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Master's and Doctorates

It's never too late to start planning for a master's degree or doctorate if you wish to work in the field of nanotechnology.  As it stands, it's an unspoken requirement that you have some form of post-graduate education if you wish to work in a laboratory or research institution.

There aren't many Master's programs that are specifically tailored for nanotechnology.  You'll find that since this science is highly multi-disciplinary, that many Master's degrees for nanotechnology researchers are in the fields of Materials Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, and Physics.  Of course, since post-grad education is a lot less structured, you can customize your degree to focus on the topics you feel are relevant.  The same holds true with doctorates.

Obviously, the easier route to go is with a Master's.  It only takes an average of two years (compared to four to six for a PhD in nanotechnology) and there's less work required.  Most firms that hire researchers have a minimum requirement of Master's.

I'm sure you're wondering if all the work is worth it.  I've spoken to a lot of post-grads working in various nanotechnology labs.  Many say that post-grad is a waste of time and that they'd rather work their way up through industry.  There is a certain bit of truth to this.  In the two years that you're still in school, you could conceivably earn a lot of money doing something else.  To make things worse, some companies are reluctant to hire Master's and PhD's because the certification comes with a higher price tag. 

While this is not always the case, just consider these factors before you rush to apply for grad school.  Most students toward the end of their undergraduate degrees are fairly sick of the whole education scene.  After years of crappy life earning no pay, they just want to relax and earn a bit of cash.  Indeed, it takes a special kind of (possibly masochistic) person to rush headlong from a Bachelor's straight into a Master's program.   You'd seriously be better off testing the waters in a job related to your field and earning some paid experience.

I don't want to make too many gross generalizations, but many people who elect to stay in the world of academia tend to stay there.  It's a sheltered life with good security but few opportunities for growth.  I've met many a haggard, bitter researcher who has neglected the finer elements of living that I wonder if they've ever enjoyed a cocktail or been laid.  I agree that view is rather harsh in perspective, but I've known too many people who can't enjoy life without some serious stress that it worries me.  Education is not about a job.  If you really like nanotechnology, you'll gravitate toward a career regardless of whether you hold a Bachelor's or Master's.