I am thinking very hard about making a big career transition and could use some guidance. My end goal is to work in Academia as a Cognitive Neuroscience researcher.
For the past ten+ years I have been working in tech as an engineer. My bachelor's degree is in Social Sciences and I did very well academically (4.0/.40 Summa Cum Laude with Honors - from a US institution). I have been thinking about going back to school for several years, and the thing that most predominantly interests me is Cognitive Neuroscience. I listen to podcasts, read books and papers on the topic, and generally spend a lot of time thinking about the field outside of work. I am also at the point where I have realized I do want to leave tech, and honestly the only reason I haven't made this move earlier is finances and uncertainty.
Important note, I am a US expat living in the Netherlands and plan to stay here long-term (and potentially go for citizenship at some point).
Primary Question: So the question is, am I insane to make this change at this point in life? I would have to go back to school for a second bachelors > masters > PhD. As I understand it this is a fairly competitive field. I'm willing to put in the time and work, even take on the student debt, but it would be good to know if my prospects for actually getting a paid job after all of that are non-existent.
Some things going against me or that make the transition difficult:
- Age: I am 35 (I would be 36 by the time I start my second bachelors, potentially 37)
- 8+ years of school will mean I won't be starting a new career until I am in my 40s
- Cost: This means taking on a lot of student debt (my previous debt is paid off)
- Also this means not buying a house and going back to student housing
- I have never done any kind of academic research before
- My previous bachelors degree is in an unrelated field
- Being a expat complicates things a little bit as well but I think that is manageable
- If have a depreciable skill-set so if I go back to school for 8+ years and can't make the cut that could be a problem.
Some Key Uncertainties:
- It seems even getting into a graduate program is dubious; and I am not sure what my real prospects are for a researcher job once I achieve a PhD.
- From what I understand, doing academic research after achieving a PhD means more or less leading research and managing other people. I'm not sure I would be good at this. I believe I could do research on my own, but managing other people sounds very difficult, I wonder if anyone can speak to this?
- I really enjoy learning things outside of neuroscience as well. While I imagine that would become my primary focus, does joining academia to research a specific topic mean you basically have to give up reading/learning outside of the field in order to compete? I really enjoy some specific periods of history, philosophy, as well as cosmology and others.
Some things going for me:
- High interest in thinking very deeply about this topic and contributing to the field.
- Previous Academic performance (overall I excelled in all areas).
- I absolutely loved school and honestly have missed it a lot, so doing the work won't be a problem for me.
- I have some savings since I was saving to buy a house, so I have some wiggle room.