M.A. or Research Associate?

I’m currently a senior at a small liberal arts college, majoring in integrative sciences, molecular bio, and science studies. I’ve been working in a bioinformatics/molecular genetics lab for the past two years, and will be graduating in May. My school offers a tuition-free 5th year M.A. for those involved in research labs looking to continue their project. I’ve applied to the program and will likely get accepted and receive a small stipend from my adviser to cover housing if I choose to matriculate. I would graduate with an M.A. in Spring 2019.

I’m looking to apply to Ph.D. programs and, frankly, I’d like to have my pick. I want to make sure I’m a top candidate anywhere I apply. I am deciding between doing this M.A. or taking a 2 year Research Associate position at a very prestigious biomedical research institute. My undergrad university is small (~2900 undergrads, ~200 grads), and while the research I am doing is very interesting and I am invested in the project, I can’t help but run into inefficiencies that come from working in a small lab at a primarily teaching-focused institution.

I’d like to pursue jobs in industry after I do a Ph.D. in a field related to genomics, proteomics, or synthetic biology.

I’d like some advice weighing an M.A. vs. the research associate position.

My major pros for the M.A. are (1) the degree, (2) the opportunity to write a thesis and take more classes, and (1) the fact that it would only last 1 year instead of 2. The major cons in my mind for this: (1) lack of productivity, (2) social isolation experience typical of those in the program, (3) relatively lower prestige.

Major pros for the RA position: (1) opportunity to work on translational research, (2) large, collaborative, highly-efficient research-focused environment in one of the major biotech hubs of the country, (3) salary, (4) prestige of faculty/students/postdocs at the institute, (5) opportunity to expand my network before entering a Ph.D. The major cons seem to be: (1) non-academic role, (2) entering a Ph.D. program 1 year later, (3) less opportunity for first/second authorships.

Thanks biotech!

submitted by /u/wabarr14

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M.A. or Research Associate?

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