Career development resources - How do you you go about choosing the best career for you?
Deciding on what career to embrace IS A SERIOUS MATTER
As stated previously, this is something that should be done early, for high school graduates before they start at the university, and for current university students before they move to the next stage of their training. We all have some idea of what this degree or that degree leads to. That’s not what we are talking about here. It is critically important that students evaluate all career options open to graduates in their chosen field of study.
Let's start with advice for high school graduates
High school graduates should seek counseling and decide on a career well before ever choosing what undergraduate/professional program to opt for. They ought to know that each academic program leads to a wide variety of potential careers.
WELL BEFORE they ever sit in amphitheaters to take classes, students who opted for physics for instance ought to know that a degree in physics qualifies them to jobs spread across at least 12 sectors of activities. Students who opt for biomedical programs—such as Anatomy, Biochemistry, Bioengineering / Biological Engineering, Bioethics, Bioinformatics, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Biomedical Science, Biometrics and Biostatistics, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Cancer Biology and Oncology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Epidemiology, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Genomics, Human Physiology, Immunology, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Physiology, Toxicology, Virology, etc— ought to know that such programs can lead them to a wide range of sectors of activity - not only teaching/research as it is often believed.
- oBefore high school graduates ever start taking classes at the university they ought to know exactly what type of profession they want to embrace years down the road. They need to have a plan A and a plan B. This applies especially to those students who enroll at a university in order to better prepare themselves for admission into a professional program like medicine, engineering, etc. In their case, plan A is admission into the target professional program, but they need to have a well-defined plan B as well. Let's say for instance that the student is really interested in a health care type career; as a plan B the student can opt for a university program that will lead him/her into the health care system one way or another. MD's are not the only professionals in health care.
- oYoung high school graduates ought to have a well-prepared career plan. For more details regarding the career plan, see the illustration below.
Let's move to MS/BS students
MS/BS students – One of the main reasons why students struggle so much in Africa after years of study, financial, emotional and physical sacrifices is the lack of guidance. As we often say in French “frequenter pour frequenter”; that’s going to school with no other purpose than getting a degree. This is not an issue limited to Africa or poor nations. I seen students in the US doing the same thing. This is a huge issue as doing this sturdily predisposes the student to face all sorts of career/job related struggles down the road. It is strongly advice that MS/BS students that have not done so before stop everything for a minute and evaluate career opportunities opened to graduates in their current field of study. We know so little about the value of the degree we have in our pockets.
So many students are under the wrong impression that teaching and research are their only options. Wrong! Examples are given below for people in the Biomedical/Biological and Physics fields of study and as you can see employments opportunities are endless. Student need to become aware of their options very early as this will dictate their next moves.
It is important that MS/BS students seek to know:
- What industrial sectors often hire people with a degree in their field?
- What types of careers/positions do people with a degree in their field qualify for?
- FINALLY, after they have gathered all this information, it is important that they choose a specific industry/sector of activity/career AND prepare a career plan.
- For more details regarding what a career plan is and how to go about building one, click here.
Doing all this is important because it will help students determine what their next steps (course choice, extracurricular activities, additional training, etc…) should be.
Now let's finish with PhD students
Advice for PhD Students
PhD programs are highly specialized. PhD's usually prepare you for careers in research and teaching. But it is important to note that there are several other possibilities as far as sectors of activity/industry for PhD students. In other words, they are not limited to academia. The career plan depicted below is the usual one followed by PhD graduates who embrace a career in academia. PhD programs are very long, so before getting involved, it is important to take a look at the very interesting figure published by the ministry of education of New Zealand. This trend has been observed in several other countries abroad.
The dream of many African students currently in PhD programs is to find a lab abroad. There are steps that could drastically increase your chances of seeing this dream come to pass.