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Engineer considering a career change

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Hello everyone,


As mentioned in the title, I am an Electrical Engineer who is extremely interested in changing careers and becoming a PA.  I have a few questions (listed below) and would really appreciate any and all advice/recommendations.


1 - Addressing employment gaps:  I wanted to provide some background information if that helps.  I initially came to the US on a student visa, earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and went back to my home country for work.  However, 2 weeks after graduation I ended up getting very sick and was hospitalized for 3 months. It took me another 3-4 months to fully recover, search for jobs and start working.  After working as an engineer for 3.5 years, I got married to my boyfriend (who is american) and moved to the US again.  This time it took me 6 months to process my permanent residency, during which I was not allowed to work.  So, I have 2, 6 month gaps in my work history.  Will this raise a red flag in my application?  Should I address it upfront in my essay?


2 - Status as Permanent Resident:  As I mentioned above, I am a legal permanent resident right now.  I realize that most business/engineering schools do not distinguish between citizens and green card holders, however, I have heard from friends in med school that the medical profession in general treats permanent residents as international students for admission purposes.  I have emailed several PA programs to discuss this, but does anyone have any idea if this is true?  Will I have a harder time getting in?


3-Increasing GPA:  I graduated with a 3.1 cGPA and I realize that this is very low.  Unfortunately, engineering classes were very challenging and in hindsight, I should have worked harder.  I am taking classes in community college to satisfy pre-reqs and also to increase my gpa  My question is should I enroll at a 4-yr university or is it ok if I continue at community college.  Do ad-coms weigh 4 yr college credits higher?


4 - HCE:  This is the big one!  I am not working yet, but I plan on getting a certificate.  My options are CNA, EMT or Phlebotomy.  All of them cost the same, but which which one will provide the best experience?  EMT jobs are really hard to come by in my area, so I am leaning towards Phlebotomy for paid jobs and volunteering as an EMT.  What do you guys think of this plan?


Thank you for reading my long post!

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Welcome! I took the trek from engineer to PA as well. It can be done and, frankly, I think having had a job that required you to develop good problem-solving skills was a good start.


Many of the questions you ask could probably be best answered by making an appointment to visit a nearby PA program. A few minutes face to face with a faculty member would probably clear up a lot. This includes how they treat permanent residents, your grades, etc.


As far as your grades go, do very well in your prereqs. You can't go back and change your engineering school grades, which aren't that bad for engineering school. I did most of my prereqs in community college and found no issues when I applied. The community college schedule also allowed me to keep my day job while I took classes.


The importance of HCE is critical; it is hard to really know if being a PA is for you unless you've lived for a time within the healthcare system. I would pick whatever interests you the most and puts you in the middle of things. Your plan to include being a volunteer EMT warms my heart; that's how I started out.


Good luck!

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1. IIRC, there is a spot on the CASPA application for additional information and that's where I'd put the info about the employment gaps. I'd include it in the essay, if and only if, there was no other way to explain this since it doesn't really tell the adcom about you. While it is important to explain, I'd do everything I can to avoid taking up space in that essay because you are going to need it and want more. 


2. There are two people in my class who have a similar background and to the best of my knowledge are considered state residents. Every school will be different, so check with them. Instate versus out of state/international really comes into play for state schools and that information is much more readily found online. I'd start with the financial aid office or the international student office, if the school has one. 


3. With some good grades in your prereqs you should have no problem pulling that up. Add some good HCE and you'll make for a pretty competitive candidate. In general, adcoms like the well rounded candidate that has had life experiences and has good stories to tell, it makes for a more interesting interview and class.


As for the CC versus 4 year route, just make sure that you are covering the school requirements. If they want an upper division course, take an upper division course. If they want a lab, take the lab. If your CC offers the courses and the labs, you're set. Just plan ahead and make sure the courses are offered when needed or that required credits will transfer to the institution that does (CC or 4 year). 


4. I too was a volunteer EMT and that experience got me a job, so I love your plan. You have to pay the bills, so go down the phleb route, but definitely volunteer. You will see more and learn more. Furthermore, volunteer experience will only make you a stronger applicant to schools that require paid HCE. Also, volunteering is a great way to network and gain experience for those tough to get EMS jobs, so I wouldn't be too surprised if you find yourself in a paid EMT job sooner than later. 

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