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Old Feb 1, 2013, 11:08 PM   #1
carbonmotion
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How does one go about completely changing their career?

I had an interesting theoretical question that I was discussing with a childhood friend during a recent road trip.

Say you have a guy who did his undergrad in political science and then went on to law school. Then, this guy became a lawyer and made some money. Now, let's say he moves to the SF bay area and does really well for himself as a lawyer. One day, in his late 20ties, he randomly meets some geneticists working for Genetech and becomes really interested in their work. He goes on to read a bunch of journals and gets inspired. He wants to get at a minimum a masters and hopefully a PhD. Assuming, money and training center aren't an issue (he's got money and he lives near Cal and Stanford), what would this person have to go to do that? Does he have to do undergrad all over again? Take the SATs all over again? Do the whole dorm experience? How can he fullfil his science requirements otherwise?

Let me know what you guys think.
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Old Feb 1, 2013, 11:37 PM   #2
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It would vary from school to school. A close friend of mine who got his BBA in Finance decided it wasn't something he wanted to do for the rest of his life, and decided to pursue a Masters in Physics. His acceptance to the program was only contingent on his completion of a few undergrad physics courses; he didn't have to complete the whole undergard degree plan.

I think the first step should be to make an appointment with a graduate advisor at the schools being considered and get some information about the programs/requirements.

You will likely have to take the GMAT (similar in format to the SAT).
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 12:09 AM   #3
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It would vary from school to school. A close friend of mine who got his BBA in Finance decided it wasn't something he wanted to do for the rest of his life, and decided to pursue a Masters in Physics. His acceptance to the program was only contingent on his completion of a few undergrad physics courses; he didn't have to complete the whole undergard degree plan.

I think the first step should be to make an appointment with a graduate advisor at the schools being considered and get some information about the programs/requirements.

You will likely have to take the GMAT (similar in format to the SAT).
There's probably a lot of course difference difference between Poli Sci and Life Science, I'm honestly not sure any school would accept you based on that. Hmm....
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 07:24 AM   #4
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There's probably a lot of course difference difference between Poli Sci and Life Science, I'm honestly not sure any school would accept you based on that. Hmm....
Well he wouldn't live in dorms. But basically he would need to take the pre req science courses and then apply for the grad program, usually they let people in like you/your friend because you have so much life experience and a proven record.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 09:08 AM   #5
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i have been in several committees to select grad students for admission and someone like your friend would be seriously considered, provided that the technical requirements are met (which would vary from program to program). most certainly you wouldn't have to start from scratch unless you want to.

just make sure it is a well pondered decision and not just hormone-driven

what you suggest is in fact not that uncommon, except I have seen it going mostly the opposite way: people with a science PhD that moves to get a law/business degree/accreditation.

the dual expertise is in very high demand in the intellectual property and in the stock/investment arenas, because it's hard to find people who understands both the science and the business/law.
so if your friend goes into science and then finds that its great fun but very tough to 'survive' (it is very, very competitive out here, especially with the current economy), he/she would have plenty of golden opportunities to fall back on.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 10:35 AM   #6
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You would probably start by taking some classes as a non-matriculating student. After that you'd likely do an MS, then apply to PhD programs (depending on circumstances you might be able to directly to this stage). This whole time you should be looking to do some work in a research lab to develop your interests. You might just start washing dishes, but you'd be able to build from there. Read; ask any and all questions; don't worry about looking stupid.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 04:57 PM   #7
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Thank you all for providing these interesting suggestions.

Let's say the hypothetical person's end-goal is not to do actual lab work, but to understand the field of life sciences. He'd like to work for a venture capital fund and then start his own venture capital fund. I don't think he would need a PhD, only a MA, he needs to truly understand the field and to show that he has the bona fides. What do you think he should study (major) in graduate school? Any thoughts?
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 05:13 PM   #8
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Thank you all for providing these interesting suggestions.

Let's say the hypothetical person's end-goal is not to do actual lab work, but to understand the field of life sciences. He'd like to work for a venture capital fund and then start his own venture capital fund. I don't think he would need a PhD, only a MA, he needs to truly understand the field and to show that he has the bona fides. What do you think he should study (major) in graduate school? Any thoughts?
You would have to ask the venture capitalists. They're the ones you have to convince that you know the field. The rest of us probably have different criteria.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 05:30 PM   #9
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You would have to ask the venture capitalists. They're the ones you have to convince that you know the field. The rest of us probably have different criteria.
Access to VCs, job after graduation, and money won't be an issue. The but big issue is what to study, if someone is in the field, what should someone study if they want to get in to the bioscience field? Obviously, further substantive research is needed, but we're very curious to hear the perspective of current grad students and recent graduates.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 05:39 PM   #10
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Access to VCs, job after graduation, and money won't be an issue. The but big issue is what to study, if someone is in the field, what should someone study if they want to get in to the bioscience field? Obviously, further substantive research is needed, but we're very curious to hear the perspective of current grad students and recent graduates.
All you need to care about is what the VCs think; ask them.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 03:51 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by carbonmotion View Post
Thank you all for providing these interesting suggestions.

Let's say the hypothetical person's end-goal is not to do actual lab work, but to understand the field of life sciences. He'd like to work for a venture capital fund and then start his own venture capital fund. I don't think he would need a PhD, only a MA, he needs to truly understand the field and to show that he has the bona fides. What do you think he should study (major) in graduate school? Any thoughts?

it is very hard to say what are going to be the hot fields, scientifically and technologically, in 8-10 years from now (which is likely the range you are looking at to get a PhD starting from where you are now) A masters would take less time, but the issue would be the same (except you would probably be a lot less valuable).

if i understand right and the plan is to become a consultant or investor and being able to evaluate other people ideas/proposals, than a masters may be enough (but a phD would be significantly better), and you probably want to go in some translational field (molecular pharmacology, cancer biology, chemical biology, molecular biology, immunology).
what you should be expecting to learn is not necessarily the actual mastery of whatever idea 'the scientists' that ask for capitals propose [this would be way to broad, you cannot be an expert in anything, especially in such a short time], but the tools to be able to quickly become a semi-expert on that specific field, when they give you their spiel and separate the wheat from the chaff.
A lot of ideas seem really good on paper, but then they just don't work, especially in the biomedical field.

if the plan on the other hand is to be the one who comes up with the new winning ideas to raise the capital on, then I think you are going at it at the wrong way and it is unlikely going to work.

also, you might not want to mention "the plan", when you interview.
Grad programs are typically looking to form scientists, not VCs.
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Last edited by Don't panic; Feb 3, 2013 at 04:18 PM.
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 03:56 PM   #12
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what you should be expecting to learn is not necessarily the actual mastery of whatever idea 'the scientists' that ask for capitals propose [this would be way to broad, you cannot be an expert in anything, especially in such a short time], but the tools to be able to quickly become a semi-expert on that specific field, when they give you their spiel and separate the wheat from the chaff.
A lot of ideas seem really good on paper, but then they just don't work, especially in the biomedical field.
You hit the nail on the head, this would, in theory, be the goal. Any additional feedback on this field would be greatly appreciated.
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