The Truth About Some STEM Degrees

Hello all, I am here to share with you my experiences and some of the truths I have learnt about studying biosciences at university as Pharmacology MSc graduate based on my current position now.

I studied for a BSc in Pharmacology which at the time sounded great and interesting because I have always been curious about medicines and I wanted an insight into the pharmaceutical industry. I want to stress throughout this post the importance of being proactive with your degree and not just for the purposes of going to lectures, practicals and seminars. If you truly want to put yourself in the best position after graduation especially if you like me see yourself in the lab, I heavily advice you to ensure you gain lab based experience during your degree.

Talk to lecturers about the possibilities of work experience for a week during the long summer holiday break. Even yet, one of my main regrets is not doing the placement yeargiphy between my second and final year. If I had the opportunity to do my degree again I would most definitely choose this option. If the placement year is not something that tickles your fancy then take advantage of the companies that offer summer internships for undergraduate students. This may involve you looking at companies directly such as AstraZeneca, GSK, Roche etc. It’s even better when your department at university have links and place these opportunities on the virtual learning platform for your course so utilise this!

So you have finished your undergraduate degree and got your final grade. What you do next is entirely up to you depending on what you aspire to do in the future. If you see yourself solely being based in industry then you can decide to work and work your way up to the top. If like me you graduated with a 2.2 then this may be a hindrance (however we are all different). I know that during my final year I was certain and sure that I wanted to do a Masters to put me in a great position to pursue an academic career (PhD route). Now, you are able to progress straight from BSc to PhD without the need for a Masters but due to my circumstances I felt that having a better Masters grade would hopefully facilitate things.

Fast forward to 2017, I have graduated with a Distinction in my Pharmacology MSc with the world as my oyster being in a great position to apply for PhDs and jobs because of more practical experience. Life has a way of humbling you because here I am months later without neither of the above. What I will say is the advice I suggested to do during your undergraduate studies can be applied into your MSc. Simply because unlike an MRes which is heavily research based to expand your repertoire of skills a taught MSc are usually limited to lectures, practical sessions and your research project (my own was 7 weeks). The placement year option is not feasible possible but also if you don’t feel the urge to your Masters straight after your BSc then you can take a year out before like I did. This is also a great opportunity to begin collating lab experience.  

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What I will say about biosciences is if you are money motivated I am here to tell you it may take a while before you are hitting salary figures like your peers who are in other fields so prepare to be patient and grind hard! Make sure you actually love the prospects of your course before doing so. Also be prepared to possibly do a PhD especially if you want to retire and branch into academia like me after an industrial career. In the meantime, try and keep yourself busy with a job so that you are not in the house all day. I was very lucky enough to have maintained a great relationship with the pharmacy I was working at during my gap year before my Masters so I am currently working here. It is not necessarily ideal or where I want to be but it is something to keep me going whilst I am actively looking.

I hope this post can encourage someone who has done a bioscience degree and is in a similar position to me where ends seem to not be meeting and working out but you are passionate about your scientific career. You have to keep pushing and applying to get your CV out there you never know when the opportunity will arise.

Chichi Okagbue

@IBeChichi

http://www.thoughtsofchi.com

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