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28 YO thinking about a career move towards engineering

  1. Aug 23, 2012 #1
    Hi, I am seriously considering making a move towards becoming an engineer. I have a History degree from UC Berkeley and a certificate degree in Advanced Character Animation. Money is not and issue and I have all the free time in the world. I am 28 years old and am in excellent physical health. I'm completely rusty in the math and sciences, but I feel like my cognitive functions are sharper than they've ever been due to changes I've made in my diet and sleeping habits. Where do I even begin?? What is the most efficient way to pursue this path? I have been looking into the free lectures at MIT, but there are so many classes to choose from.


    (The following is just my argument for why I think I'm suitable for engineering and should only be read at your leisure. Feel free to ignore)

    Since the questions will inevitably arise, I do believe that I have a natural aptitude for the engineering field. I grew up making my own toys with functioning parts and drawing my own elaborate designs and rube-goldberg machines. I have scored in the 99% percentile for math in all aptitude tests I've taken in grade school, as well as placing in the GATE program, I also excelled in my math and physics classes in highschool. Despite my absolute love of physics, I did not pursue engineering or physics in college because I had the absurd notion in my head that I should "strengthen" my weakness, so I pursued Molecular Cell Biology which I terrible at and ended up getting my Bachelor's in History just so I could hurry up and get out of college. Also, and I don't know if this should factor, but my father is a well accomplished Mechanical Engineer, earning his PhD from Tokyo University, which was unheard of at the time for a non-Japanese. He went on to work in high ranking positions including as COO in two of the largest manufacturers in the world. So if I inherited even a fraction of his brain, I'm in pretty good shape... my mother also had a PhD but it was in Philosophy, which probably explains my poor decision making ;).
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2012 #2
    Best place to start, in my opinion, is enrolling in some physics and engineering classes, either at a community college or whatever university you get accepted to for a second degree.

    I was 26 with no degree and a handful of random gen ed credits at community college when I started going full time, and that's what I did. I did two more semesters at the community college, transferred to a 4 year school, and finished in another 2.5 years.
  4. Aug 24, 2012 #3
    Thanks! Is there a specific test you had to take when you applied? Did your highschool GPA and SATs still factor?
  5. Aug 24, 2012 #4
    You'll probably need to get another BS since you can't go straight for an MS with a non-technical background (typically).

    Are you still in the Bay Area? Any number of excellent community colleges could get you up to speed in math and science and then you'd be ready to transfer to either a UC or a CSU to finish up your degree. At the place you are now, you could probably do quite well and blast through the lower division prereqs.

    I think you'll do fine. I would think maybe 75% of success in Engineering school is desire (and that also means good work ethic).
  6. Aug 24, 2012 #5
    Thanks carlgrace! Yes I'm still in the Bay Area, but I also have friends and family in the Pasadena area if I want to move there (I mention this because I recall Pasadena City College being a good school). Can you recommend any specific CC's in the Bay Area? I've take some classes in the past at Laney and I didn't get a good impression about the students there (most didn't seem to care, and some were actually disruptive), but those were in humanities classes.

    I'm really excited about this... but I realize I still have to figure out which specific field of Engineering to study, hopefully something that involves a lot of creativity, so that my animation background doesn't go to waste. I still have a lot of research to do... so any input would be greatly appreciated!

  7. Aug 24, 2012 #6
    Engineering is by its very nature a creative endeavor. From what real engineers have told me, the classes you take aren't really designed to teach you how to be an engineer, but rather to train your mind in the intuition and creativity necessary for the job.

    But if you're wanting something innovative, something that is breaking new ground every day and isn't just trying to maximize the efficiency of decades-old technology, I'd say something like aerospace engineering is your best bet. The industry could always use more engineers for developing the elusive RAMJET, or a truly efficient space plane design, or what-have-you.

    I'll echo what the others have said, just go to a community college for a spell and see how you like it. Make sure that you have a few four-year universities picked out that are willing to accept transfer applicants who already hold a four-year degree. Someone on this board, I can't remember who, once said that you can either be four years older with a degree in a field you want to be in, or four years older without said degree. When you say it like that, it's pretty obvious that it's never too late to go back.
  8. Aug 25, 2012 #7
    I agree it is quite possible to have a creative career in Engineering, but I would add that any speciality can be creative. It depends on your job.

    I attended Diablo Valley College and was really impressed. Of course, that was 20 years ago...

    As to which field of Engineering to study, learn as much as you can about the different field and go into the one that you're most passionate about. No one knows the future, so trying to go into a hot area may not work.
  9. Aug 27, 2012 #8
    I've got a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's in Aerospace Engineering. So I'm a little bais towards recommending those fields. Based on your animation background, you might think of learning CAD, Solidworks is a great one. Also, take some drafting classes. After you get a handle on those, get a job with a company doing CAD work. Once you've been with them awhile, they would probably pay for you to go to school and earn your bachelor's.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2012
  10. Aug 28, 2012 #9
    Thanks for all the advice! I'm going to go with Mechanical Engineering, which my father advised as well... he's biased of course ahha. I'm going to talk to De Anza College tomorrow about their transfer program.
  11. Aug 28, 2012 #10
    My mother started her education when I was in kidnergarden, and graduated on semester before I did. She worked ten years and retired. She got much help in math and science from many family members. She was the only one in the family to whom math and science did not come naturally.
  12. Aug 28, 2012 #11
    Thats awesome! Sounds like a cool family.
  13. Aug 28, 2012 #12
    You're Welcome Bigheadrhino,

    Glad to hear that you are going mechanical! Let me know if you have any questions.
  14. Aug 28, 2012 #13
    I got Barron's Forgotten Algebra and Forgotten Calculus and I already blasted through 50 pages of Algebra today including doing all the problems, and I plan on 50 more tonight. I don't want to spend too many days on Algebra, so my goal is to finish the whole book in 3 days, then maybe finish the Calculus book over the course of a week.

    Can you recommend any similar books for catching up on Physics and maybe Chemistry? I want to be as prepared as possible when I start taking college level courses. I have about a month before community college starts. I reaaaally want to do extremely well when I'm in school, to make up for all the lost time...
  15. Aug 28, 2012 #14
  16. Aug 29, 2012 #15
    Thanks! I ordered the books!

    Hmmm... I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what to do at this point. Some of the schools I've emailed haven't gotten back to me yet. How do I exactly go about finding the right school? Are prerequisite classes for Mechanical Engineering universal, or do I need to meet the requirements of the specific school I intend to transfer to? Any info would be great... I plan on going down to De Anza tomorrow to see if I can speak to someone.
  17. Aug 29, 2012 #16
    Finding the right school takes time... maybe there are forums about them? If it's any help, my understanding is that De Anza is excellent but I don't have any specific knowledge about that.

    Pretty much all good undergrad schools have more or less the same requirements for engineering. At the UCs all engineers pretty much have the same first two years... you don't specialize until Junior year so you won't miss anything by going to De Anza. Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, we all take math through linear algebra and diff eq, chemistry, a year of physics and core engineering classes like statics, dynamics, and basic circuits. You'll do fine.

    PS you'll find learning Calculus is MUCH easier the second time.
  18. Aug 29, 2012 #17
    Thanks carlgrace! I just signed up for an alumni advantage program for $125 at UC Berkeley so that I could talk to an advisor for 15 minutes tomorrow... I immediately regret my decision ahha. Hopefully their other services will come in handy... I'll start another thread somewhere specifically about schools.

    I'm going through the forgotten Algebra series, and I'm going to go through the forgotten Calculus series when I'm done. I feel like I'm actually learning things in the Algebra book that I either don't remember being taught or I have completely forgotten. Math was always pretty fun for me, but it actually feels waaay easier this time around, despite not touching math for over 6 years, I'm just making really basic arithmetic mistakes here and there because I'm moving through it so quickly but I'm sure that will get better over time...
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