Forum:Should I work first in a Bioinformatics company or get a Ph. D.?
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8.1 years ago
mvasquez16 ▴ 20

I am an undergraduate Biology student who will graduate early and begin to work towards a Master's of Bioinformatics soon. I will have both a M.Sc. and B. Sc. in a total span of 4 years. However, other than knowing that I want to be a bioinformatician I don't know what I should do afterwards. I have considered two paths:

  1. Finding a job and just working in a Bioinformatics/biotech company.
  2. Getting a Ph.D. in Biochemistry(only if I get a fellowship). Is Biochemistry a good Ph.D. for Bioinformatics research?

Note that I am not qualified to be admitted into Statistics in most universities.

I am worrying in advance, and I hope I don't sound cocky. I just want to know in advance in case it happens. I will apply to both jobs and fellowships, a fellowship and no job or no fellowship and a job are the only outcomes where I can make a clear choice. However, in the case I get a fellowship and a job in different locations, I would like to know whether I should pick the fellowship or the job. I know science is not a field where you go for money or security. SO I want to ask, how flimsy are Bioinformatics/Biotech companies? Does a Ph.D. in Biochemistry increase job prospects in any way? Which would you pick?

Biochemistry PhD career • 8.5k views
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Well, it is kind of tough out there in science research. You have to decide carefully.

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A bit bitter?

There are also unhappy computer scientists too, to be fair. The reasons are different though. They mainly feel unfulfilled in their career.

I do agree that mvasquez is choosing the completely wrong career path if his main preoccupation is job security. He should pick an M.Sc. in computer science if his main objective is getting, and keeping, a well-paid job. People, especially bioinformatics students and wet-lab biologists, consistently underestimate just how low salaries are in bioinformatics.

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I've heard that in CS, they don't really care about the degree as long as you do great on the technical interviews and get internships. I do have some programming background, I had to take courses for the M.S. If you want to go into CS, there are OCW courses from MIT as well as the Udacity OMS CS open courses( if you want to check it out: https://www.udacity.com/georgia-tech) to teach you. Never heard of a MBA being of much use though. In my opinion the only 100% safe jobs are healthcare ones until they get sued for the effects of lack of sleep. So I am not expecting a particularly safe job. I am not the sort of person who wants to start a family. I don't mind low pay that much, but my worry is will I find a job and pick the job, will I get to keep it for a decent amount of time or will it vanish from one day to another because the company was flimsy as hell?

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Actually, I did not take any CS classes but get the my first software engineer job with a degree in biological science. I come to bioinformatics because I have issues with my H1B visa.

You would think I know programming and biology, I would get more salary. the reality is the opposite.

currently, I work in a top university and the project is more challenging but the salary is less than half of my first job. (the workload is not much though). will come back once my h1b case approved.

Do not believe someone tell you that the start salary is low but it is very promising or have a good future or it is good to the society. That is a lie! If it is very promising. the start salary will be high.

If you check bioinformatics, 10 years ago, it is very promising. now it is very promising. 10 year later it will still be very promising. but the salary keep low.

If you want a good job and a good future, stay away from biology. It is sad, but it is true for the time being. (at least in USA and China. I do not know much about other country)

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Thanks, I will keep that in mind.

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8.1 years ago

A PhD is almost a requirement for an academic career or doing research. Another thing to consider is that a PhD tends to bring a higher salary but this is only worth, in my opinion, if you don't start with a big student debt. If you want to start a job then do a PhD you should not stay away from academia for too long. It's not that there won't be a university or lab for you, it's just that your life will have taken a different turn e.g. think about paying your mortgage and your kids' school with your PhD fellowship. Check what the biochemistry program you're interested in offers. On the face of it, a biochemistry program may not be the best way to bioinformatics but this depends on the specifics of the program, they may be called biochemistry but offer different options. On the other hand, having a biology background can help in a number of situations when dealing with biological data.

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8.1 years ago
mastal511 ★ 2.1k

Go for the job if you have a choice. You can always go back and do a PhD later. If you want to do bioinformatics research, do a bioinformatics PhD.

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8.1 years ago

Since this question's answer is primarily opinion based so I will give you my example:

I am a Computer Scientist/Engineer who completed his graduation back in 2009. I have worked for over 4 years as a Software Engineer and have 3 years experience as a Lecturer in Computer Science as well (which itself is very interesting).

I always hated Biology until 2013's end when I saw an online Bioinformatics course and totally changed my mindset by 180 degrees. Now I am doing my thesis (masters) in Bioinformatics and planning to quit CS this year for Bioinformatics. It's that interesting of the field

What you need to do

Do a PhD in Bioinformatics - If they don't enroll you in Bioinformatics then don't worry. They didn't enroll me in it either. Just ensure that in your Biochemistry faculty, you find a good supervisor for your thesis (in Bioinformatics). As long as your thesis research is in Bioinformatics, name of degree doesn't matter

Which Skills should you Sharpen

  • Programming
  • Basic of Database
  • Basic of websites like Ensembl, GenBank, etc. (Basically one online course on Bioinformatics will do)

You don't need too much knowledge of stats to be honest. Its just a hoax. Even R and Python are not necessary for it. I am working purely in C++ and its enough for it. They are bonus, not prerequisites.

Why you should not work in a Company

  • You will not learn anything
  • You will not do anything in Bioinformatics sitting in a country other than US (that too is unlikely there)
  • Your knowledge/learning will be stagnant and your passion will be killed and maybe after 2 years, you would totally quit the idea of doing anything in this field
  • Even if it were a job exactly of your bioinformatics field, still doing any research/academic job without PhD is not a smart option at all. Maybe you know more than your peers having lesser experience than you, but will be having a lower pay-scale, growth chances and designation.
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You will not learn anything
You will not do anything in Bioinformatics sitting in a country other than US (that too is unlikely there)

How can this be true?

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Since in job, you are paid not to learn. You must do what is in the best interest of the employer which can even be a trivial task like sitting on an Excel sheet, administration of staff or making manuals for lab.

2nd point: Yeah nothing in Bioinformatics is being done in any country except US and China. There are places like EMBL etc in other countries, but 1 out of thousands go there. Here, they will be doing PCR and believe its bioinformatics or maybe some exon sequencing. No! Its not

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Bang on @Pierre, am amazed to see people answering such in disgust. If you think there is no work in other countries in the field of Bioinformatics research, just search for pubmed or any BioIT workshops to see the use of the field in academic setting. As far as industry is concerned you can take a look at Astrazeneca, IBM , Strands and many more. The field cannot be compared to IT since that caters to different horizontals across different verticals, and more of a product it summarizes to services. In short if you just want a job security it is not a field, if you want a job that challenges you at the behest of learning curve then you might still give it a try. The service industry in this field will arrive in near future but everything has its own time.

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8.1 years ago
Echo ▴ 70

Check the JOBS section in this site. most of the job are postdoc, pay a funny salary compared to the requirements. Are you ready for it?

If you do a PhD related to Biology, do bioinformatics. You have a chance to find other jobs with your skills, if academia is not good for you in some day.

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8.1 years ago
chen ★ 2.5k

If you want an academic career, get a Ph.D as early as possible.

If you are not dedicated to academic career, go to the place where you can access more data.

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