Updated: May 24
If the above image made you think ‘Oh! That is how I feel’ then welcome to the life of a BSc graduate (and MSc graduate).
My original plan for my life was as follows: MBChB – Government year – specialisation in Neurology and Neurosurgery – Live a happy life. As from this post you can tell that that was not the case. So, plan B modified plan A slightly by completing a BSc first then moving on as planned. Needless to say, after three failed attempts at getting into medicine, I took it as a sign that it was not for me.
During my BSc, I was exposed to many different fields in biological and health sciences with Genetics and Physiology piquing my interest. I have always had a passion for learning and the brain. Now my new plan was set I would follow the ‘Academia stream’. This ‘Academia stream’ is what most of us think of when we think of post-undergraduate studies: BSc followed by Honours followed by Masters followed by PhD which then leads into Post-Docs and/or Lecturing. For many this is their ideal path to follow however, this was not the path for me.
I have completed ¾ of this pathway thus far, (I do plan to get my PhD) and it was only while doing my masters that I discovered that at the end of this pathway, I would not find happiness. Let me start by explaining why I would not be happy at the end of the ‘Academia stream’. After consulting a couple of lecturers that have followed this pathway, I can make the following two-point summary: 95 -98% of your time is spent doing admin – this includes making lecture slides, marking, applying for grants, etc. the other 2-5% of your time is the time you get to spend doing actual research and laboratory work. I am at my happiest when I am in the lab performing an experiment, so from the above breakdown I would not be living my life to my full potential.
The one thing that people in the ‘Academia stream’ have in common is that they will not help and give advice on any other pathways besides the one that they are in. This then left me to work out my own stream that I want to follow. After taking a personal journey I found the aspects of Science and research that I thoroughly enjoy, the aspects that I tolerate because they are a given and the sections that I would not personally enjoy or get bored at too quickly. This came at a surprise that there are other options to the ‘Academia stream’ that can make a person happy while still using their degree.
So now what?
Always remember that by completing a BSc, you have gained an amazing skill set that will be beneficial to you, no matter what path you choose to take. Below are some other options that one may follow after completing that degree (this is not an exhaustive list but merely a bouncing off point to get you thinking about the future.
You have graduated with a BSc:
· The first option that you have is to complete an Honours degree.
· If you are a person that enjoys teaching and wants to spark the joy of science in high school scholars then maybe consider doing a PGCE. This is a one-year teaching certificate that will allow you to work in private and public schools.
· Legal scientist or a patent lawyer.
· Try for medicine.
You have graduated with a BSc Honours:
· The first option that you have is to complete an MSc degree.
· All the options under a BSc.
· Internship to register with the HPCSA as a medical scientist/ medical technologist.
You have graduated with an MSc:
· The first option that you have is to complete a PhD degree.
· All the options under a BSc Honours.
You have graduated with a PhD:
· The first option that you have is to start a Post-doctorate position.
· You could apply to be a lecturer.
· All the options under an MSc.
Now that you have some more options to explore, be open to new ideas and opportunities that come your way!