then call their admissions dept and ask them what would best meet their requirements.

Whenever you have a queston about entry to a university, the best information is nearly always available by asking at that university.
posted by biffa at 4:38 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did this about 20 years ago (literature undergrad -->biology grad). To make up the basic science prerequisites I enrolled full time in a community college and knuckled down hard. I was not alone: there was a surprising number of students with liberal arts BAs in my classes prepping for medical/dental school.

Definitely speak with folks at the programs you're thinking about. The published prerequisites are for students traveling along the traditional path. As an older student with a different background, they may be willing to overlook or substitute some requirements, or allow you to finish up coursework after you've been accepted. They might not, but it's worth asking.

Also, what's happening at the intersection of CS and physical therapy? Modeling? Fancy limb replacement? You might find a good place to market yourself to admissions that way.
posted by apparently at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice. I will start by volunteering at a local clinic, making sure this is what I want to do. Then I guess eeking out requirements one or two at a time at a community college will be the only option.
posted by satori_movement at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2011

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