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Research or Masters Degree? Help!

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by rachel, Mar 4, 2000.

  1. rachel

    rachel Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 1999
    Hello Everyone [​IMG]
    Junior Year of college I took the MCATs and did average. A year later, I took it again and got pretty much the same results. Both times that I took it, my heart wasnt in medicine and I didnt study for the MCATs as some of my peers did. However, I graduated with a 3.7, with a BS in anthro-bio-chem (interdisciplinary)with honors and membership in two presitgious honor societies. While in college, I also worked at a hospital ICU and ER and learned a LOT about medicine and had a lot of support from my coworkers, esp the doctors who have written me great recomendation letters.
    Now heres my problem: Its been two years since Ive graduated and Im currently working as a HS teacher teaching Regents Biology. I love my job a lot but its not something Id be doing the rest of my life. I contemplated so many other options but in the end I always end up with wanting to attend med school. This time I finally have the motivation and desire for it.
    Im planning on taking the MCATs for the third and final time next april but Im unsure about what I should be doing in the meantime.
    I was thinking about working as a research assistant part-time while teaching but how does that compare to pursuing a masters degree part time? Which one, if any, is better than the other? I dont think I can do all 3 and I definitely want to stay with teaching until I get accepted because its a pretty good source of income and after the first year it only gets easier. So should I pursue a masters degree in the sciences or get a paid part-time position as a research assistant at a university?
    If any of you can help me out with this, Id GREATLY appreciate it.
    Thank you [​IMG]And good luck to those of you applying this year [​IMG]

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  3. Smile

    Smile Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 2, 1999
    Hi Rachel,

    I think your decisions will depend on how much you can get done over the next year and a half until you start (hopefully) medical school, which it sounds like it will be fall 2001.

    Before I applied, I called many schools to inquire about master's programs and the general consensus was that they like to see students enrolled in master's programs actually finish by the time they begin medical school. Not completing their graduate degree by then may be looked as not being totally committed to an endeavor. However, this did not happen in my case. I was enrolled in a master's program which I would not have finished by the time I started medical school, but apparently this did not have an effect on my applications, as I was accepted to multiple schools. Not one interviewer brought up my half-completed graduate coursework. I guess they were more interested in my motivations for pursuing medicine at this stage in my career. So I think that although they like to see students take their graduate coursework to completion, it may not make a huge difference if you have strong enough reasons to want to study medicine.

    As far as research, I can't comment much since I don't have much research experience. But I did learn one thing through the application process... that research is a big thing in the admissions committee's eyes. However, I don't know if this means that it is better to do research if you can actually have yourself published or it is just as acceptable as being a research assistant. Common sense would tell me that being published would certainly be a big push, but maybe being a research assistant could be just "good enough."

    Finally, don't underestimate all your past experiences. Your strong grades, extracurricular activities, honor society memberships, hospital work, and your teaching experiences will only strengthen your application. Just kick @ss on the MCAT and you will make a strong candidate!
  4. DentalDi

    DentalDi Member 10+ Year Member

    Sep 16, 1999
    CT, USA
    I'm currently a research assistant, and I can tell you that whether you're published or not (as an RA) greatly depends on your boss. Some PI's (principal investigators) don't put you on their papers even if you did most of the hands-on stuff, while others put everyone from post-docs, grad students, to RA's.

    Also, although I don't want to burst your bubble, my guess is that you'd find it very difficult to find a part-time research assistant position. Even if you did, many so -called "part time" positions (ie, 50%, 75% time) at my institution (and probably many others) require many more hours to complete the job. As you probably remember from undergrad, when you do certain lab procedures, it's often tough to stop once you begin a certain procedure. Also, my guess is that it's not worth taking a very menial research position (eg, just doing tissue culture and glassware) and stressing yourself out to get very little exposure to actual research.

    So, my feeling is that you're better off doing either teaching or research, and not both. However, you should look around to see what kind of part-time and full-time research positions are out there to satisfy yourself. As the other poster said, don't forget about the other experiences you've had--in fact, teaching is great experience in relating w/people! You may not need research as much as you think. (And I've also heard that med schools prefer people finish any degree they've started.) If you want, you could consider taking isolated courses outside of a degree program if they'll let you. (I know it's possible at the undergrad level; I'm less certain at the graduate level.)

    Good luck!

  5. rachel

    rachel Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 1999
    Thanks for your input guys but Im still soooo incredibly confused.
    The reason I looked into research assistant is cause I came across it at a university. It listed several part time jobs as research assistants and this is research involving people interaction, not the chemicals, glassware etc, which I dont esp have a strong liking to.
    So I figured maybe thats what I was missing: research.
    So now Im still kinda back to square one. Should I just take some grad level sciences classes as a nonmatric? This way Ill have time to do well on my GREs and transfer the grad credits if I dont get into med school in the meantime and I can finish by the time I reapply.
    As far as teaching, its a great occupation, and Im making some money to support myself, however I see it just as a stepping stone to better things ahead. I teach regents bio so I really have to work hard on the other aspects of the MCATs.
    Sorry this is so Ill just stick with taeking some non matric grad classes part time ? This way Im not in a degree program for them to reject me but Im still showing that I have a love for learning etc.. Right?
    Thanks guys [​IMG]


    [This message has been edited by rachel (edited 03-07-2000).]
  6. G.A. Oats

    G.A. Oats Junior Member

    Mar 6, 2000
    Hi Rachel,

    I think other posts have said much that's needed, so I'll focus on just one thing. If the MCAT is the only thing keeping you from applying to medical schools, then you'd want to put MCAT on the top of your list. If indecision is still haunting you, you may end up engaging in other commitments not whole heartedly. In that case, dealing with your history of indecisiveness thoroughly will help.

    I am writing this with a lot of assumptions because I know only what you have presented in the posts. So, please pardon me if I am being too presumptuous.

    G.A. Oats
  7. JBuls

    JBuls New Member

    Mar 9, 2000
    Bozeman, MT, USA
    Hey Rachel,

    My husband just applied to med school, and got in. I think you really need to put all your time into studying for the MCAT first.

    Then, take some time and volunteer at a hospital or a health clinic. Show that you really want to be a doctor, and also experience some of it. It will really drive home what it is you want.

    My husband has a several years of research behind him, and he is just now getting published. He has worked very hard, and in one year, it is difficult to really get some great research behind you. Plus, you said that the research is not science related, but it depends on what department the research is in. If it is not directly related to human development or psychology type topics, I wouldn't waste my time on it, unless you are truely interested in the topic.

    Also, you really need to complete a graduate degree. A couple of close friends of mine did not get accepted to professional school their first year, so they went on to a graduate degree. One was in law and the other in medicine. Both did not even get interviews the year they were in the middle of their masters, and both are having great success this year, now that they are done. If your grades are a concern, this may be important, but your grades and academic career are fine!

    Anyway, concentrate on the MCAT. Another post asked how people studied and if it was possible to do this on your own. We live in Montana, and they don't usually offer classes up here (except possibly over the internet), so everyone I know who has taken it does it on their own. My husband studied about 15 hours a week for 4 months. He set himself up a schedule, and stuck to it. Then, he studied with someone else. That kept him working towards it all the time, and made it a bit more competitive for him. He rocked the biology and physics sections, and messed up the verbal. But, he still got in. I think this deserves the most attention, along with a little volunteer work.

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