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Can I earn a research position as a non-degree seeking student?


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Hello Everyone,

I am hoping someone can give me some advice on how to earn a research position if I am not currently enrolled in a degree program.  To give you some background on my current situation I am a full-time employee at an investment management company but I would like to make a career change and go back to school for mechanical engineering. I am currently taking part-time undergraduate level courses and once I complete the core undergraduate mechanical engineering courses I would like to apply to a master's program. I have no research experience and no experience in mechanical engineering but the field is so interesting to me and I would love to get involved. Please let me know if it is possible for someone in my current position to earn a temporary research position and what would be the best way to try to accomplish this goal.  Thanks for the advice!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, it's possible! I had the same problem as I was working a software engineer when I wanted to shift to epidemiology research. Now I work as a short-term RA in the field (only temporarily, since I'm leaving for grad school this summer).

What I did was persistently looking around for research positions and contacting different professors working in the field. It might be easier to work at a university than the industry when you don't have any research experience, I guess. I never received replies from the university job portal, though, so I ended up looking for professors' emails and contacting them directly.

Another thing is, the Professor I work for right now happened to be looking for someone with programming background, so it's a huge plus if you possess the particular skill they're looking for and it doesn't have to be related to mechanical engineering.

Good luck!


PS: if you plan to apply for Master's in mech engg, finding something you've learned throughout your investment management career that could help you strive in mech engg would be incredibly helpful? I'm guessing that my desire to "utilize my computer science background in epidemiology" + my attempts in shifting to the field gave me a lot of advantages in getting offers from grad schools.

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