• March 30, 2019, 4:27 p.m.


    I am new here, and this is my first time posting. I am a big fan of the series.

    I currently hold a Bachelor's of Art in Communication and have a significant amount of student loan debt.

    I would like to learn what opportunities I have to return to school and get an advanced degree in a scientific discipline. I would love to become a researcher or scientist. I'd appreciate any and advice regarding how to get back into school, where to start, and how to secure the finances I would need.

    I would like to keep this thread open to anyone looking for advice related to the matter.

    Thank you.

  • March 30, 2019, 5:28 p.m.

    Much of that would depend on where you live and what opportunities are open to you. In the US, as far as I know, once you have a degree you become ineligible for FAFSA grants, though you are still able to get student loans. I don't have enough knowledge of such programs and avenues to help in that regard. My only advice is that if you truly desire this, don't let anything stop you. Talk to everyone who has more knowledge than you, ask questions, and find a way. Never give up your dreams.

    As for finances I would suggest looking at the school(s) you would be most likely to attend, and talk to their financial adviser, get resources and information on grants your eligible for, grants you can earn via work/community, and loans. Once you start schooling again, interest on student loans stops, you just have to submit the information to FAFSA(again in the US)

  • April 1, 2019, 9:48 p.m.

    I went into and out of science more than once. And am now looking at going back. My student debt is huge :D. So Basically the only real way to be a full "scientist" is do a degree then masters and eventually a PhD.

    However if you have some good programming skills you could work for a group as a programmer for example and learn the feild as you go. However it would be hard to be a "full scientist".

  • Sept. 12, 2019, 7:10 a.m.


    Your interest in pursing scientific research is impressive given your late start. I am a research scientist in the area of atomic/optical physics at a university but I also had a late start. The short of it is: don't let age or your current knowledge base be an impediment to your dreams. If this is your goal then go for it. I can offer advice through some anecdotes, assuming you want to do physics research.

    Before my doctoral studies, I attended a terminal Masters program in physics at one of the California State universities. The department's MS in physics catered to working and non-traditional students. What does this mean?

    1) Aside from admitting folks with bachelor's degrees in physics, chemistry, and engineering, they also accepted anyone with bachelor's degrees in non-science areas, as long as one had a 2.0 GPA! These people were deemed "conditionally classified" This meant that they can start at freshman level physics even though they were technically grad students, and work their way up to graduate level courses as long as it took less than seven years.
    2) It also means that for those recent 4-year physics grads who screwed-up their undergraduate education with low GPAs and never got admitted to doctoral programs, a second chance could be afforded to them as long as they seriously studied and made it through with good grades.

    For both cases, PhD programs could beckon after your terminal MS in physics.

    Anecdote time 1 When I was in this program, there was a guy there who had a B.A. in History. But he loved physics so much that he spent six years in MS program, starting with Freshman physics and ending with graduate courses in electrodynamics (taught with Jackson's book!). He received good grades throughout, and, along with some research experience, he was admitted to the PhD program in physics at UC Davis. He's know a researcher!

    Many Master's level universities have programs like this. So there is a path for you.

    But now, it seems as though your final impediment is financial.

    For arguments sake, let's assume you can attend a Cal state university. If you're willing to work while taking the remedial physics courses, once you finish the undergraduate curriculum (~ 3-4 years), you can then obtain a departmental teaching assistanship which will pay ~$16,000 yearly, plus or minus a bit. Some Cal states even have tuition waivers for outstanding students. Unfortunately, a quick check of the cost of attendance can top $30,000 per year. And if you're starting at the bottom, multiply that by 6!

    However, all is not lost.

    Anecdote time 2 Another guy in the same MS program as me bolted from his first year of med school because he decided he liked physics. He enrolled in the MS physics program as a conditionally classified student, and started taking the junior-level physics classes (e.g., analytical mechanics, 1st semester electricity/magnetism, optics, ...). He also took the equivalent senior-level courses (e.g., quantum, stat-mech, ...) and then he did an extraordinary thing:
    He decided to take the Physics GRE and apply to PhD programs! I asked why he didn't choose to finish his MS and he replied by explaining that he met all of the course requirements for entry into a PhD program and there was no need to waste extra time. And so it was, he received a score of 74% on the physics GRE and got admitted to UC San Diego for a physics PhD!

    Total time < 2 years! Total cost? Perhaps $40,000 - $60,000 in 2019 dollars.

    For you to do this option,
    1) I would enroll at a nearby community college first, because they are super-cheap or free, and take the entire freshman-sophomore physics sequence. (~ $0/2 years.)
    2) Apply to an MS program (since you already have a bachelors), analogous to the one I was in, and take only the junior and senior level courses. (~ $60,000 [CA] / 2 years.)
    3) For these four years, volunteer as much as you can in any research lab and possibly get your name included on a publication.
    4) Around year 4, study really well for the physics/gen GRE and apply to PhD programs!

    If you do make it to a doctoral program in any of the sciences or engineering, then your school will be "paid for"! You just have to TA for a number of years unless you snag a fellowship or research under a professor with extra money.


  • Dec. 13, 2019, 8:37 p.m.

    Do you have any interest in studying abroad? If finances are the major thing holding you back and you don't mind picking up another language, there are a few countries that provide free education, even for foreigners - Germany's the most popular destination, while Norway, Iceland, and the Czech Republic are all options too.