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Other Problems of pursuing multiple paths

  1. Nov 11, 2015 #1

    I'm in my 3rd year of a 4-year Physics degree and trying to decide what exactly I want to do in the future and where I want to apply next year. I've been able to have a couple great research opportunities already, and plan on doing a thesis and summer research position before graduating to really decide if graduate school is something I still want to pursue. At this point in time, I'm fairly confident it is something I do want to pursue, and it really seems like a matter of deciding which area in physics I'd like to specialize in. After my stints so far, I'm leaning more towards Astronomy, but things could very well change.

    The one thing is that I am also very interested in veterinary medicine. I have a bit of experience in the field and am working part-time at a vet clinic. I would love to apply to vet school next year, too.

    This is where my dilemma arises: where should I apply? The following is all in a best case scenario:

    If I get into vet school, then that will be at least 4 years off from physics. I hope to still remain active in side computation projects/independent learning and reading up on new research, but I'm sure I'll be swamped with work. I have very little doubt I'll need to do a lot of review again before going to grad school for physics. If after vet school I do get into a grad program, I'll likely still work part-time in some veterinary capacity (which I love and it would be a nice change of pace). Also, it could very likely happen that I no longer want to go to physics grad school after vet school, but instead choose to carry on side projects of my own. Regardless of what happens, is there any way for me to prepare myself in the best position possible to still remain competitive for grad school even 4 years after graduating from my Bachelor's?

    In the alternate route, I will enter grad school for Physics. In this case, depending on which grad degree I pursue (if I stay in Canada I will start with a MSc, if I go to USA I will likely start a PhD), it may take easily up to 5 years before I even apply to vet school again. I'm hoping requirements (e.g. prerequisite courses, entrance exams) don't change much in those 5 years. But even then, after 5 years in grad school, if I still pursue vet school afterwards and luckily get in, once vet school is over again after another 4 years, is it even reasonable to think an employer would consider me competitively for a position in physics (part-time or otherwise) despite holding a grad degree?

    I know I have to ask myself some serious questions with regards to deciding what I actually want to do in the future and what my main goals are with going through all this education. At this point in time, it's tough to say what my exact goals are, but after volunteering with rehab centres in the past, I know I'd definitely like to increase my scope in how much I can help with animal medicine. Being able to go to vet school first would really help me start making a bigger impact in this area sooner. Also, learning about medicine itself would be very interesting (I almost finished a major in biochemistry, partly for vet school requirements), akin to me enjoying learning physics. And my main reason to pursue the grad school in physics is because I really do enjoy learning all this stuff personally, but also being able to contribute to research projects and advance our knowledge in what little ways I can is awesome.

    Also, for sake of providing any useful details: at this point in time, money and stability are not relatively major concerns. Children are not in any future plans, and I've luckily been able to pay off essentially all my student debt as an undergrad through work and scholarships. Also, when I apply to vet school, I will only be applying to one--that is the one in my own province where tuition is ~$10,000/year. I will not be applying elsewhere for vet school. So my chances to get into vet school are not that great. For grad schools on the other hand, I will be applying more widely throughout Canada and USA, and hopefully this increases my chances of getting an acceptance somewhere. Regardless, I'm hoping my stipends from grad school can help offset costs so that I'm staying clear of any debt until I start vet school. Obviously I have to look into salaries once I finish schooling, but I'm fully aware that a career in veterinary medicine or physics is not lucrative (well, at least not usually).

    At this point, I'm planning on applying to both vet school and physics grad programs and see where I even get in first before closing further doors. I know I sound naïve hoping to balance careers in veterinary medicine and physics. And I'm sure things will change from today to next year, but for now, any advice you have on going forward and what you would suggest to try and stay involved in both fields (i.e. animal medicine and physics) would be greatly appreciated! In particular, if you got into both your top grad school choice and also vet school, in hopes of still keeping both in your life, which one would you choose?

    (Also, please be harsh on me. If I sound foolish for even considering any of the above as a possibility, I'd be glad to hear it and be brought back to earth. But any tips you have on deciding next steps would also be appreciated.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2015 #2


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    Well it's likely to be extremely difficult to balance a professional career and the pursuit of physics at the graduate level.

    One option might be to do physics graduate school first. That way you can take that career as far as you can or want to. The added academic background might help to qualify you for vet school. You might have to make sure that any prerequisite courses don't expire over that time, but that's going to be a lot easier than getting back into physics after 4 years of learning how to castrate large and small animals. On the physics side of things you could go into medical physics. There are certainly some medical physics applications in veterinary medicine (animal imaging, for example), although this is a small niche.

    If you do it the other way around - vet school first, then physics grad school - on top of re-learning physics, that will also put you in a position where after the physics degree, you'd likely have to re-learn you veterinary skills. It's very difficult to do physics graduate school and something else. Some people are able to balance a job with it, but usually that job is not all that intellectually demanding. And the more you do that other job, the longer it will take to make any progress on your graduate project.

    Another option to consider though is that once you have a base-level of veterinary training, you could go into a physics-heavy specialization like animal radiology (the different between the medical side and the physics side is that on the medical side you're looking at the images and making diagnoses, on the physics side you're optimizing the images). There might be some animal radiation oncology out there too.
  4. Nov 11, 2015 #3
    Thank you for the response! Yea, that's a major thing I'll have to make note of. Taking that much time off after vet school could definitely be troublesome. Ideally I'd like to continue working on a part-time basis, but I have to be realistic in remembering how much time and effort I can actually put in.

    My first research stint was actually in medical imaging and although I learned a lot, I do have to admit it's personally not something I'm quite so interested in pursuing research in (at least not today). Although I'll definitely keep it in mind since, like you said, being more practical with it could help.
  5. Mar 9, 2016 #4
    OMG! I know this post is old...but, I am in the exact same position!!! PLEASE HELP.

    I currently do all 3 sciences at A-Level and have just applied to vet school and and I got into one! But.. the thing that I'm trying to come to terms with is not doing Physics like...EVER. AGAIN. I mean, it sometimes makes me wanna cry. I LOVE physics!! I love learning the concepts, I love the challenge, the problem-based learning.. it's just awesome! But then again, Biology has always been one of my fortes, and I particularly like learning about surgery and joints and how the bones move etc but I think this is more Physical Biology?? Not sure.. but anyway, I don't think I would like to combine the two subjects (Physics + Bio) as I like compartmentalising things, as in i either learn Physics or learn Bio.

    SO, initially I thought, hm..maybe I could do a combined degree of Physics AND Veterinary Medicine at uni at the same time?! But then, after reading all the modules in vet med...that will be highly impossible hahaha, I dont think I'd even have time to sleep! SO, then I thought.. hmm.. I could do vet med at uni for 5 yrs then do Physics as a post-grad degree ? or maybe Biomedical Engingeering or Medical Physics? Not sure..but deffo something Physicsy! cus I mean, I'd hate to be limited to doing one job for the rest of my life, like I love Biology and animals and all, but I think the reason I love it so much now is because I'm doing other subjects on the side?? So I'm just not too sure how I'd take just being a vet for the rest of my life.

    So yeah, my plan is to do Vet Med then Physics. BUTTT, it may be hard for me to go back into Physics after doing Vet Med, as any prior knowledge would be what I remember from studying Physics at A2 Level 5 years ago. Also, I assume, for a mature student to apply for Physics, the entry requirement would be like a 2,2 in the previous degree with that degree being related to Physics?? I highly doubt Vet Med will be accepted. Also, I didn't do Maths at AS or A-level, so not sure if I would be eligible for any Physics related degree? And not to mention the price of doing TWO DEGREES!


    pls, any advice will be PERFECT!!!
  6. Mar 9, 2016 #5
    Where are you from? I'm not too familiar with the education levels you mentioned (I'm from Canada) but to just provide my path: I'm going to be completing my BSc in Physics (1 year left) and then applying to both vet school and grad school (in bioengineering, aerospace, and physics). I think I would be comfortable leaving Physics after my BSc and would pursue vet med if I get in, and would still love to do independent reading/learning of concepts and new research.

    To maybe try and help, what do you want to do afterwards with a degree in vet med or physics? Is it just purely out of the joy for learning or do you have anything specific goals with it?
  7. Mar 9, 2016 #6


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    I'm not too familiar with the UK system, but it's a safe bet you need mathematics to get into a physics degree - if not from an "official requirement" point of view, than certainly from an "you need to understand this stuff in order to understand physics" point of view.

    And to get into graduate school (or post grad as the case may be) veterinary medicine is highly unlikely to qualify you for admission to a physics program.

    So it would seem that you're options are to continue on through the vet medicine path or backtrack a little and orient yourself for physics.

    As I pointed out above, there are ways to combine the two, at least to some extent. But unfortunately this seems like a case where you can't have the best of both worlds.
  8. Mar 10, 2016 #7
    This does not make sense at all, why would you do another unrelated bachelors after toiling away at VET- MED where the pay and prospects are actually good in the UK. A Vet doctor is highly specialized and it does not make sense to do another physics bachelors afterword..I think you are young and need a little "real world" experience. You should not do Vet med if you are not passionate about the field..you should do a physics bachelor for now. A post grad degree in medical physics might be possible after vet med

    Or you can do a physics bachelor then do a biophysics/bio-engineering postgraduate. But because of no maths at a level you would need a foundation course, or take A level maths during a gap year (difficult).
    Since you did not take maths at A level, you can do a foundation year or try and contact universities (though i highly doubt any would take you without maths). In the UK the minimum requirement is Maths at "unpopular" universities, and maths-physics at the popular ones.

    Keep in mind A level physics has very little math, zero calculus, the physics at university level will be more like further maths (the advanced mechanics and some statistics modules) and beyond. You must really love mathematics to survive a bachelor in physics..so why did you not take A level math? Is it because you never liked it? if so then please drop the idea of physics (Im very serious) at bachelors. It sounds harsh but I am saving you a lot of trouble in the long run. If, on the other hand you have gone through the maths a little (check A2 syllabus and further maths) and it sounds like something you are interested in, then you may do a foundation year. In fact I highly recommend a foundation year as you seem confused. Do not do any degree where you are not fully passionate about it, you will really struggle and hate yourself.

    edit: if there is time, take an AS in mathematics, Im guessing you have just recieved your AS results. You can do an AS in mathematics while doing the rest of your A2's..very doable.

    edit2: In canada/US a first undergraduate degree is a prerequisite to entry into medicine unlike in UK, WHERE both GEM and undergraduate exist
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  9. Mar 10, 2016 #8

    Thank you for your response :)

    I agree, I do need more experience haha and I was very confused yesterday!

    It's because i recieved my first offer for vet school 2 days ago and the prospect of being in a contract with university and only studying one subject kinda scared me yesterday. But, you, aswell as the other comments on this thread, have made me ask myself why I actually want to be a Vet. And it has all come flooding back to me: I love being in vets - I have 2 rabbits and when they're ill I find it so intriguing when the vet diagnoses them and my interest grew when I was allowed to do many weeks of work experience at vet clinics, which I LOVED! - I could stay there forever.

    I was just overthinking a little.. okay, maybe alot haha. But I know now, thanks to you, that there are Foundation Years! So if I really do want a Physics related degree after vet med, I can always do it. Life has no bounds. I mean, I can always join the Physics society and get up to date with Physics discoveries and new research through reading online :).

    Thank you again, you've made me think about why I ACTUALLY want to do vet med! :)
  10. Mar 10, 2016 #9
    Thank you for your response! When I come out of uni I'd like to do charity work for a bit before I crack on with my job as a vet practitioner and part-time researcher.

    But Foundation Years in Medical Physics are always an option after I do vet med, as I don't do Maths.

    And alike to you, whilst doing Vet Med I can always do independent reading on Physics and the new theories, research and discoveries! I might even join the Physics society! haha :)

    Thank you again!! You made me ask myself why I actually want to do vet med, and my response is in my reply to Kilo Vectors' above :)
  11. Mar 10, 2016 #10
    Thank you for your response!

    I have decided to go along with vet med. I was just very confused yesterday! but I am fine now haha. It's just a really big jump going off to university and the prospect of being restricted to only studying 1 degree kinda scared me.. but it's all good, because I know I can do independent reading on Physics (including research, discoveries etc) whilst doing vet med. And if after my Vet Med degree, if I reeeaally wanna do a Physics-related degree, I could do a foundation yr in whatever the course is then crack on with that course. There are always options!

    Thanks again :)
  12. Mar 10, 2016 #11
    congratulations on your offer btw! Well done! I it is excellent you want to help animals and are not doing it for the money or other reasons..I think you will make a great vet with this attitude.

    Re: About a physics degree, well, I must confess I have considered online degrees sometimes..while doing a non physics degree which I can cope with. Check the open university for this, you can do a part time online degree to satisfy your thirst for knowledge. And congrats and well done on your as levels btw. You can check the open university, probably something you can do after starting work as a vet (if you can find the time haha)..anyway, do well in your a levels (assuming its a conditional offer) and study hard, you will absolutely love your job if you hae a passion for it. After your bachelors you could surely do something bio physics related if needed, I am sure a postgraduate degree in biophysics would be open in some universities. I know of one university which allows biology student entry into biophysics master, but the content must not be so "physicsy" then! :eek:

    edit: Im doing a degree I hate for now, I absolutely hate it and myself, and am quickly applying to change for it. I took it, well, the reasons as to how i landed here are complicated. I just wana clear my first semester and go away to do a degree in either electronics or computer science (applying to both). i know I may have been curt but trust me, doing a degree in which one has little interest is intense stuff but you clearly have the passion for med so don't worry, and in general vet med prospects are excellent. In fact I would rate it as one of the best degrees in the UK, so don't let anyone tell u otherwise.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  13. May 12, 2016 #12
    Thank you (for the congrats on my as levels) :)

    And don't worry about picking the wrong course first time round. See it as a blessing. By going through the experience of a degree you really hate, you've had the opportunity to really think about what you actually want to do. I mean, imagine you did a degree which you found was mediocre; you didnt LOVE it, but didnt hate it at the same time. In such a situation, you wouldn't have really been so set to leave after first semester and apply for something else, right? You probably would've just stuck through it and hoped it got better. Everyone has different paths in life and it all ends up for the best :D. Well done on continuing through the first semester though - that's some serious dedication right there.

    And as for my Physics dilemma, i know i have plenty of options now: post-grad degrees with foundation years, part-time online degrees, joining the physics society at uni and independently catching up with new physics research online. So i am definitely not stressed anymore about 'leaving physics behind,' cus I 100% will not do that! :P.

    Good luck with your application to electronics and comp sci! I hope the university you choose to study at will be the best for you this time round :) and I believe you will enjoy the course !
  14. May 23, 2016 #13


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    Hey TheCanadian.

    You should probably ask yourself what actually motivates you in the most brutally honest manner for doing something and then raise all sorts of doubts about what would stop you from starting or continuing pursuing that particular activity.

    If you do that and you understand why or why not that will happen you should have a good idea of whether you not only really want to do it but for what reason.

    That will give you a better idea of what you would pursue even when obstacles came in your way and the reasons behind it leaving you with options that are most likely to be realized.

    Usually for this exercise - the honesty part is the difficult part.
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