Considering a Career Change?

We receive many inquiries each year from potential applicants who are considering a career change. Here's some information to help you make this decision.

Timeline:

If you are starting out with little or no science background, please consider that it will take a minimum of three years to put yourself in a position where you are a competitive applicant for this or any similar doctoral program. In 2016 we received over 270 applications for the 10-12 available spaces. Nearly all of these applicants had successful academic preparation in either Biology, Biochemistry, or Computer Science (or some experience in multiple areas), as well as least a year of independent research experience (and often much more). So even if you've had a successful career in business, tech, or some other field, you will need to prepare to compete with applicants who have been working toward graduate study for several years.

Coursework:

We do not have a set list of courses required for admission, nor do we require a degree in a particular area, such as Biology. Consider, though, that by the time you take enough coursework to get a solid background in the field, you may well be close to obtaining a degree, and if so, you would do well to complete it.

An exception to this guideline would be for those who already have a computer science degree. In this case, the coursework you might need to prepare for graduate study is less - introductory Biology and Chemistry courses.

Research experience:

After you've taken a year of courses and have a better idea which topics particularly interest you, it's time to start contacting labs by email to look for a research position (either volunteer or paid). It's really best if you have at least a year of lab research experience before applying to graduate school. You can of course contact genetics / genomics labs, but it isn't necessary that your lab experience be in precisely the same field in which you hope to begin graduate study.

Lab research experience prior to begining graduate study is important both so that you demonstrate to programs that you have a talent for research and, perhaps more importantly, so that you prove to yourself that this is the right career path for you.