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26 years journalist needs advise to become an aerospace engineer

  1. May 30, 2012 #1
    Yeah, it sounds impossible for me too, but I'm very committed to do it and I'm a hard worker.

    I need some guidance. Please be as kind as possible.

    the thing is that after working in an industry I choose when I was 16 without knowing myself very much Im ready for a career change. Journalism was the very wrong choice and I'm going to fix it. Aerospace Engineer is what I'm most interested (I've done the research, the kind of jobs I could do, I'm an RC planes geek, and I've talked with some engineers)but sounds so challenging when you hear about people whom was very good at math and physics struggle with them. since I haven't touched math since I was 19 I'm going to start a year long catching up with the necessary subjects to get into university in good shape, and here is where I need most of the advise,...

    Please keep in mind that I'm a low budget student.

    Thanks a lot for any advise.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2012 #2
    I'm not an aerospace engineer, so I don't talk from that kind of experience. However, I feel that my points are accurate. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Since it has been 7 years ago since you last touched math, you probably forgot all of it. This means, probably, that you need to spend most of your time catching up with math.
    There are several possible ways to do this. Either you get yourself in a community college where you can take math and physics classes, or you self-study. The former option is easier.

    If you end up choosing for self-study for some reasons, then this will probably be a path that could be helpful:

    1) Get the book "basic mathematics" by Serge Lang. Yes, this is a book meant for pure mathematicians, but at this point that doesn't really matter. Work through it very carefully. Make sure you understand every single thing. Ask questions about what you don't understand. Work out plenty of exercises and ask people to correct them (this forum could be very helpful with that).
    Also, watch the videos on Khan academy, they are very helpful: http://www.khanacademy.org/

    2) After that, you might want to get some calculus book. Books like Spivak and Apostol will be too hard at this stage and are certainly overkill. A book like Thomas' calculus will serve you well. Getting an old version of the text is good enough, don't buy the expensive newest edition.

    3) Some physics would also be good. The book by Halliday and Resnick should be accessible enough after a little bit of calculus. You can even watch Khan academy without any knowledge of calculus.

    I think these three steps should keep you busy for quite some time. If you manage to do these three things (you won't manage to complete all three, but just try hard enough to get far enough) then you should be set.
  4. May 31, 2012 #3
    Hi Micromass, thank you very much for the time you took to give me a hand through this process. You are right, I have to refresh everything from the very basis of math and physics. I might try to get some courses from a CC but in about 6 months and I'll start now with self-study routine because of $ limitations. What kind of specific courses(content) should I look in a community college course?
    Thanks in advance for your advise.


    (sorry about my grammar, I'm a spanish speaker)
  5. May 31, 2012 #4
    If you're going to a community college, then it might be best to talk with an academic advisor there. Most likely, they will make you take a placement test to determine in what class you should belong.

    In the "worst" case, you will take algebra, trigonometry and precalculus again. Possibly even calculus and physics.

    But I can't say much about it, a CC advisor should give you all the information you need.
  6. May 31, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You can't be an engineer without a formal education. No one would hire you just because you tell them you have 'studied' it yourself. There is a difference between doing something as a hobby, and being a professional and employed in it.

    If you cannot commit, for whatever reason, to such formal education, then I don't see how you can be an aerospace engineer.

  7. May 31, 2012 #6
    The OP implies that he intends to go to university.
  8. May 31, 2012 #7
    Just to clarify, I'm trying to make a plan to get in shape before enrolling in the University.
    So far practicing with the videos in Khan Academy has been very useful to refresh my math. Any other suggestion is very welcome.

    Also I might need advise to chose an University here in the states. UM is the one I'm thinking about because I might be able to get in-state tuition and I heard in other forums it is good. any thoughts?
  9. May 31, 2012 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    UM = Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Maryland, Mississippi, Maine? :wink:
  10. May 31, 2012 #9
    Just an fyi, with a 2 year degree (and I believe even without it) you can sit for the PE exam after around 8-10 years of professional experience. If you pass, you will be a professional engineer and will be "more of an engineer", in an employer's eyes, than someone with 6 years of school, a masters, yet no PE License.
  11. May 31, 2012 #10
    oh sorry, I mean University of Maryland.
  12. Jun 1, 2012 #11
    The trick is getting the 8-10 years of professional experience, assuming what you said is even accurate. No one is going to hire someone into an engineering position if they only have a two year degree.


    Go to community college, do math and physics and chemistry till your eyes bleed.

    Wouldn't hurt to find the open-source version of MATLAB and start fiddling around with creating your own programs.

    Do them all at once. Calculus and physics are two peas in a pod, but you need the algebra and trigonometry necessary for calculus before doing either of them. Chemistry can be taken whenever you're comfortable with the algebra involved.

    I started in community college with my last math class having been in 6th grade. I'm not particularly bright, but I went entirely without tutoring. As for courses, the community college adviser should help with that.

    As a side note, don't give up if the basic algebra seems incomprehensible. If you're like me, then there'll be a moment when it all just.. "clicks". It'll happen randomly, and it will take some time, but the "click" will occur. It's kinda similar to learning a foreign language - when you break through mentally translating everything to your native tongue to conversing and thinking entirely in the other language, you're said to be fluent. The "click" is you becoming fluent in mathematical operation. It just takes time. And on the plus side, it happens faster than becoming fluent in a foreign language.
  13. Jun 1, 2012 #12
    My mother graduated one semester ahead of me. She was away from math much longer than you. She caught up with a lot of hard work, and not a little tutoring from my sister and me, both engineering students at the time. She started with the very basics and worked her way thru it with a 4.0 GPA in math.
  14. Aug 21, 2012 #13
    As an update for this post here is what I finally did and how it worked out.
    I follow the advise of Micromas and got the book "basic mathematics" by Serge Lang and visited the Khan academy. the second option ended up being the most useful and dinamic way to learn. I learned a lot very quick. about 2 hours a day for 2 months and most of the stuff was fresh in my mind again(in termns of math I was just below average in high School). Today I took the accuplacer and i scored enough to start directly with calculus. I feel that the book by Mr Lang will be useful to study but is definetly great source of explanations where evry topic is integrated with something else and not separately(I cant think of a good example.)
    So thanks to all of you that gave me a hand with this first step and if you have any advise for what is next it is more than welcome!!
  15. Aug 21, 2012 #14
    PauloE - what you're doing is really inspiring.

    I myself am 28 years old and after working in Graphic Design and Office Administration roles for the last ten years I've made a decision to go and study Physics. I've started self-studying to catch up on the math (I've been using Khan Academy a lot, will check out that Serge Lang book too) and have enrolled myself in a "Tertiary Foundation Certificate" which is a combination of high school level English, Mathematics and Sciences for one year and from there will begin my bachelors.

    Anyway, my point is it's really inspiring to come to these forums and find others who are entering similar fields after being out of school for as long as myself. Good luck!
  16. Aug 23, 2012 #15
    You guys are awesome, I too started school again to go into engineering at age 27. What you have to do is get a good foundation and if youre anything like me then classes is where you get that.

    Attend community college and take:
    Calculus 1
    Physics for Eng: Mechanics (make sure its for engineers because if you take the wrong physics it may not transfer over to a university)
    Calculus 2
    Physics for Eng. II - Electricity
    Calculus 3
    Physics for Eng III - Modern Physics
    Differential Equations

    You may need to take Precalc if you cant place out of it. With these classes you should be able to transfer out to a University and start Engineering.
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