Endocrine Abstracts (2005) 9 S56

The BTA (Been to America) Degree: Is it still worth it?

RC Fowkes

Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK.

The lack of proper career structure for non-clinical researchers has become an endemic problem for the thousands of biomedical science post-graduates and post-doctoral researchers in the UK. Traditionally, undertaking a stint at a recognised research institute in the USA was seen as a major way of guaranteeing success in obtaining academic appointments at UK universities. However, have the costs, inconveniences and competition for suitable funding made this avenue for career progression a thing of the past?

The simple answer is no. Having said that, spending time in a foreign laboratory cannot be seen as your golden ticket to the Departmental meeting. It is particularly important to consider some key issues when deciding to make the trek abroad for the love of science: Do I want a career in academic research? Can I live abroad for a long period of time? Can I afford to do this? Is the reputation of the lab worth me going?

My experience in the US was relatively brief (16 months), successful and yet frustrating for several reasons. The best advice I can pass on if you are thinking of a foreign post-doc experience is to talk to those who have done what you are hoping to do, speak to people in your lab of choice (past and present) and set about arranging funding well in advance of when you want to go. If things go well, you could end up back in the UK with several decent papers added to your CV and, if not a guaranteed Lectureship, at least a genuinely good chance of landing one. If they go pear-shaped, so could your career. It is without doubt one of the biggest decisions you will make as a scientist.

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