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Can I Become An Engineer With a Family?

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    Hi, I am in the Air Force as an enlistee and I am currently undertaking a great task of pursuing a degree as an Electrical Engineer while also playing the role of husband and father. I am 25, almost 26 years old. I have not applied to the university yet, nor have I completed all pre-req'd classes. I am asking this not as a poignant disregard for common sense, because I thoroughly expect it to be difficult. My question wasn't if it will be difficult, but rather... will it be so difficult that I cannot finish the hoped-for undergraduate degree? This is a dream of mine and I want it so bad it hurts, but I cannot completely ignore my wife and two children for a matter of 3-4 years while completing this degree. I understand (as well as they do) that a serious sacrifice of my time must be made for this to become a reality for me and us. Advice and an honest-to-goodness answer would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2
    Never give up your dreams, if necessary, stretch it out a little. I am 59 and after 30 years as an EE and manager of EE, I still study!!!!
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3


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    Welcome to Physics Forums!

    Lots of others have been married with children and still obtained a degree. Probably you are more talented and more motivated than many of them. You do not automatically begin to ignore your family if you work and study. Does the Air Force offer EE programs if you agree to re-enlist? Would you be elegible for the educational GI bill if you get out? I encourage you to make a plan and go for it.
  5. Jun 5, 2012 #4
    I noticed the one or two in my classes who were older and had families already were more mature and more disciplined. They also seemed to manage their time better and had a little experience to help them put things into context better. They were also much more motivated and interested in the lectures.

    I knew one guy who was doing a masters and he had a wife and baby; I think he chose to do his masters partly so he could be at home more often to spend time with his baby, and his work gave him time off to pursue his degree.

    I think going into university at 18 is more risky and difficult mentally, unless the person is a brilliant genius who is not easily challenged and is early phd material. It is good for someone with a bright future to start as early as possible, but that isn't for everyone. Everyone is different of course, so it depends on how motivated you are. I wonder if financial stress could come about with a family and going to school full time, but I don't know anything about that since I don't know how much it costs to run a family.
  6. Jun 5, 2012 #5
    Hi, Rpease~
    I don't have a family so I can't even start to imagine the pressure your situation brings. But it seems that this degree is something you both need and want desperately. I say you go for it. Because what ever you do to support this young family is not gonna be something easy, then why not pick something that you've always wanted?
  7. Jun 5, 2012 #6
    Thank you all so much for the helpful answers. I looked all over the internet to see if anyone else was a student engineer with a family and found nothing. Needless to say, I was getting a little discouraged! And the Air Force allows me to receive a commission via a program that would grant me the ability to go to the university of my choice full-time. It must be a degree the USAF needs and college is paid for. You are required to stay in for a period of 4 years. You just have to meet certain criteria and compete for it. Are there any stories/personal experiences out there with engineers who have become so with a young family? Thanks again everyone, you have been so helpful.
  8. Jun 5, 2012 #7
    I am 32 and married to my wife for almost 3 years and we are expecting twin boys due in October. I have been attending CC for 2 years part time getting my gen-ed requirements, and the first 2 years toward a mechanical engineering degree, out of the way. And I may be here another 2 years before transferring to a university for an additional 2 years. My wife and I both work full time during the day, and she is in Law school at night. Neither of our families live close, and they think we will be in over our heads once the twins get here, but we don't know any different, and plan to continue our studies. I have taken 40 hours so far and have maintained a 4.0 (though Calculus 2 about killed me).

    I think you should go for it or at least give it a try. Otherwise, you may regret not knowing if you could have done it. Make a plan now and you can always change it later as life changes.
  9. Jun 5, 2012 #8
    Are you able to focus on school alone (You don't have to work, also)?
    I'm 32 and have been going to school part-time (one or two classes a semester) while working and taking care of my kids and I have a very healthy marriage. I've gotten about 50 Credit Hours out of the way including Calc 1-3, Diffy Q's, Physics, and a bunch of Gen Eds. My wife has also finished up her masters degree during this time.
    I'm transferring to a 4-year university in the Fall for EE (I'll be able to go full-time) and I have about 2 1/2 years of schooling left before I graduate. I am able to start going full-time in the Fall because my wife is finally finished with grad school and she already has a well-paying job lined up after graduation, so my income is no longer as necessary (I won't be working while going to school).
    My idea of the matter is that with work alone, including my commute, I was often gone 50 to 60 hours a week. I'll treat the rest of my schooling as a job and put 50 to 60 hours a week in towards class-time and sudy-time (give or take 10 hours or so depending on how hectic certain weeks are) and still maintain the quality time I had with my family while I was working.
    Many working parents work 60+ hours nowadays (It's a shame, but it's true), so if you are able to manage your time wisely you should be fine. You and your wife just have to have realistic expectations about how busy your lives are going to be and the sacrifices you will have to make for the next few years.
  10. Jun 5, 2012 #9
    Hey Latecomer, no I will not have to worry about work if I am able to take this route. It is an all-expenses paid way to go with an Air Force E-5 income and benefits to boot. Or I have the option to separate and use my GI Bill and have my wife get a job and me get one as well. My wife has no formal education but is a stay at home mom who needs her
    breaks. Unfortunately I am stationed at a base that has little opportunity for upper-level classes as they are ONLY offered during the day and alternating semesters, which creates another bump in the road to my dream career. For example, in the spring I will have to do College Physics I online with a lab. I have no choice because the only local college only offers physics I with a lab during the duty day and only in the fall semester. But I am diligent in my efforts and am thankful for all the useful advice that has been given me in this forum!!!
  11. Jun 5, 2012 #10


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    Go for it! Also, talk to a faculty advisor regarding your situation and opportunities to work and/or research.

    Hopefully, one's wife will understand.

    It is tough with a family, especially if it means relocating. I got married at the end of my undergrad program, although we were together during our senior year, but living 90 miles apart. We went to grad school together, but we didn't have kids. That came at the end of grad school.
  12. Jun 5, 2012 #11
    Hello Rpease,

    Just another story. Two years ago at 31 years old I started at community college with no formal education in math or science. I went from intermediate algebra all the way through differential equations, physics chemistry to prepare for my engineering courses. I am currently a pre-junior mechanical engineering major at Drexel University. My classes this quarter are Thermodynamic Analysis 1, Introduction to Controls, Mechanics of Materials, and Fluid Dynamics. My point is that if I can do it so can you. I am married, but have no kids.
  13. Jun 5, 2012 #12
    I'm an EE and it seems like half of my class is former military. One guy has 3 children and a wife and is still in the Marines. Another is married and just had a baby girl.

    Its not easy but its certainly not impossible. I see it being done by multiple people everyday. These people aren't super smart either, in fact most of them are quite average in terms of straight knowledge and book skills (out of academic practice). They more than make up for it in discipline and maturity to sit down and do what needs to be done.
  14. Jun 6, 2012 #13
    A close friend of mine is doing just as you describe. He is doing as well as any of us. You won't have much personal time, but it's not unthinkable.
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