Academic/Career advice for and old dude going back to school

In summary, a 45-year-old with a BSEE and BS in computer science is considering a Master's degree in either EE or CompEng, with a focus on networking or wireless communications. He is also considering a focus on power engineering due to the expected growth in the industry. He realizes that the IT industry has a bias against older individuals and is concerned about starting at an entry-level position. However, he is motivated to make a career change and take advantage of his GI education benefits. Some possible job options include defense contractors for communications work and companies that supply utilities for power engineering. The individual may also have an advantage in leading a team of younger software developers, utilizing both his people and technical skills.
  • #1
FrankJ777
140
6
Hi. I'm 45 with a BSEE and BS in computer science, which I haven't really used. Actually I've worked mostly as a communications technician for most of my adult life. I've done IP/networking work, but most my experience is with wireless communications; two way, trunked radio, microwave, and satellite for example. I've recently began grad school, distance, for a Masters EE or Masters CompEng, but I'm having difficulty deciding on what area of focus should be, and determining what area of focus would lead me to better or stable career prospects.

My main choices are these. Do the MSCompEng with a focus on networks, and getting a networking grad certificate along the way. Take the EE route with a focus on RF wireless communications with some networking. Or even focus on power engineering.

My though process is that Comp Eng with a network focus is the most stable choice, and I can build on my experience and resume. But I might be considered just another "IT guy", and in competition with folks with little education, but with youth and some certifications. From what I've read, the IT industry has a predisposition against guys my age.

I feel that I might have an advantage with a career in wireless communications and networking, as it seems there are very few people with the "hard skills" that RF wireless involves. So I think I could build of my previous experience, without starting from scratch, and my sense is that there aren't a lot of people involved wireless, so I wouldn't be competing against a bunch of high school grads with lots of certs. Actually most the folks I meet with radio experience are much older that I am. So the fields workforce is aging out. On the other hand I'm afraid the field is dying out? I'm worried that today wireless systems are too plug and play, and that the software does your engineering for you.

Lastly I've thought of focusing on power systems and distribution. Everyone's talking about the smart grid, and I wonder if my past experience and education coupled with courses in power would make me a viable candidate to get something other than an entry level position in the power industry. I understand the industry is expected to grow over the next several years. I'm pretty sure that my previous experience and education would put me somewhere mid level in the other two field I talked about, but I don't know if my past would be meaningless in the power industry, and I'd be starting at the bottom. Or even worse, left with a worthless degree because nobody wants to hire an older dude for and entry level position.
Anyways I was just throwing this out here, because I think people here might have a better perspective about the industry in general and what chance I have of actually succeeding in it. Once I pull the trigger on this there's no going back, as I'm sure that at my age I'm not going to go back for another degree. By the way, what prompted this is I just found out I have 1 1/2 years to use GI education benefits before they expire. So a whole masters will only cost me about $5000. So I'm not taking out a mortgage on this or anything, but I am in a time crunch, so to speak. It seems like a golden opportunity, so I want it to count.

Anyways, I appreciate everybody's input.
Thanks
 
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  • #3
Yes the power industry is a good place to job search. But not so much the utilities, as the companies that supply them. GE, Westinghouse, ABB, Siemens, Allen Bradley, Johnson Controls, and many more whose names I don't know.

For communications work, I would think that defense contractors would be the best places to look.

But I don't envy you. Middle aged people looking to change job descriptions are discriminated against.

Perhaps your strongest asset would be to lead a team of younger software developers. That uses your people skills to manage the team, and your technical skills to understand (but not necessarily develop) the technology. Emphasize project management skills.

I remember when I was much younger and at the top of my field, I thought that industry should recruit 9th graders to drop out, use them for software development until age 25, then pay to have them finish high school and college after they got fired. That is so harsh that no one dares do it, but it is not crazy. It reflects actual human characteristics.

Edit: Good luck
 

Related to Academic/Career advice for and old dude going back to school

1. What are the benefits of going back to school as an older student?

Going back to school as an older student can have several benefits. It can provide you with new knowledge and skills, which can enhance your career prospects. Additionally, it can keep your mind sharp and improve your critical thinking skills. It can also serve as a personal achievement and a sense of accomplishment.

2. How can I balance school and other responsibilities as an older student?

Balancing school and other responsibilities can be challenging for older students. However, it is important to prioritize your tasks and create a schedule that works for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, or even your professors. Utilizing time management techniques and staying organized can also help you balance your responsibilities.

3. Will my age be a disadvantage in the job market after graduating?

While age discrimination may exist in some industries, it is important to remember that your education and experience are what ultimately matter to potential employers. As an older student, you may bring unique perspectives and life experiences to the table, which can be beneficial in the job market. Furthermore, many companies value lifelong learning and may see your decision to go back to school as a positive attribute.

4. How can I make the most out of my academic experience as an older student?

To make the most out of your academic experience, it is essential to stay engaged and take advantage of available resources. This can include attending lectures and participating in class discussions, forming study groups with peers, and utilizing academic support services offered by the school. Additionally, networking with professors and fellow students can help you build connections and potentially open up job opportunities.

5. What tips do you have for an older student who may feel out of place in a college environment?

Feeling out of place as an older student is completely normal. One tip is to remember that you are not alone. Many colleges and universities have support groups or organizations specifically for non-traditional students. Additionally, try to connect with students who are closer to your age or have similar life experiences. Finally, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and participate in campus activities and events to meet new people and feel more integrated into the college community.

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