Hi everyone, yet another aspiring bioinformatician flooding your message board with a question about degrees and job opportunities. I'm afraid I'm not overly familiar with the world of biology employment, the differences between academia and industry, etc, so any help is much appreciated.
Background information: I'm about to finish my master in biology in Europe, with a strong focus on evolution, ecology and a bit of molecular biology. I've taken some introductory bioinformatics and programming courses. Initially I had my mind set on pursuing a PhD in biology, but I'm starting to doubt. Several of my superiors have hinted at the fact that a solid foundation in statistics, modelling and/or bioinformatics will become more and more important in the future. However, none of them actually had prior experience in bioinformatics, so I'm not sure if I should just take their word for it. I've considered doing a PhD with a focus on these subjects, but I believe I'd rather be taught those concepts in a more traditional curriculum, instead of tackling them myself in between research (European PhD's contain almost no courses). So at the moment I'm considering doing another master's degree with a focus on either statistics or bioinformatics. On to my questions:
- Is it still true that statistics/bioinformatics will open up many more doors than just a masters in biology? Or is this just something being flaunted around by everyone and his brother?
- With a degree in statistics, I believe I could apply for jobs outside of biology, even outside of science, sort of as a fallback plan in case finding a job proves too difficult. Would a degree in bioinformatics be much more limited in scope in this sense? Or would both degrees reduce me to an "overqualified"/unsuitable applicant anyway?
- I've only dabbled in programming a bit, will I forever be at a disadvantage as a biologist compared to a computer scientist? Or would my background instead allow me to find jobs tailored towards this skill set? Basically, I'm afraid most academic/industry employers would rather hire a dedicated computer scientist to collaborate with wet-lab researchers, rather than hiring a jack of all trades master of none applicant.
- Will bioinformatics reduce my options to purely computer-based work? I'm not sure if I want to give up all of biology for just computer-based work.
- Am I correct in assuming that a master degree will give me a better understanding of these topics compared to a (European) PhD degree where I'd have to teach myself the relevant bioinformatics/statistical tools?