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Ongoing career switch -- moving from psychology to comp science/engineering




I'm in my first semester of a professional MS program at CU Boulder (info on degree here). The program is pretty open-ended, but centers on interdisciplinary engineering & design. Buzzwords: UX/UI, human-computer interaction, and creative tech.

This an expensive and pretty degree. I did this for a few reasons: 1) I really needed to broaden my job prospects/salary range, 2) I'm interested in HCI from a research standpoint (I want to be a scientist), and 3) I love engineering, but I studied psychology, and this was the best fit that I could find without having taken any supplementary technical courses.

For context, I really needed to make a move. It's not particularly flattering for me to think about the other, better moves that I could have made (comp sci, comp engineering, or any other MS in applied science comes to mind).

Here is the thing: I fully understand, at this point, that if I want to commit myself seriously to motivations #2 and #3, I will have to continue study on through a PhD. This makes a lot of sense to me because I want to be scientist, whatever that entails.

The catch is that my Master's degree isn't nearly technical enough for me to think that applying to heavy-hitting engineering/applied sci doctorates would be easy after that. It is, however, *very* flexible and well-funded, meaning that there are labs available to me that pull from the massive engineering/applied science resources at CU Boulder. I'm at liberty to design my degree however I see fit, pretty much. I am also gaining new technical expertise, and making strong contacts -- I'm currently TAing for a neuroengineer.

I am planning on spending some years working before doing a PhD in a field that I find exciting (I love frontier work like space and tech), and I'm optimistic UX/UI is broad enough that I can land that. Honestly, a career in one of these industries sounds exciting enough. But I'm stubborn, and I know I can do more.

I'm looking for feedback on what kind of degrees would be the most difficult to matriculate into, given that my broader background will not apply to them in many parts. Here are some that I find incredibly compelling: biomedical engineering, comp neuroscience/biophysics, applied mathematics/systems science, computational science, and theoretical computer science.

I'm always looking for the stories of people who have switched career paths or academic disciplines from seemingly diametrically opposed areas. There is absolutely no reason, in the year 2021, that this type of move wouldn't be possible. I know that a lot of these degrees might seem out of reach for me at present. In what circumstances would they not be?

Edited by mjes
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