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September 2016 Archive

Posted by Rebecca on September 16th, 2016  ⟩  0 comments

If you find yourself asking the question, “is postdoc really my only option after receiving my Ph.D.,” this article is for you. Here are 10 great alternative career paths to consider when a postdoc isn’t your ideal route.

When starting the path to a Ph.D. in the life sciences, most students have their minds set on pursuing a career in academia. It is not surprising that this is often the only option students consider because it is the most talked about, and it is the path the professors who mentor the students took for their careers. Unfortunately, however, it is estimated that only 8 percent of Ph.D. students will go on to receive a tenure position in a university during their career. There are very few tenure positions that open each year and many applications are submitted for them. 

Scientists with doctorate degrees are useful to a variety of fields ranging from government jobs to nonprofit organizations. Here are 10 promising career paths to consider during your journey to becoming a Ph.D. over the next few years.


1. Research and Development

One of the most common alternatives to working in academia is working industry. While there are many different types of industry jobs available, working in research and development is one of the most popular. R&D jobs include those related to discovery of new drugs and other preclinical research. Ph.Ds are typically the scientists that test new medical therapies before the drug moves into clinical trials on humans. There are also positions for Ph.Ds that focus on development of processes and optimization of production of new technologies—whether that be a new drug or some type of instrumentation necessary for another scientific application.

While there is an option to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in industry, most companies do not require you to have completed a postdoc. If you want to increase your chances of getting a position in industry upon completion of your Ph.D., look into getting an internship in industry while you are still in school. This will give you experience working in the field without the completion of a more lengthy postdoc.




   

2. Pharmaceuticals

Another popular type of industry job is working for a pharmaceutical company, particularly as a pharmaceutical scientist focusing on drug discovery. There are many different jobs which fall under the pharmaceutical scientist category which include but are not limited to analysis of drugs and metabolism of drugs.

A scientist can also work as a pharmaceutical sales rep whose job it is to sell products. Ph.Ds have the ability to understand the way drugs work and affect the body, which makes them appealing as pharmaceutical reps who will be educating physicians on the company’s products. With bonuses for making sales goals, scientists have the potential to start out making more money as a pharmaceutical rep than a post doc, and Ph.Ds also have the ability to move up to management positions within pharmaceutical companies.



3. Scientific Entrepreneurship

If you are a grad student who is spewing creativity, scientific entrepreneurship may be a great choice for you. First, you have to have an idea. Next, you have to get people interested in your idea. This step has become much easier with social media and crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. Starting a business isn’t easy, but with the right group of people assisting you, you can be very successful. Many scientists have started companies by joining forces with colleagues who specialize in business.



4. Patent Law

Many intellectual property law firms will hire Ph.Ds to work as advisors. This is a great opportunity for those who are interested in dealing with the newest scientific discoveries on a daily basis, but you have to be willing to explore a variety of fields. As a scientific advisor, a Ph.D. may be responsible for drafting and securing patents.

Another option for Ph.D.s interested in patent law is going back to school for to become a patent lawyer. This can be done on your own or with the support of a law firm who may help finance your education. 



5. Scientific Writing

One alternative to pursuing a career in academia is to become a scientific writer. If you have a strong writing skills and don’t mind swapping out your lab bench for  a desk, this may be an option for you. You can work for journals, magazines, pharmaceutical companies, etc. Many Ph.Ds with writing skills also obtain jobs for marketing departments or editing scientific articles. One way to get started is to look for internships in science journalism. This will get your foot in the door as a writer and help you to gain experience necessary for a career as a scientific writer despite having spent a majority of the last few years in the lab.



6. Finance

Another area that scientists can find jobs in is finance. According to Science magazine, scientists often make great financial analysts not only due to their extensive training in mathematics and quantitative analysis but also because they have the ability to understand the science behind new technologies. These skills allow them to determine the best investment decisions for their company.

Industries that employ scientists for financial analyst positions include pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Investment companies and large financial corporations also hire scientists to head their healthcare and life science sectors. It is to their advantage to hire someone who understands the processes involved and science behind new designs.

Of course, moving into finance from science is not a simple change. While your science degree has provided you with the reasoning and mathematical skills that you will need, you will also need to increase your financial literacy through reading and enrolling in finance courses at university or online.



7. Military

The military offers alternative careers for scientists as well. Military scientists study infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses and study disease, drugs and chemicals. They also work to keep all military personnel free of contagious disease and are involved in studying the effects of different exposures and activities. Doing research for the military can be a very rewarding career for a Ph.D. who is not ready to leave the lab bench but is not set on a career in academia.

There is also the option of completing a postdoc in a military research program like the United States Army Research Laboratory. This is an alternative career path to entering academia that can increase your chances of working as an independent military researcher in the future.

If you decide to go into the military before receiving your doctorate, you may be able to use the post-9/11 GI bill to pay for part of your education when you decide to go to graduate school. Talk to a recruiter before enlisting to get more details on the stipulations of the GI bill.



8. Policy & Politics

While most people who deal with science policy are politicians and lawyers, there is a need for more educated scientists to get involved in the field. Many people who are currently in these positions have never studied science or participated in research and don’t have the background in science necessary to make the be st decisions and work towards the goals we have for science policy. Having trained scientists work towards policy changes will benefit the field as a whole.

Getting involved in policy can be challenging at first. Some suggestions are to first start becoming more aware of what is currently going on in regards to science issues by reading and watching the news. Once you feel comfortable discussing policy and know how you would like to get involved, you can start networking. Call up your local representatives and share your opinions. Get involved in different societies related to your field. You can also search for fellowships or internships in science policy to help jumpstart your career. Those who have the most experience in science may be the most influential when it comes to working with policy so it is not a bad idea to do bench work and gain some experience and publish papers before making the switch to a career in policy.



9. Secondary Education

You’re probably thinking that this article was about alternatives to academia and you’re right. However, teaching at the secondary level is a lot different than pursuing a career as a college professor. It takes less time to reach the goal because there are no required postdocs and there will be fewer people applying who are as educated and qualified as you are with a Ph.D. While you can always go back to school to get a teaching certificate, whether one is necessary will depend on the state requirements and whether you’re looking into teaching at a private or public school. If there is a requirement for a teaching certification, look into state-approved alternate routes to get certified. Teaching science at the high school level can be really fun if you enjoy working with teens.



10. Nonprofit Organization

Working for a nonprofit organization, you can do almost anything with your science degree. From getting involved in policy to doing biomedical research of interest to the organization, there are numerous possibilities. While there are many positives to working for a nonprofit such as independence and flexibility, there are also a few disadvantages to consider. Most nonprofits cannot afford to pay scientists as much as they would make in other industries. Additionally, there will be a lot of time spent raising money and applying for grants in comparison to working for a larger corporation. Take all of these factors into consideration when deciding on the next step in your journey.

While this list of alternatives to a career in academia is not comprehensive, it will give you some ideas to consider when deciding whether to apply for postdoc positions at the end of your Ph.D. Consider all of your options carefully and apply to multiple types of jobs—you never know what you might get and actually enjoy. Though choosing where you will begin your professional life is an extremely important decision, you are not locked into working in a certain job for the rest of your life. If you know what your goals are and you work hard to achieve them, you are on the path to a very successful career.


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code:  79108, 79104

Posted by Rebecca on September 29th, 2016  ⟩  0 comments

It can often be difficult for even an experienced life science researcher to keep an audience focused and awake. To address this issue, we have crowdsourced and compiled strategies to avoid losing your audience during your next talk or lecture.In this article, we have listed the Dos and Don’ts along with some extraordinary “pro tips” that will change the momentum of your presentation. 

It probably isn’t hard for you to think of a time when you were attending a talk, lecture or some other type of presentation where you were struggling to stay awake. Your eyes start to feel heavy as you fight to keep them open. You do everything to prevent becoming the person in the front row who has fallen victim to the head bobbing cycle where you’re awake one minute and asleep the next. We’ve all been there.

Gaining the audience’s attention is one of the most difficult challenges a speaker will face. After crowdsourcing ideas from scientists all around, here is a list of the dos and don’ts all professional life scientists should follow. Consider this a best-practice in the art of keeping your audience awake and engaged. For more basic public speaking strategies, check out our article 10 Steps to a more Effective Scientific Presentation.



The DOs

Do show enthusiasm and excitement about your work.

Perhaps one of the best ways to keep your audience interested in your research is to be interested in it yourself. Show your passion and excitement about your work. Radiating positive energy throughout your presentation will allow the audience to feed off of your enthusiasm. Don’t for get to smile and have fun! The tone at the beginning of your talk can subconsciously set an impression on your listeners about how the rest of the talk will go.

Here are two examples of talks—one where the speaker’s tone, body language and enthusiasm shines and one where these traits are lacking. 

While watching the classic Ben Stein in the clip from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” I can’t help but  wonder when it is going to be over. On the other hand, Dr. Jessica Winter (Ohio State University) manages to capture her audience’s attention early on by showing her passion for the research she is doing. She engages the audience by asking thought-provoking questions, relating her topic to the media and using analogies. Even though I don’t have any background in nanotechnology, I found myself interested in her research and wanted to continue watching even after the ten minute mark. This is a simple example of how much enthusiasm and passion can influence the way the audience perceives your talk.



Do relate to the audience.

From the very beginning of your talk, it is important to get the attention of the audience. One strategy is to know who your audience is and what they care about. You can then relate your topic specifically to them and tell them why they should care and how it affects them. You can also tell stories which resonate with your audience. Stories help evoke emotion and bring your listener’s focus to you.



Do engage the audience.

Engaging the audience can be difficult to do, but is a good way to keep your talk interesting. Methods include telling a story and relating to what the audience cares about. Another simple way is to ask the audience a provocative question, show them compelling images or state a shocking statistic. Other ways include offering a handout or encouraging dialogue among the group when time allows.



Do make sure each slide has a clear message.

Have you ever been watching a presentation that was 30 slides long and thought to yourself that the topic could have been covered in about 10 slides? Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently. After preparing your presentation, it’s time to consolidate. Go through and think to yourself what the main message of each slide is. If you cannot come up with that main idea, then consider updating or deleting that slide. Padding a presentation with extra slides can make your audience feel like listening your talk may not be the best use of their time.



Do manage your time appropriately.

One of my pet peeves when attending a scheduled presentation is when it runs over time. Remember that your audience has a tight schedule and possibly a short attention span. Therefore, it is important to respect your listeners by trying to properly gauge how long your talk will last and how long your audience will be willing to sit through it. Practicing your presentation is a good way to do this, but don’t forget to leave some extra time open for questions.



Do define words the audience might not know.

A good strategy to ensure your audience is keeping up with the science involved in your research is to use conversational words as much as possible. It is inevitable that you will need to use larger words when speaking about scientific topics, so be sure to define any words people may not understand. It is easy to succumb to the curse of knowledge and forget that those who haven’t been working on your project may not be familiar with the concepts.

The curse of knowledge is a type of cognitive bias in which one fails to realize the knowledge he has that others do not inherently possess and can confuse and distract your listeners. If there is any doubt that your audience may not understand a term, define it just to be safe.

Pro Tip: Be mindful of the gap in knowledge when it comes to an interdisciplinary audience. A developmental biologist might not have the same background in the materials and methods as a biochemist. Something as simple as RT-PCR might not be understood by everyone.



Do use animations to guide your presentation.

While I will be the first to admit that animations can be distracting at times, when used appropriately, they can serve as good transitions between points. One strategy is to use animation effects so that bullet points appear one at a time as they are talking. This prevents the audience from becoming distracted by all of the bullet points being displayed at once and helps you pace yourself as you discuss each point.



Do use arrows to emphasize the important aspects of complicated figures.

When possible, it may be best to avoid complicated figures all together. However, when their use is necessary for understanding the methods or results of your study, arrows can be used to indicate which part of the figures the audience should be focusing on. You can also use a laser pointer during your talk to emphasize certain aspects if you have one available.



Do be yourself.

One of the best things you can do that people often forget about is being yourself. If you enjoy making people laugh, include a bit of humor. If you’re quirky, like many scientists are, show your quirky side. Letting the audience see different aspects of your personality will remind them that you are human and you are relatable. Just remember to maintain the degree of formality required for your situation.



The Don’ts

Don’t explain every detail of your methods.

When polling, we found that the number one point in a talk where most people become disengaged is the methods section. Techniques and procedures are often very detailed and hard to understand in a short period of time. It is best to include only the details necessary for understanding the project or the details that directly support the results of your research. Omit the rest. You can always refer people to your paper if they seek a more detailed explanation of your methods.

3 Tips for a Memorable Methods Section:

  • 1.Explain what you did and why you did it. Tell the audience the importance of the steps you took and why they were done in such a way.
  • 2.Explain how you did it. Show the way you interpreted the results so that the audience can interpret your results for themselves.
  • 3.Explain what it all means. Inform your listeners of the significance and consequences of the results you obtained. Remember that to your audience, many results will seem meaningless until you explain how they support your study.

With these tips, you will be able to create a methods section that is not only interesting, but also allows the rest of your talk to come together.



Don’t stare at the screen.

It is a common mistake to look at the screen too often during a talk, usually because it is less intimidating than looking out into the crowd. However, this is the opposite of engaging your audience and could give the impression that you don’t know your topic enough to look away from what you have on your slides. Making eye contact with your listeners and looking around the room, and even walking around the stage is a good way to avoid staring at the screen.

On that note , it is important not to fill your slides with text and do not have everything you’re going to say written out. This can be very distracting and cause your audience to focus more on your slides than on listening to you.



Don’t use phrases such as “as you know…”

I am very guilty of using the phase “as you all know” while speaking. I often do it when I’m worried that I’m telling the audience something they already know and I don’t want them to feel insulted. However, it is more often the case that not everyone in the audience fully grasps what’s being said, and this can cause you to quickly lose them. Additionally, it might make you come off as conceited, so it’s best to avoid any phrasing similar to this.

Pro Tip: Identify your crutch word(s) and obliterate it from your vocabulary! The concept of the crutch word is taught to student radio DJs who usually develop a go-to transitional word when on air. For example, you might start every other sentence with the word “literally” to emphasize a point. Or you might end every sentence, statement or point with a, “you know” or an “ok.”

When it comes to academic lectures and talks, however, one of the most common crutch words is “So.” Yes, it actually sounds educated to begin the answer to a question or thought with a “So,” but when it becomes prevalent, your audience will pick up on it quickly, look for it and become slightly annoyed.



Don’t ramble.

This strategy goes hand in hand with not padding your presentation with additional slides. Concision is key when it comes to keeping your audience interested, so get to the point in as few words as possible. If rambling is born out of nervousness, try treating your talk like a conversation, making it easier to stay calm and on topic.

Pro Tip: Be aware of signs that you might be rambling. Some indicators might include losing your breath from talking quickly without pauses, repeating yourself and going into detail about a topic you’ve been sidetracked into talking about.



There is a common theme among the dos and don’ts of giving an enticing talk—keeping your audience entertained and interested. These strategies will help you to maintain the audience’s attention. In the book “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath, it is suggested to “use a simple unexpected concrete credentialed emotional story” to appeal to your listeners. Check out this book here to learn even more ways to make your ideas ‘stick’ in the minds of your listeners. And tell us about your tips or pet peeves when it comes to public speaking in the comments below


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79107, 79108

Posted by Rebecca on September 9th, 2016  ⟩  0 comments

Whether you have recently graduated college or have taken some time off before returning to school, transitioning into graduate student life can be scary. Here is a guide about what to expect and how to prepare for the changes you will likely encounter during grad school.

When I started graduate school, I had no idea what to expect. I tried to picture what it was going to be like in my head, and I even had dreams of what the first days would look like. In some dreams, I ended up being the Elle Woods of my class and in others, I didn’t even make it to class. It’s safe to say I had no idea what to expect. I would Google topics such as “things to do before starting grad school” or “am I ready for grad school” and would be disappointed by the results. However, after surviving my transition into the graduate school life, I have compiled a list of what changes you can expect to encounter when it comes to academics, lifestyle and finances, and how you can be best prepared to survive them.

Academics

Initially, the change in academics from undergraduate to graduate school can be pretty shocking. While you will be enrolled in fewer classes, your work load will increase significantly. Instead of having a lot of course work, you will have more independent work to do such as your research project. Below are helpful tips to make the academic transition easier on yourself.

Organize your study materials and résumé.

Get as much of the preparation work done as possible before school starts. It is possible that you will need to purchase study materials such as textbooks, software or even a new computer. If your school is not up front about what you will need, try contacting a student in the class above you via Facebook or email to get suggestions on supplies you will need.

It is also a good idea to make sure that your CV is up to date and easily accessible so you can quickly add things as they come up. You’ll want to add any research projects and publications that you are involved in as they happen. If you wait to update your CV when you need it, you will have a much more difficult time trying to remember everything that should be included and might even miss something.



Stay up-to-date with current literature.

Being familiar with what is going on in your field of study is critical. New papers will be published constantly, and it is not realistic for you to read all of them, but you can get ahead by reading some recently published material over the summer. If it is affordable for you, subscribe to a journal or two in your field. You can get on email lists as well so that you always have access to the most up-to-date information. Even if you find yourself unable to read entire papers, reading the abstracts can keep your mind fresh on what is going on outside of your institution.



Avoid procrastination and cramming.

If you’re anything like me and you became a professional procrastinator during your undergraduate education, now is the time to throw those practices out the window. The curriculum you are about to face is much different than what you have grown accustomed to. During graduate school, you need to retain and apply what you learn; merely memorizing the material for a test will not suffice. Instead, set specific goals and assignments to complete before a realistic deadline. Come up with a way for you to track your progress—use a check list or map out a timeline that you can color in upon completion of a specific task. Since you will have more autonomy in graduate school, this method will help you keep up with your workload.



Network with your professors and peers.

Networking during graduate school is important, especially if you are part of a program with many working professionals who are also in school. Building strong relationships with everyone you encounter—professors and peers—will put you in the best position to obtain work after graduation.



Learn to accept failure.

Doing research is one of the hardest tasks because it is not immediately rewarding. Many thoughtful and well planned projects do not work out, and coming to terms with this can take time. Try to remember that disproving your hypothesis is as much of a learning experience as proving a hypothesis. Take time and do your experiments slowly and know that it is okay when you come across a roadblock and a project doesn’t go as planned.

Pro Tip: Remember that failure isn’t really a failure when you are able to identify the valuable lessons from the experience. Find out why your project didn’t work and how you can improve the next time.



Lifestyle

Before I started grad school, it felt like a million people told me life was going to be different. I didn’t want to listen to any of them, mostly because I thought I could avoid the changes that they expected I would face. I quickly came to find out that they were right. Your lifestyle is going to change, and accepting that it will be different will allow you to better prepare for this new and exciting journey. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the transition you will be making, but it will get easier as time goes on. Here are a few lifestyle tips to help keep you sane during this time.


Take a break before starting school.

Grad school is going to be stressful and time consuming. If you have the summer off before starting, make sure you take some time to relax and give yourself a break. While you understandably may want to cram as much work into your schedule as possible to save money, make sure you save a least a few days a week as time for yourself. Borrow that book you’ve been wanting to read from the library, spend time with your family, or travel. Do whatever you love to do and try something new while you have time.



Make a schedule.

When you start grad school, free time will be scarce. You will be expected to spend most of your time on your research and the rest of your time on your coursework. You will have more reading materials to cover than you have time to read and will feel like you have fallen behind a majority of the time. One of the best ways to manage this major change is to invest in a planner—it will become your best friend. Schedule when you will complete each task—planners with 15 minute increments are great for this, but you can also try out an online calendar such as the Google Calendar, which can sync with your phone to alert you as things come up. Many grad students view their schooling as a full-time job. They will schedule their work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and try to keep nights open.

Pro Tip: Figure out what time consuming tasks you can complete before your term starts. Does your driver’s license need to be renewed in September? Go to the DMV in early August and get it out of the way. Are you due for a dental checkup in the fall? Get your appointment done in the summer before school starts.



Make plans with family and friends in advance.

One of the hardest parts about the transition into graduate school is not being able to spend as much time as you would like with your family and friends. This can be even more difficult if you are married or have children. To make sure those you love remain a priority in your life, plan time to spend with them before the start of the semester. One strategy is to set aside Sunday afternoon and evening as a family day. Whether this means going out to dinner with your parents or significant other or playing board games with the kids, it will ensure that you are giving them your undivided attention at least once a week. Another strategy may be to plan a monthly get together with your friends. While it may not be feasible to see a movie together or go out weekly, a monthly get together should work better with your schedule and budget.

If you are moving to a new city for graduate school, some of these strategies may not be as manageable. Instead, plan trips home in advance—whether that is once a month or a few times a year. Having a set time to look forward to seeing each other can help family and friends cope with the distance between one another.



Get involved.

In undergrad, getting involved comes naturally, especially when you live on campus. In grad school, it is a little more difficult. You are less connected to campus and there is less encouragement to interact. Additionally, you will have less time for these activities. A good way to stay engaged is to join a journal club or a student interest group within your graduate program. This will allow you to get to know other members of your program, many of which will have very different backgrounds and experiences. If you’re afraid these activities will cut into what limited time you have available, don’t be. These groups usually require less of a commitment than you would expect.


Think about how you will cope with stress.

There are many ways to manage stress effectively. Figure out what works best for you. Remember that being stressed is normal during this time. Exercise is one of the best ways to decrease stress levels. You can also talk to someone about how you’re feeling, write in a journal or do something you love. Even if you’re worried about time constraints, these activities lower stress and therefore make you more productive with the time that you do have.

Additionally, if you don’t get enough sleep or drink too much caffeine, you will stress out. Instead, learn to say no when you have too much on your plate and avoid becoming one of Starbucks' frequent flyers—it will help your budget, too!



Finances

Depending on whether you are going to graduate school straight from college or if you have worked for a few years between, you may be in a very different financial situation. Regardless, this will be a time where financial changes are often unavoidable. Here are some strategies for optimizing your financial situation during graduate school.

Apply for tuition support.

It’s no secret—graduate school is expensive and finding ways to pay for it can seem be challenging. However, there are many options for financing this next step in your education.

The most common way for graduate students to obtain funding that does not have to be repaid is to work for the university. Research and teaching assistantships allow you to work part-time and receive a stipend in return. These positions are available through most universities, but require you to go through an application process. Assistantships are a win-win since you will even get experience in your field of study while receiving tuition support through this program.

Pro Tip: Get your application in early. These positions can be given out on a rolling basis—when someone is accepted, they may be assigned a position immediately. Therefore, it is to your advantage to apply early while the most assistantship positions are available.

Tuition support also comes in the form of grants or scholarships—free money that you will never owe. Scholarships can be found through your institution by visiting its financial aid webpage, through private organizations or through the government. One site which filters thousands of scholarships based on your preferences is www.fastweb.com. Check out their site and make a profile to start receiving information on scholarships you qualify for as they become available. Again, it is beneficial to apply for these early while the most spots are open.

If you are someone who will be working while you complete your studies, inquire with your employer about tuition reimbursement. Many companies will help you finance your education by reimbursing all or part of your tuition. Some of these companies will require you to work for them for a period of time after you graduate or require you to pay back what they give you, while some will provide the funds at no cost. According to the IRS, your company can provide up to $5250.00 of tax-free education benefits per year.

After you have deducted tuition support you have received from scholarships, assistantships and other funding, you can apply for loans to cover your remaining educational expenses. To receive government aid, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid must be filed annually. If you qualify for loans, you will be notified via the financial aid office at your institution. These loans come with various interest rates and payback options, so be sure to understand what types of loans you are being offered before accepting them. You can also learn about applying for private loans here.


Make a budget.

Having a budget will be a financial lifesaver once you start school. Before you can create a budget, you need to track your spending. This can be done for one to three months and there are many apps available that make it easy. Once you have an idea of where you spend your money, you will be able to draw up a budget for yourself. Remember to include tuition, books and other school supplies such as a computer, rent/mortgage, utilities, food and groceries, health expenses, transportation, leisure activities and any debt you may have. Here is a link to an Excel template provided by The Muse for creating a grad school budget. Draft your budget and try it out before beginning grad school. By starting it early, you can find out if your expectations are realistic, and make adjustments if necessary.

Pro Tip: The Mint app available to both Apple and Android users allows you to track your spending and map your budget. Download it here.



Save for incidentals.

Every now and then, an unexpected expense will come up and the best time for you to save money for these incidentals is now. Once you start school, your income will likely be limited or nonexistent. If you save money now, you will have an emergency fund available for any incidentals that may arise throughout the year. If your car needs new brakes or you have to take a last-minute flight home for some reason, you will have some money stored away that allows you to still stick to your budget for the month. If you cannot save money before starting school, when your loans get disbursed, set aside $500 for incidentals right away. Hopefully you will never need to use this money, but if you do, try to pay it back a little bit at a time by cutting your monthly budget by $10 here or there.



Find less costly alternatives.

Making time and saving money for leisure activities is an important part of staying happy throughout your time in graduate school, but they can also be very costly depending on what you like to do for fun. If you have expensive hobbies, one way to ensure you can still engage in them as often as you would like is to find cheaper alternatives. Some examples of ways you can do this include looking for savings on sites such as Groupon and asking some of your favorite places about obtaining group discounts. At my school, a group of students went to a local fitness center and negotiated a budget friendly group rate for membership if we showed our school ID to the front desk.

You can also find less costly alternatives when it comes to shopping for groceries and clothes. Instead of planning your meals for the week and then going to the store to get what you need, find out what is on sale each week using the grocer’s ad. Plan your meals around these weekly sales. Be creative, and you can save a lot of money using this trick. When it comes to shopping for clothes, check out Eight Strategies for Buying Clothes without Destroying your Budget.

As a review, here are some of the most important things you should expect during the transition to graduate school:

  • Expect your time to become extremely limited—stay organized, up-to-date with literature, avoid procrastinating, and use your peers and mentors as your support!
  • Expect failure—it’s going to happen, but you can make it a fulfilling experience when you look for the lesson in it.
  • Expect your entire lifestyle to change—make a schedule, get involved, avoid stress, and make time for family.
  • Expect finances to change dramatically—to limit the abruptness of this change, begin to track your spending, save for emergencies, and apply early for assistantships, loans, and other means of financial support.

Now that we have covered what to expect during graduate school, take a deep breath! I can assure you that you would not have been accepted by your graduate program if you were not ready. The admissions committees do a great job of screening applicants and picking the very best ones for their specific programs, and they picked you. It’s time for you to begin the new and exciting adventure that grad school is.


References:

Employer-Provided Educational Assistance. Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved June 09, 2016, from https://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch11.html


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

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