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Pros and cons of masters if GPA is not an issue?

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I am going into 4th year and starting to worry about my backup plan which was initially to apply to jobs in AB and work there. Now I'm wondering if this is a good plan given the amount of ppl who don't get in on their 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. attempt. My GPA is good and my ECs, specifically volunteering activities are lackluster (yes, really). ECs are more research heavy than anything else, by hours (no pubs or presentations). As such I'm not sure whether or not to apply to MSc and MD programs concurrently. I was under the assumption that masters primarily helps with GPA issues but I would like to know if anyone has any other inputs on this. My current pros & cons are as follows:

 

Pros

- If I start a MSc I should have funding which is important because either way I'm moving provinces. This gives some stability/assurance that I will be able to live lol

- I want to eventually do a PhD, probably in residency. A MSc is a good step towards this

- If I never get into an MD program it is a step towards a career in research which I am interested in, though I haven't set a number of application cycles I will go through before giving up

- Probably more flexibility to do volunteering while a FT job would likely have more rigid hours

- Extra reference letter

 

Cons

- Losing out on an application cycle, already oldish (however given my current ECs its unlikely I could improve THAT much in my 4th year, especially given COVID closures)

- Possibility of not publishing or finishing in more than 2 years may reflect poorly upon me

- Making less money is not ideal with 20k of undergrad debt :'(

- limited opportunities in AB vs ON so may end up researching something less interesting to me

- how and when does one apply to MSc programs??

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Just my 2 cents from someone who did a course-based masters and worked a couple of years before getting in:

For your pros:

- It seems like you already enjoy research, so that's a great first step. Especially if you want to do a PhD later on. It would also help give you the time to get some conferences in or hopefully a publication. 

- I disagree with the flexibility aspect. Grad school is HARD and very time consuming, you would get more flexibility working since at least then you're fixed from 9-5 and can do whatever you want afterwards. 

For your cons:

- Don't worry about your age, you should apply to med while applying to grad school so worst case you miss one application cycle while working on yourself. From my experience, having years where you haven't changed that much and don't get interviews is very demoralizing already so at least with the MSc you're doing something you love while investing the time into your ECs. 

- Not publishing won't reflect poorly on you. I think this is a myth and UofT even clarified they don't use the "first author paper = research productivity" anymore. 

- It's very hard to get a job right out of undergrad in sciences/research. You might not be able to find one and a MSc is guarenteed "income" that also extends the grace period on your student loans. I don't think you should factor in the 20K debt unless you plan to pay it all off in the year you'd be working, which is really tough. 

- Don't do research you're not interested in, that's not good for you and you will regret it as grad school takes a ton of work to get through. 

 

Hope this helps! You never know what will happen unless you apply. So I think you should try this year and apply to grad school as a back up, but only apply places you'll actually enjoy for research you like. Grad school is a commitment, and if your heart isn't in it it'll be tough. 

 

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Just to add to the great comments above, consider doing a course based professional Masters program. Most are shorter than a true research one, with a fixed end date, and can lead to great careers. 

Application processes vary depending on how you find a supervisor (if thesis based) but generally you would be applying during your 4th year (later than Medicine). For the Masters I applied to the deadline was in February IIRC, as were most others in my province, to start the following academic year. 

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