There have been blog posts on graduate and professional school, but what other options are out there? I asked myself this question back when I was a freshman because I knew that graduate school was an option but not something I really felt was right for me. I remember going into my freshman advising appointment and talking with my advisor. She asked me what I was interested in and from the career assessments I took in the Career & Internship Services office I knew I was really interested in Medical Laboratory Science. I didn’t know much about the career but I knew it sounded promising. I did some research and found out that medical laboratory scientists are responsible for carrying out scientific testing on samples and reporting the results to physicians, and they get to work with state-of-the-art equipment to analyze a variety of biological specimens. It was the perfect mix of helping people, which I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t involve direct patient care, which is something I knew I didn’t want to do.
During that advising appointment my advisor told me about this post-baccalaureate program through the Mayo Clinic for students who have earned a bachelors degree in a biological science. It is a certification program where at the end of the 10.5 months students earn a certificate in medical laboratory science from Mayo Clinic. After graduating from the program, students are eligible for certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC) and are credentialed as medical laboratory scientists. I was intrigued and excited at the possibility of getting into a program at the Mayo Clinic and being able to do something that seemed to align with everything I wanted to get out of a career, not to mention there was no test I had to take to apply (like the GRE or MCAT), which was a major bonus.
Ever since that advising appointment I have been shaping my classes in accordance to the required and recommended courses listed for this program, I have kept my GPA above the required, and gained some first-hand experience in the lab of a hospital by volunteering in the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s pathology lab over this past summer. So the time came, 3 years in the making, I had to apply for the program. I wrote an essay on why I wanted to be a medical lab scientist, I got 3 recommendations, and submitted my application all the while keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that I would get an interview. I applied in August. September and October went by and I had still heard no word, I was beginning to get discouraged. On October 29, almost 2 months later I received an email saying I was invited for an interview. All the planning and hard work paid off and now my future seems so much clearer.
Of course you may be wondering why this matters to you or what it has to do with your options other than grad/professional school. Mine is just one example of the possibilities of education after undergrad. There are many certification programs out there, in many fields including human resources, business, education, and technology. Certificate programs are an effective way to expand your expertise in a specific area when the option to go to graduate or professional school is either not an option, not wanted, or not warranted.
I suppose the overall take home message of this post is that graduate school is an option, professional school is an option, and certification programs are an option. There are so many options out there after you receive your undergraduate degree, and it is never too soon to explore all your options!
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