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No Sciences Background — PhD Candidate


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Hello All!

New to the forums but have been browsing and saw some good information that answered a good amount of my questions. With that being said, I do have a question still..

As someone that has a degree in business, with minimal science background, what is the best route for gaining admissions into a PhD program? I didn’t see a thread for neuroscience but that is my interest. Building my credentials with an MS program seems out of question as most seem to require prerequisites. Would it be best to really hit the books and try to perform extremely well on a GRE subject test OR do some type of post-bacc? I mean, both can be an answer  as well. I want to hear your thoughts!

Also, if this helps, I live in New Jersey and would love to stay on the East Coast for a PhD program.

I appreciate your time and help! Thanks!

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Do you have any research experience?  The biggest thing any program is going to interested in is whether you have done laboratory/research work before.  So even if you managed to get prerequisite courses out of the way, you need to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you actually enjoy doing research work (either in a wet, bench setting, or dry laboratory work at the computer).

I have heard of a GRE subject test being at least useful for people who haven't done an undergrad major/minor in a subject.  Though I would also look into biology/chemistry classes at a local college as another option.  I'm not sure of any post-bacc programs for coursework off the top of my head.

I would definitely consider a masters degree before taking a plunge into a PhD program, in my opinion.

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Echoing StemCellFan's advice about research experience. Especially since your undergraduate background isn't in the field you want to pursue a PhD in,  it would be really beneficial for you to apply to some internships or entry level technician positions. This way you can also build up your connections within the field, which will be vital for getting recommendation letters. It's not completely unheard of for someone with a different background to get accepted to a bio PhD program, but you'll need to put in some extra work. What connections do you already have? Do you have any friends working at labs or studying biology that you could perhaps shadow for a day? Anyone that could introduce you to a scientist in the field? Search far and wide for research opportunities that could help you get your foot in the door. Research experience is absolutely vital, whether it be wet labs or computational work. 

It might be beneficial to take the GRE subject test but most universities are moving away from requiring it, or even placing much weight in GRE scores at all. Research experience and recommendation letters are really key here. Why exactly do you want to pursue a PhD in neuroscience? What sparked that interest, and what have you done to nurture it? Do you really have a good grasp on what a career in research entails? These are all questions that admissions committees will want answered in your application. If you have minimal coursework in science, it would also be to your benefit to brush up on chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, statistics, and neuroscience if you can find courses at local community colleges or universities. It's difficult to convince an admissions committee that they should accept you if you don't really even understand the basics of the field. A post-bacc program might also be a good thing to look into, like you mentioned. I know many people who enroll in post-bacc programs to prepare for medical school, but I'm sure it's not unheard of for PhD paths as well.

A master's program might be something to consider as well, and would 100% make you a better PhD admissions candidate with your present background, but you might run into similar problems with master's admissions committees. Whichever way you go, you should definitely try to play up the strengths you have as a business major - it's unique and probably lends you a different perspective than many applicants will have.

Tl;dr: It's not too late and you can definitely pursue a PhD if that's what you really want! But it's going to take more than getting good test scores, you'll need significant hands-on research experience in the field you want to go into or a similar field. 

Good luck!!

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Congrats! You picked the best field. ?  

Without a science background it's going to be more difficult but not impossible. The easiest way to go about it would probably be to work as a tech at a local university and take classes there at night (if possible). That'll knock out two birds with one stone, with arguably the more important bird the research experience. A postbac isn't a bad idea either. Of course, you'll have to convince the AdCom that you know what you're getting yourself into, and that you're passionate enough about neuroscience to stick with it when the going gets hard. This can be accomplished in the form of a well-written SOP/PS, but also by doing the above and physically demonstrating it. 


So, TL;DR, my advice is to get a technician job if you can (this might be tough as you don't have the relevant background knowledge nor experience). If not, then perhaps consider taking the necessary classes in the form of a postbac. Good luck!

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