regular poster
At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:01PM Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
So I'm sorry to keep posting somewhat similar threads about myself on here, but I really don't have anyone near me I can talk to about these things, and there are a lot of different people on here, so I thought I'd ask for letsrun's opinion.

I graduated in May with degrees in biology and chemistry. I had set myself up really well to go onto a Ph.D. program and potentially into academia after that, but I wanted time away from school to do other things and to decide what specifically I should study in graduate school. Well, after a few months of carefully considering all my options, I had pretty much decided not to go the Ph.D. route. I had decided I would just get a master's degree in environmental engineering and go to work. This route would require about 2.5 years of school, would guarantee me a job upon graduation, and the median income is about $80k/year. It's also a good mix of biology and chemistry, and I'd get to spend a fair amount of time outside (something I enjoy). Well, one of the jobs I recently applied to (before I had decided to go the engineering route) got back with me and the guy said that not only should I work for him but that I should be his Ph.D. student. This is in a molecular biology program where they alter genes and proteins and then see what the physiological effects are. The guy seems great, is highly productive, and his students turn out to have a lot of options available to them. It's a small lab and the guy seems like he really cares about working 1 on 1 with people, acting as a mentor, etc. He has said that there are a lot of jobs in this field outside of academia (it's bordering on biological/genetic engineering which is an extremely rapidly growing field). Income in this field is about the same or a little more than environmental engineering (not that money is a big issue for me, but it's worth considering).

All this is great, but now I have to make a decision. I have not had anyone else call back so far from the other jobs I applied to (been unemployed for about 6 weeks), and the application deadlines for the environmental engineering programs I've looked at have already passed meaning I'd have to wait a year whether I took this job or not. This guy says I could go to work for him starting in the next few weeks and then start as a Ph.D. student in the fall though, so it wouldn't make sense to start a Ph.D. program only to drop out a year later. I know I would do well in either field, but I'm having a tough time deciding. That this is a guaranteed immediate offer and environmental engineering has been a relatively recent idea makes it difficult to decide.

So yeah. I wasn't expecting the offer at all and was just looking for a job in the meantime as I looked more into environmental engineering, but this seems like a really great opportunity too. I'm having a tough time deciding what would make the most sense and would appreciate any comments. Thanks.
Cool
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:10PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
How long would it take to get the phd? It sounds like a major reason you want to go into environmental engineering is to be outdoors. If you get the phd you will probably have many options to get a job in a cool outdoors places or still be outdoors. But either way you can't go wrong
might be wejo
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:14PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Wow I can't believe I read all that. This is not the kind of decision that will determine the rest of your life. You are basically deciding between two nearly identical paths. Furthermore, since the differences in what you would be doing aren't that big to an outside observer the choice really depends on you, and no one knows you better than yourself.

My advice: drink some beer, practice not being so melodramatic. Decrease relevent internet posting by 50%, increase trolling by 80%. You can thank me later.
roulettei
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:23PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Hang a dart board on the wall. Paint the right half red and left half blue. Blindfold yourself and throw the dart. RED = Ph.D. BLUE = master's degree MISS THE BOARD = become a homeless guy.

Good luck!
Justin91
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:25PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Do both. Then you can choose a Letsrun.com login with your religious belief followed by 'with an M.D. and Ph.D'
L.Peter Berra
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:25PM - in reply to might be wejo Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
When you come to a fork in the road....Take it ".

Seems like good advice at least from my seat near the finish line.
duhh
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 2:35PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
i agree with the poster who said it is not a life changing decision. no matter how much time/energy/effort you put into making your plans, they will change. this is not necessarily a bad thing, but be sure to be ready for it. all we can do is make the best decision with all the information we have AT THE TIME. hindsight is always 20/20 and you cant live your life looking in the rearview.

i also disagree completely with your assumption that you will have a job guaranteed if (fill in the blank). point is, there are NO guarantees you will be employed and/or not underemployed. be sure to be ready for this as well.

good luck!
regular poster
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:03PM - in reply to Cool Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

Cool wrote:

How long would it take to get the phd? It sounds like a major reason you want to go into environmental engineering is to be outdoors. If you get the phd you will probably have many options to get a job in a cool outdoors places or still be outdoors. But either way you can't go wrong


Well, the Ph.D. would probably be five years. The masters would be about half that. The work is pretty different. If I took the Ph.D. student position I'd be working in a lab 100% of the time running molecular biology experiments looking at very specific questions that no one outside of the field understand or care about. It's 100% research. Environmental engineering is more of a big picture type of thing, and the work would be stuff like waste water management and improving air quality, looking into long term energy solutions and natural resource management, that type of stuff. Not so much research as getting an education that can be applied to a lot of real world problems.

I was thinking I could apply for the Ph.D. program now, work in the guy's lab now for the few months until school actually starts (late August), and by then I'd know if it's really something I want to spend five years doing or not. In the meantime I'd have worked for 6 months pulling an income and gaining experience that could be applied elsewhere. If I liked the work I'd do the Ph.D. If I found out it wasn't right for me I could bail out in August and just say I appreciated everything but I realized it wasn't a good fit for me. What do you think of that plan?
MechE
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:27PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
environmental engineering is pretty boring, but hey so is biology. Good Luck
Should be noted
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:29PM - in reply to MechE Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

MechE wrote:

environmental engineering is pretty boring, but hey so is biology. Good Luck


Very few topics are boring. On the other hand, many minds are.
Bang
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:32PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
It sounds like it was meant to be... go for it. There might not be another offer quite like that one.
LeadvilleNative
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:39PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Everytime I have been faced with a decision that seemed important to my future-whatever decision I made was quickly overturned by some random uncontrollable event or by a seemingly unimportant decision.

The secret to life is to realize that earth shattering decisions are usually anti-climactic-and small choices are what truly drive where you will be in 20 years. As much as you think you control your destiny-you don't.

Take the job-work with him for 6 months. See how you like it. Apply to Environmental Engineering programs. If you hate the job in 6 months, go the engineering route. If you like the job-go the PhD route. Maybe you'll meet a pretty girl along the way. That's what will end up controlling your destiny.
Bang
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 3:39PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

regular poster wrote:

[quote]Cool wrote:

What do you think of that plan?


Perfect plan. You're allowed to bounce around in the first several years in professional fields. A future employer would probably hire you over someone straight out of college. Any real world experience will help.
regular poster
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 9:49PM - in reply to Bang Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Anyone else?
brownsmith89
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 10:32PM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
with engineering, it sounds like you'll be more hands-on and able to coordinate projects that have immediate, real-world effects. you might even be able to travel internationally and do some consultant work. with those skills, you would personally be affecting the lives of those in need in poorer third world countries.

when it comes to genetics, it sounds like scientists are always saying "in 10 years from now". you could be painstakingly running through many trials, double-checking, and triple-checking results.

if income isn't a concern to you, then i would consider the working conditions. you said you enjoyed being outdoors instead of wearing a white lab coat?

personally, i'm a christian, and i don't approve of using aborted fetuses for genetic research, as one example. but that's just me. you have to make the decision on your own.

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbc-news/50198499#50198499
this is a noble cause. the doctor is in a foreign country and wants to stop malaria. what specific plans would you have with molecular biology?
brownsmith89
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/18/2013 11:20PM - in reply to brownsmith89 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
what is your gut feeling? does the professor's breath stink? do his students look gloomy or are they cheerful and talkative?

if you work for him until the fall, then you can add this to your résumé, gain experience, and earn some money.

you might find your future wife as a lab assistant. anything can happen.

possibly in the spring or summer, you can try applying for some engineering internships.

http://www.dancingrabbit.org/visit-dancing-rabbit-ecovillage/work-exchange/environmental-engineer-interns/
regular poster
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/19/2013 12:22AM - in reply to brownsmith89 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
No, the guy seemed very genuine and nice. I've talked with salesman before and usually have a good eye for liars and people who are manipulative. This guy did not seem that way at all. I applied for a lab tech job, but he said he thinks I would be a great Ph.D. student and wondered why I wasn't one already with my background. He said it was okay if I decided just to take the job and not the Ph.D., but really encouraged me to do the Ph.D. And the work we'd be doing is on transgenic mice, not aborted fetuses or anything.

I'm more of a big picture kind of guy and don't like to get bogged down in a lot of details, and the molecular biology stuff is nothing but details. I'm still leaning towards taking it and feeling it out. I could always bail before school started or "master out" if I realized it wasn't for me after a year or something. It would probably be good experience one way or the other.
NJ Possible
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/19/2013 12:54AM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
When you're young you always feel you're at a crossroads. Truth is every day for every person is a small crossroads. You just get less emotional about it as you get older. Do your research, get second opinions and make your decision.
43yo
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/19/2013 1:01AM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
You're 22, maybe 23. Enjoy life. Don't take everything so seriously.

Do think about what you really might enjoy doing for the long term. When choosing a career, do NOT focus so much on what jobs are available RIGHT NOW.

Listen to the Steve Jobs graduation lecture. Ideally, take a year off and travel, maybe even work overseas. It will give you good experience, and invaluable perspective. If you have some money, take the JOCRF test.

You don't realize it now, but you'll never have this kind of flexibility again. Use it - don't rush to railroad yourself onto some track.

Good luck.
43yo
RE: At a major crossroads in my young life that will determine the rest of it. 1/19/2013 1:06AM - in reply to regular poster Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

regular poster wrote:
I'm more of a big picture kind of guy and don't like to get bogged down in a lot of details, and the molecular biology stuff is nothing but details.

You are onto something here - trust yourself.

Lab science is excruciatingly process- and detail-oriented work. It's right for some people, but if it's not right for you - it never will be. Stay away, no matter how much getting a PhD may be what "everybody" around you is doing.

There's a whole world outside of academia, and it's pretty good.