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Worthwhile to Return to School for a Second B.S.?

  • Thread starter DDTea
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey all. I graduated in '09 with a B.S. in Chemistry and in short, I'm considering returning to school to get a second B.S. in some Biology-related field (most likely molecular biology or cell biology, but plant biology is also on the table).

Industry is turning out to be much more disappointing than I was expecting and I feel like I'm simply going to stagnate if I remain where I am. The pace of work is simply not what I want and there is too little responsibility. Really, I would like to enter a graduate program in medicinal chemistry/pharmacology to build a career in research/science, but there is one major and almost unsurmountable obstacle in my way: my dismal 2.26 graduating GPA (there were many reasons for this). I was hoping that I could work around that through actual work experience but in a recent interview, the topic came up again--its absence from a resume is almost as noticeable as its presence. Going up against competition in the work force that may have my experience AND a better GPA, I'm simply not competitive and quite honestly, I don't think my interviewer was impressed or bought my explanation. I know there are ways to get around that kind of GPA but none are as successful has having had a better GPA to begin with.

It would be silly to try to repeat my entire undergraduate degree again (i.e., to redo a B.S. in Chemistry), so instead I want to study something complementary that could still lead me toward my goal of a graduate program in Pharmacology/Med Chem. Over the passed year, I thought that I'd like to study Physical Chemistry and was taking courses (well, one summer course and I had to withdraw when I accepted my industry position) at a local university as a non-degree seeking student. Quite honestly, I'm bad at physics and physical chemistry and I always have been, so this route is trying to bolster my weakest areas rather than playing off my strengths (which always have been o. chem and biochem). It's one thing to like Basketball but another to make it onto an NBA team, you know?

So here's what I'm hoping to accomplish by returning to school full-time for a second B.S.: 1) Graduate with a higher GPA (which I think is feasible since I was always better with the life sciences side of chemistry than the physical sciences side)
2) Study something that gives marketable skills in case graduate school doesn't work out (which I feel the life sciences offers--lots of govt, academic, and private research labs in my area asking for molecular biology experience)
3) Actually do undergraduate research and get published (the school where I'm doing the non-degree seeking stuff REALLY emphasizes this and is good about it)
4) Pursue my field of interest from a different angle, which should hopefully give me a strong foundation for graduate work.
5) The school where I'm thinking of applying offers a BS/MS track that I could take advantage of. MS's are much more employable than BS's and do more exciting work for higher pay. Getting an MS would be win-win as far as I'm concerned--better employment prospects AND a better foundation for Ph.D or MBA work (i.e., it would be that point in my career that I have to decide which road to go down, but I'd still be better off than with a B.S.)

Does this sound like a viable plan? I'm worried it may be "beating around the bush," so to speak: i.e., a distraction when I should be placing my efforts somewhere else at this point in my career. It would definitely be expensive since I'd no longer qualify for grants and scholarships but I'm hoping that it would be an investment with much higher returns.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
fss
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Why don't you just apply to a master's program? Second BS degrees, especially if they aren't earned concurrently, are usually a waste of time.
 
  • #3
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Why don't you just apply to a master's program? Second BS degrees, especially if they aren't earned concurrently, are usually a waste of time.
I'd love to do that but again: GPA of 2.26. That's not going to persuade anyone without a lot else going for me (e.g., stellar GRE scores, published research, conference presentations, lots of strong recommendation letters, etc.). Even then, my applications are likely to get automatically sorted into the "NO" pile or at best the "MAYBE" pile in favor of people with all of the above AND a GPA greater than 3.0 (i.e., most applicants to Pharmacology programs). It isn't impossible but the odds are really against me.
 
  • #4
symbolipoint
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Just opinion: If you can afford it (or get the funds), earning credits toward a second B.S. if not the whole B.S. could be good. If you have lost interest in your first B.S. degree subject and did not do enough courses in your current area of interest, then aiming for B.S. degree in what you really want now should be great.

Curious: Could you say what was your first degree in, and what you want your second Bachelor's degree to be in?
 
  • #5
fzero
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I'd recommend actually speaking to the graduate advisors in the departments that you'd be applying to. There's quite a bit of leeway in relaxing the admission standards for a student that's paying their own way, which it seems that you're resolved to do anyway. You might be able to get admitted to a master's program and, if you did well in your coursework, would be able to find someone to supervise research towards your master's thesis.

If you're worried about the difficulty of coursework given your background, that may well be valid. However, don't sell yourself short by not even speaking to people that would be the most familiar with your admission prospects.
 
  • #6
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Just opinion: If you can afford it (or get the funds), earning credits toward a second B.S. if not the whole B.S. could be good. If you have lost interest in your first B.S. degree subject and did not do enough courses in your current area of interest, then aiming for B.S. degree in what you really want now should be great.

Curious: Could you say what was your first degree in, and what you want your second Bachelor's degree to be in?
My first degree is in Chemistry and I'm still pretty passionate about it. Looking back, I *should* have studied Biochemistry because chemical problems on the interface of Biology.

Biochemistry and Chemistry programs are often so similar that universities do not allow you to earn a degree in both. With that in mind, I see nothing to gain by studying simply Biochemistry. I'm leaning toward a B.S. program in Molecular Biology with the goal of preparing for a Pharmacology program (since Medicinal Chemistry is often lumped under Pharmacology schools).

I have taken 3 semesters of Biochemistry + 1 semester of intro Biology (required). The big problem, though, is that the Biochem courses I took were TOO focused and often lost sight of the "bigger picture" (i.e., talking about nucleic acid replication on a molecular level without talking about how things get transported in a cell). That bigger picture is what's explained in proper Biology courses. That's sort of what I hope to gain by a second B.S.: being able to approach my field of interest (med chem, which I want to do in a grad program) from both the chemical side (details) and the biological side (big picture), if that makes sense.

I'd recommend actually speaking to the graduate advisors in the departments that you'd be applying to. There's quite a bit of leeway in relaxing the admission standards for a student that's paying their own way, which it seems that you're resolved to do anyway. You might be able to get admitted to a master's program and, if you did well in your coursework, would be able to find someone to supervise research towards your master's thesis.

If you're worried about the difficulty of coursework given your background, that may well be valid. However, don't sell yourself short by not even speaking to people that would be the most familiar with your admission prospects.
Good idea, actually. I think I will do just that! I don't know why I didn't even think of that.
 
  • #7
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Yeah. And if you do really well, you could get a Ph.D if you're interested in doing that, and from a pretty good school as well. Then you can do the REALLY interesting work.
 

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