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Going into a field unrelated to my undergrad degree?

  1. Mar 16, 2010 #1


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    I have a bachelors in biochemistry and am currently working as a research technician, doing wet lab work. As of late, I have become more interested in the field of computer science. I would especially like to go into a field that is the mix of biochem and compsci (bioinformatics/computational biology). However, I have never taken a single computer science class, though I have been trying to learn Perl & Python on my own.

    How can I make the jump from biochem to a more computational related field? Most places, even for entry level jobs, won't hire me due to my background and have I never taken a computer science class.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2010 #2
    Welcome to the forums, hd0.

    I don't really have any direct experience in anything like this, but I guess an obvious suggestion would be to look for a computationally heavy post-graduate course in something like bioinformatics - I have no doubt that there exists a course somewhere like this for life science graduates. If full time study isn't an option, then you could try distance learning so you have some certificate proving your ability.

    Hopefully someone else will be able to be more directly insightful! If it were me, I'd try a few different things:
    look for graduate university courses,
    graduate training programmes within large companies (where there may be the opportunity to spread out your interests, since large companies like to complete the necessary relevant training themselves for new graduates),
    otherwise you could have a look at any informatics workers in your previous department, see if they have a CV listed online and if so, how they made their way in to the field.
  4. Mar 16, 2010 #3
    theres an old saying about writing and writing degrees (MFA):
    real writers dont get degrees. they write. they get published. they're writers.

    i would recommend either getting some kind of classes and learn the intro/background stuff. try asking your employer if they can pay to help get you more computer skills.

    or just write code and make applications and put them online/for sale. its hard, but if you're interested in getting a phd, would be a GREAT thing on the application.
  5. Mar 17, 2010 #4
    I am in a similiar situation. I have a BA in Political Science, and am now decedied to go back for a Masters in Computational Science. This maybe something you should look into. It is similar to Computer Science, but a little different. You use Math and Computers to anylaze data and make predictions about the world. The data you would be anylzing could be from any field, including Bio what ever. You do need to be strong at math (Completion of Calc2) and have basic programing skills. It will take me one year of Pre-Req to get in, but after that it is smooth sailing. Don't know if that helps, but Good Luck!!

  6. Mar 17, 2010 #5
    The Master's program accepted you with a BA in Political Science? Can you explain more please? I have a BA in Communications and plan to go back to get a BS in Engineering or Science. I didn't know it was possible to jump into a Master's without a relevant degree.. Hmm..
  7. Mar 17, 2010 #6
    I went from BA in Physics to a MS in Comp Engineering. Never took a single CS/computer class. I knew programming from personal projects/experience.

    They had me take the basic courses to get started, which is typically data structures, algorithms, and an intro to an OO language. It's all you really needed, no matter what degree/background you come from to get started in a CS field.

    Also, bioinformatics isn't as programming intensive, unless you plan on developing the tools for that field.
  8. Mar 17, 2010 #7
    "The Master's program accepted you with a BA in Political Science? Can you explain more please? I have a BA in Communications and plan to go back to get a BS in Engineering or Science. I didn't know it was possible to jump into a Master's without a relevant degree.. Hmm.."

    I thought about starting over and getting a BS in Engineering, untill I met with a The Head of the Computational Science Department from the State College I graduated from in NJ. He told me that if I had up to Calc 2 and 2 classes in Programing That was all I need to get into the Masters of Computational Science. He is waving a few science course that he would like to see. I don't know about all schools, but like I said I have 2 Semesters of Pre-Req's then I can start the Masters Program which I believe is only 36 Credits. Hope this helps.

  9. Mar 24, 2010 #8
    Can you not use the computer in your lab work? For instance, can you store results in a database or spreadsheet? Many databases and spreadsheets have a programming language integrated in with them (e.g., VBA in Microsoft Excel). If you develop some VBA programs to manipulate the data then you'll be doing some real programming that you can put on your CV! That'll impress people more than some course you might take (although you can do that as well...)
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