Author Topic: Choosing between two careers  (Read 2303 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Choosing between two careers
« on: July 13, 2014, 01:21:40 PM »
Hello all, long time lurker, first time poster. I apologize for the wall of text!

I'm currently trying to decide between two different careers.

My background is that I'm a scientist with 2.5 years working for the federal government, I left recently to pursue a Specialized Physician assistant program. I am currently one month into this program and I'm not exactly sure that its such a great fit for me. The program is a 2-year program which includes a year of internships, which will most likely end up with a job in a hospital, in the OR for 90-140k starting. My initial plan was to do this program for the next 2 years (I'll graduate with 120k debt), take at most 2 years to pay it off with 110-140k starting salary, and then to retire within ten years. My plans after retirement are currently to go to graduate school (my SO shares this desire for after retirement).

The problem is that I'm not feeling particularly engaged in any of the subject material and classes, but when I shadow my future job it seems like it can be fairly interesting, problem-solving, with long periods of low stress. However I'm starting to miss the feeling that I had when I worked at my previous job with the government, in Public Health. I also miss the feeling of being competent in my job and dislike this grad school experience much more than undergrad. I also have much more lab experience than medical experience.

As seen above my current program is expensive, it costs me about $3000 a month, but if I complete the program there would be no problem to paying it off (I have lower interest rate loans, the most expensive of which are 6% interest Stafford loans). If I leave this program at the end of this quarter (in 2 months), I'd have a debt that I'd be able to recoup with another year of working at my previous job (they told me to come back anytime). I would also be debt-free at this point.

If I did leave this program I would apply for graduate schools for the next year and then enter a PhD program for my field in the fall. With my connections I'd think that I'd be able to get a job back with the government (even if I graduate with a masters, which 50% of new grad students do). I just would never make the kind of money that I would in my current program. I also probably wouldn't be able to retire until my fourties/fifties as I wouldn't get a paycheck (est 70-90k if I can skip a postdoc) until my early thirties (I currenlty live off of 20-25k-expenses). There's also a chance of making 100/110k+ in this route as well, it would just be much later on than in 2 years.

My main question to answer is should I take a risk and go to grad school to a possibly more rewarding career or would it be worth it to stick it out in school now. I'm just worried that I'm valuing early retirement too much and devaluing enjoyment in my future career.

Thank you for any advice!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Choosing between two careers
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2014, 02:58:08 PM »

Wish I could advise you, but this one's going to be up to you. 

Two questions:

Out of curiosity, why did you decide to leave your job and begin the program you're in? 

Also, what's the pay differential between your current degree and a Ph.D. if you stay in your current field? 

I got my Ph.D., and it was a fairly horrible experience which felt almost entirely pointless while I was in the middle of it.  The scientific information I learned during the Ph.D. has turned out to be irrelevant for my career, although lessons learned about budgeting, playing nicely with people, time management, multi-tasking, thinking for myself, and defending my ideas against all comers has been useful.  I think there are probably cheaper ways (in a time and salary sense) to learn those things, but I could be wrong. 

The increase in pay for me between my previous degree and Ph.D. and increased opportunity for promotions/advancement means I don't regret it now, but I'm not sure if I would have advised myself to go for it if I could go back in time and talk to myself. :-) 

On the other hand, the huge debt you'd rack up in your current program would totally freak me out.

Your call. :-)

Good luck with that one!



  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Choosing between two careers
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2014, 03:22:57 PM »
I left my job because it was a fellowship position with a maximum of 4 years, I was approaching 3 years and I wanted to start on school and on getting into a real career. My co-worked went into this program and I thought that it looked like an objectively good career, I'm just currently on the cusp of deciding whether its something I want to complete or not.

My field is analytical chemistry and compared with what my gf does (biology) its seems like a fairly straightforward course. Before I went into this program my old boss said it might be good for me to go get a PhD and try for a Clinical Chemist position, which does seem more interesting to me now than my current course of study.

My job paid about $42k by the time I left, MS degrees get 60k, PhD gets 70k (90k+ contractor) minimum, PhD with 1 year posdoc in clin chem would be 110k+.