Having dual and diverse specialities is one way to become highly in-demand in this age of short-term employment and globalized competition. Unfortunately, many educators and parents have not realised that and some even discourage dual specialisation, seeing it as a waste of time.
In JC, I wanted to do Biology and Economics. The principal refused. You had to do either (1) Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Maths, or (2) Economics, Chemistry, Physics and Maths.
I wanted (3) Biology, Economics, Chemistry and Maths. There were students who wanted other Biology combinations too… eg. (4) Biology, Economics, Maths, Physics. They were refused too.
The reason given for refusing us? In order to get into the Medical Faculty, you needed combination (1). What could you do with option (2,3, 4) besides teaching?!!
Today, Health Economists and Biostatisticians are amongst the world’s most sought after specialists. They are so rare, because we’ve always been conditioned to think that we need to be a master of one, rather than a jack of all trades, especially here in Asia.
Health Economists are people who are both specialists in biology/medical/health sciences , AND economics. [ combi (3) Biology, Economics, Chemistry, Maths] These are the people who plan and design national health care systems, deciding who to subsidise, what to spend money on, how to generate revenue etc. They are the people employed by WHO to create financially sustainable health care programmes for countries in need of help. Large pharmaceuticals or investment firms pay them huge salaries to forecast which class of drugs is worth investing in. Large insurance companies need them to forecast how much medical-claims they have to pay, and how much premiums to charge to be profitable.
Biostatisticians are people who are both specialists in biology/medical/health sciences AND maths [combi (4) Biology, Economics, Maths, Physics/Further Maths] After sampling 1% of the population, the Biostatistician tells you how many people in the country are likely HIV+, how many people are going to be HIV+ in 10 years. Biostatisticians are arguably THE people responsible for the whole Human Genome Project and all the genetic studies we’re going to do over the next 50 years.
(I’ve described what other highly sought-after dual specialities are, at the end of the main article.)
Lately, because I’m finishing up my PhD thesis, people are asking me what I want to do after graduation. When I tell them I’ll like to go into public health planning & policy-making, they go “Why don’t you want to do lab research?!?! Your PhD would be wasted and you’ve been in biology research for 10 years!” hmmm….. wait till they hear that I want to go into religious studies one of these days too ; )
A person’s health conditions are determined by a combination of his/her genetics, environment and behaviour. My PhD hopefully makes me an expert of the first. Going into public-health will hopefully make me an expert in seeing how we can create environments good for every citizen’s health. And religion — that’s fascinating! It’s fascinating how religion can be so subjective, faith-driven, and yet have such huge tangible effects on our economy, politics, health and society. So many religious practices have direct impact on health-determining behaviour. So many religious commands, I suspect, has its roots in ancient public health policies.
Few people understand the concept of dual/multiple specialities until you explain it to them. Most of the time, that’s all right = ) We can’t all know everything, and we learn something new each day.
However, I think it is very dangerous and sad when parents and educators don’t understand this concept, and INSIST on how a child should be educated, INSIST that a child should not do such dual/multiple and diverse subjects in school. It’s very dangerous and sad when parents and educators assume that they know how the world works, and how the world will work in future, and INSIST on limiting a child’s potential, in the name of NOT WASTING TIME. Because in the end, you might be denying these children some fantastic opportunities to really make it big in this world.
Many developed countries, including Singapore, are seeing increasing and very worrying unemployment trends amongst PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technicians). This is not surprising given how India and China are mass producing cheap PMETs. Telling people that they should not be picky, have better attitudes, accept lower pays, getting re-trained, improves the situation to a certain extend. However, few people accept this advice happily.
I look on with worry, at the number of engineers, bankers, biotechnologists etc we’re churning out. No doubt, these are good jobs with good incomes in good times. But when the industry goes through a bad patch, you get lots of unemployment. On an individual level, you really have to be in the top percentile to keep your job. How can YOU as an individual make yourself more recession-proof? How do you increase how in-demand you are? Many people decide to do advanced degrees, which is great. Getting an advanced degree in your field, is great too, because you’re capitalising on what you already have. However, you’ll still be competing with people specialised the same way, and there’re just so many more of such people.
On the other hand, few people specialise in 2 different areas, and few people might choose the same combination as you did. Suddenly, you are peerless. There’s no competition. The demand for such dual specialists far outstrips the number of such specialists, and you become an expert overnight. One such example is Dr Martha Lee, whom people often mistake me for. She’s specialised in Communication, Public Policy and Sexuality — 3 specialities ( http://www.eroscoaching.com/profile.html ) . It’s easy to see how each of her specialities have complemented each other, how she has been able to market herself as an expert in Sexology to become Singapore’s leading Clinical Sexologist in less than a year.
So why not consider doing a specialisation in a totally different field? You wouldn’t be wasting your first degree. You’ll be one of those rare, rare people, who can do it all.
High-demand dual specialities.
( Everything here is health/biology-related, because of my familiarity with this field. I’m sure you can come up with your own speciality-pairings in your familiar field)
Computational biologists (Computer Science + Biology)–
The human genome has 3 billon letters. Trust me, you need high CPU power for that one.
Biology – Engineering –
I’m referring to the people who create the powerful machines that push biological experiments to the cutting edge. You need to know engineering to make it work, you need to know biology to make it useful.
Indispensible aren’t they? Trust me, defending pharmas, doctors and hospitals from lawsuits are huge money. Handling Intellectual Property for pharmas and research institutions are huge money. But if I told my JC principal I wanted to do Biology, Econs, Maths and English Literature, she’ll just roll her eyes and not even bother with me.
Science Journalists —
A lot of public misunderstanding and suspicion of science and biology happens because most scientists frankly, are too specialised too communicate normally.
Biology and politics, biology and religion etc etc —-
you see why bad policies/doctrines are made? Sometimes it’s not because of anything more than ignorance.