Career change from IT to Biology or staying in the IT

Comments (5)

AC in Middletown, New York

24 months ago


I've been in IT for the past 12 years doing web development and project management in the Higher Ed. It wasn't my intention to be in the IT, and I must admit I feel somewhat burned out. I was really fascinated with and good at chemistry and biology in high school (I was good at all science subjects, actually), but for practical reasons ended up in IT. I have a BS in Computer Science.

I want to choose something practical where it wouldn't be extremely difficult to find a job in a big city, and I could have a steady paycheck with let's say 50-60K or above.

I'm considering several options:
- completely switching to a practical bio degree. I've read that something like Biochemistry or Bio-engineering could be practical. I'm 35, so I'm not sure if it would be too late or impractical to do something like this.

- Doing a master's in bio-informatics. While interesting, I've read that the pay isn't that great, and the positions seem to be scarce

- I have also seen degrees in Health Informatics that have to do with managing electronic record systems and such.

- Staying in the IT, and perhaps choosing a different branch (e.g. security) or doing a Master's in Info Sys Management

Any advice? Or maybe there are options I haven't considered yet?



Riot in Ware, Massachusetts

24 months ago

The consensus on the forums here is that a BS in biology or biochemistry is far from a guarantee from a good job. I have a friend with a related degree (Neuroscience) who works as a research technician (the type of position you'd be qualified for) at a hospital in a major city and he didn't start out anywhere close to what you are looking to make. It would be a number of years before you find yourself in a position that pays over $45k. Positions in industry that do pay close to what you are aiming for require several years of experience.

If by "Bio-engineering" you mean Biomedical, as in devices, that may set you up for a better chance at a $50-60k job. If you go this route, I would consider doing a more general engineering degree, such as mechanical or electrical and search for jobs in biomedical.

The only bioinformaticist I know has a PhD. I'm not sure if a Master's will get you anywhere in that field that your BS in CompSci won't. You could try teaching yourself Python or Perl if you don't know it and familiarize yourself with popular software. (I can point you at some if you'd like.)

If you decide to take a degree in science of any kind, absolutely make sure you do both undergraduate research and industry internships, as many as you can. Good Luck!

(I'm in the summer before my second year of a Molecular Biology PhD program and have a BS in Biology, minor in Chemistry.)

njbiodude in New Jersey

24 months ago

I have a BS in biology and in my year off worked doing crappy paid contract work (think $12-18/hr no benefits). The job market is almost non-existent for people with undergrad biology degrees.

An Msc in software engineering or info systems would probably get you the most $$ and for the least effort.

If you enjoy biology, an MSc in health/bioinformatics, given your background wouldn't be bad. You probably could parlay your background into a 50-60K+ job in a hospital setting up digital health management records (doesn't necessarily require the msc however). You could certainly take health informatics courses in a bioinformatics degree to leave your options open (at least where I attend school I know someone who is doing a masters and taking both research and health informatics classes). Of course make sure you intern while in school. The Affordable Care act will mandate hospitals switch to electronic records, so there should at least be some demand in the next few years.

A "real" bioinformatics scientist develops algorithms and software to analyze genomes and such. You can certainly do this with an Msc but I'd try to make sure you at least get some experience with hardcore programming and software development first; most the jobs require previous experience. Also the biotechnology field is concentrated in the bay area of California and Boston so you would probably have to move. New York/ New York City has very little.

I'm not as familiar with Bioengineering. While you could do this, you would have to relearn the fundamentals of engineering and take A LOT of math through differential equations. I've heard it's also best when paired with at least a minor in mechanical/electrical engineering as many employers think it's too broad at the undergrad level.

I have a BS in biology, currently almost done obtaining a CLS license. I was a contractor in both a government research lab/fortune 500 pharma, and have considered most of your options myself.

Anon in Birmingham, Alabama

24 months ago

Please don't go into biology unless you are planning on going into a health profession. I have a BS in biology from 2009, and I'm worse off now than when I even started college. I never found a job in the field, and most on these forums with a BS in biology never found a job. Even my friends who went on and got master's degrees ended up jobless. I'd strongly advise you not to go into the field unless you are determined to go into medicine, vet science, pharmacy or another allied-health field. You COULD get a job, but there just are not many out there for scientists. I've been accepted into grad school, but I'm transferring into a CLS program...masters degrees in biology just aren't worth the risk and debt anymore.

AC in Middletown, New York

24 months ago

Thank you all. Very helpful information.

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