Getting an Education…When You Already Have One.

Many college seniors find themselves posing for pictures with friends and family, diploma in hand only to realize “I went to school for the wrong subject.”

Momentary doubt as to why you chose the path you did or if you made a mistake are natural. However, sometimes these thoughts linger. At a certain point, it may be worth it to start over.

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There are two options for changing gears; gain experience and work yourself into a different career path or go back to school.

Option One –  From experience and from looking at the unemployment rates, it is obvious that not everyone is working within their chosen major and that’s fine. Most employers only expect you to have experience. Even those that expect you to have the same major will still consider you if you have a strong reason for applying.

The main objective is to sell yourself and be proactive! Volunteer in related areas, take a few community college classes or teach yourself even. There are ways to show that you care about a subject without sitting through several years of full-time college to get a degree.

Option Two –  If you find yourself in the unique position of wanting to go into a field that requires related higher education to even be considered, you will need to go back to school. Only consider this path if it is necessary (for the sake of your wallet and your time).

Here are the obstacles –  Most colleges are currently impacted. The need for a Bachelors degree and now even a Masters to get an entry-level job is causing a shortage of space. If you already have a degree, even if it is in a different realm you will be unable to enroll as an actual student. This makes advancing into a Masters or Ph.D. program difficult.

Another obstacle is convincing a graduate program to accept you with your ‘unconventional’ background.

I am currently working on transforming my humanities Bachelors into a STEM Masters. Below is the multifaceted approach I plan on taking.

  • Classes – I currently have no science education. Taking classes at a community college will only go so far. While I plan to start out at a community college, eventually I will be taking advantage of the California State University (CSU) Open University Program. This means I will try to get into classes that have an open seat, pay the class tuition out of pocket, and pray that I can get all the classes I need in a timely manner.
  • Volunteering – I was fortunate enough to have spent the past year and a half
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    A syrphid fly directly mounted onto a needle.

    volunteering at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and I hope to find another way to be involved with a museum Entomology Department in my new location.

  • Research – Something that is nerve-wracking to me as an English major, but a major part of what I want to do, is research. A great way to prove that I have the ability and dedication to be a scientist is getting involved with research. Whether this is a volunteer opportunity, a connection with a professor’s project or even my own, having research experience will put me ahead in the application process.

Similar to the recommendations for moving into a different career without a degree, the goal in getting a Masters is to make it clear that you are someone who has thought this change through and has the motivation and drive to make it happen.

I will continue to document my efforts to obtain a Masters in Entomology with the hopes that other want-to-be entomologists or scientists will find it encouraging and help them plan their own journey.

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